With the team’s playoff chances down the drain, we now get reacquainted with the age old Seattle summer tradition – finding interest in things outside of wins and losses. Over the past few years, we’ve gotten pretty good at learning how to enjoy a ballgame without being overly invested in the final result. If they win, great, but even if they don’t, at least Young Guy X or New Pitch Y looked good.
So, we’re probably all a little extra excited for Ian Snell’s Mariner debut tonight. Even if they lose, at least we’ll have something besides a flyball lefty on the mound for once. So, what should we look for from Snell?
For starters, he has a fairly typical three pitch repertoire. He throws a four seam fastball at 89-93, and he pitches up in the zone with it, leading to a decent amount of swinging strikes and fly balls. He has a slider that’s 80-85 and is a weapon against right-handed bats, and has traditionally been his best pitch. He also throws an 82-84 MPH change-up that could use some work against left-handed hitters, who have hit him well over his career.
Looking at his walk rates, you’d think command was a big problem for Snell, but for the most part, it’s not. He can spot his pitches fairly well, and repeats his delivery without much effort. His walk problems come from a lack of an out pitch against lefties. Since his change is below average and his slider dives into their wheelhouse, he’s left to nibble with his fastball. That’s why he has a career 13% BB% against LH batters and only 7% against RH hitters.
In some ways, the best way to think of Snell is like Brandon Morrow with less velocity. The strengths and weaknesses are similar, and like Morrow, the key for Snell will be to get his secondary stuff up to the point where he can throw it in the strike zone with confidence. The Rangers have some good LH bats and the ball is obviously traveling well in Texas right now, so try not to judge Snell by his results tonight.
The key will be to watch the change-up against lefties. That’s going to be the pitch that makes or breaks him as a starting pitcher, and if he can use it effectively tonight, it’s a great sign for the future.