Note: Sorry it took so long, but this is front page worthy. We will be promoting in depth Fanposts with more regularity (and more alacrity) going forward. -Nico
With such a putrid record, the A's had many puzzling performances from young and/or unknown players. The team is known to experiment on the margins and welcome players with flashes of brilliance mixed with misery. In previous years, their names were Hendricks, Semien and Olson. While it remains to be seen who will cement themselves as major league regulars going forward I wanted to take the time to examine several players "on the borderline" of sinking or swimming. While the jury is still out on their future careers, there is enough data to discuss hypothetical futures. First up is Kirby Snead, so here is a little background.
Kirby Snead graduated from high school in his home state of Florida and jumped up to the University of Florida Gators baseball program. He posted 13 straight appearances without allowing a run his freshman year and tied for the conference lead in appearances. In his sophomore season through 32 IP he posted a 3.15 ERA as a high leverage reliever for a team that won the College World Series. The next year, 31 of his 41 appearances were scoreless and the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the 10th round of the 2016 Draft, alongside players like Santiago Espinal and Dylan Lee.
Acquired by Oakland in the Matt Chapman deal, Snead only had 7.2 IP of big league experience for Toronto the previous year. His first A's appearance was a rocky one, yielding 2 ER on 3 H and a walk to the eventual NL Champion Phillies. He then posted three scoreless appearances before going on the Inactive List as the team traveled to Toronto for refusing to be vaccinated. This shows a startling lack of hygiene and common sense, which may factor into future prospects. He returned the next series and was demoted to Las Vegas after a 5 ER, 3 BB meltdown vs. Minnesota in mid-May.
Called back up in late June, Snead only gave up a run in 2 of 11 straight appearances for the team despite frequent walks. Snead ended the year with a pattern of several scoreless innings and then unseemly blowups that stick out in a reliever- or fan's- memory. While fWAR is not very indicative of reliever success, his final total of -0.3 signifies he hurt the team more than he helped. Here are his traditional stats for the year:
Other than being in the 63rd percentile for missing barrel's, the stats look pedestrian at best. Snead was unlucky with a lower xERA than ERA yet there is very little here that signifies why the A's should continue to give Snead opportunities. I believe diving into his specific pitches tells a different story. Snead predominantly features a sinker and a slider, with a fastball he throws almost exclusively to right-handed batters and a sparsely used screwball-like change-up. He sits in the 86th percentile of pitchers with a 2402 rotations per minute (rpm's) on his fastball, although both that and his change-up have below average observed "stuff+". For more information on that statistic, please see this link.
The change-up itself is very interesting. It and the fastball are almost non-existent in use to left handed batters, and the stats I cited below explain that in part. Snead's "screwball" is 7th most in baseball for horizontal movement, and in the top 50 for vertical movement. His fastball got the most whiff's of all his pitches, even if the velocity is not eye popping in today's league. It remains to be seen if these pitches will continue to be thrown only in certain situations, or if their use in more situations will make them look better on paper.
Last year, Snead featured the sinker 41.9% of the time. It was classified as a runner, usually sitting near 93 MPH with the third most horizontal movement in baseball. Measured at 112 stuff+ and 100 command+, the metrics signified the sinker is a decent pitch that Snead commands in average fashion. Naturally, to a left-handed hitter the pitch has a 129 stuff+, elevating it to a real weapon in left on left situations. In the first half the pitch had a 29% ground ball rate, which is below league average. It improved to a 57% GB% in the second half, although slightly more hitters barreled up the pitch. Overall, it only generated a swinging strike 14% of the time, which is above league average, scored a +6 run value, which is pretty bad.
Snead threw the slider 37% of the time last season and it had an average 2792 rpm's. With 41 inches of drop, it may not be the nastiest slider (101 stuff+) but Snead commands it brilliantly (130 command+). The splits here are dramatic, with a 159 stuff+ for left handed hitters and 45 stuff+ for right handed hitters. During the first half this was his predominant pitch, and it scored just below league average in almost every category. He threw it 12% less in the second half- slashed the barrel% in half and almost doubled the GB%. While it generated a 25% whiff%, the swinging strike rate was only 3%.
Combining all his pitches, Snead has a 103 stuff+ and 109 command+. That's in the upper half of stuff and places him in the top 6% of pitchers in baseball for command. I will pause here, as this probably seems to be a barrage of statistics. Snead gets a lot of horizontal movement on his pitches and generally can command them well. Although that's not exactly shown in the walk department, partially since he only threw a first pitch strike two thirds of the time in 2022.
His offerings sport better expected statistics than reality and he seemed to settle into a groove after clawing his way back into the bullpen later in the season. Especially when the top half of the bullpen was wiped out from injury, Snead gained trust from the manager. I believe this signifies a floor as a back end reliever, with continued room to improve as a real high leverage weapon.
What do you think? Please discuss memories on Kirby Snead's season and theories/projections on his potential future in Oakland.