Monday, October 22, 2007

2007 Review: Ian Snell

2006: 14-11, 4.74 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 169 K, 74 BB, 186 IP
2006 rate stats: 8.18 K/9, 3.58 BB/9, 1.40 HR/9
2007: 9-12, 3.76 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 177 K, 68 BB, 208 IP
2007 rate stats: 7.66 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, 0.95 HR/9

I'm not going to bother with the projections for pitchers because they're hit or miss at best and with young pitchers, I'm mostly interested in how they improved (or failed to improve) from last year to this year.

I feel like Snell got a lot better in 2007. He seemed to pitch more and throw less, if you will. But then again, he got off to a pretty bad start last year, which I think skewed his stats skyward a bit. Let's look at some time-based splits (if you haven't realized it yet, I've been using Baseball-Reference for everything I do here, the site just keeps getting better and better, it's seriously invaluable) and see how he measures up.

May 31- Sep. 26, 2006: 4.25 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.43 K/9, 3.44 BB/9, 1.35 HR/9
Those numbers there are actually pretty close to what he did in the full season this year, but they're not quite as good because the rate stats on the whole don't quite match-up. That means that for the full-season this year he kept the ball in the park much better and improved his K/BB ratio slightly (from 2.45 from June on last year to 2.60 this year). So when you compare his entire 2007 to the end of 2006 (which eliminates most of his really bad starts from that year), he still improved this year. Very encouraging stuff.

Pre All-Star Break 2007: 2.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.17 K/9, 2.54 BB/9, 0.69 HR/9
Now there's an impressive stretch. You put up these numbers with a contender over a full season and you've probably got yourself 16-18 wins and a top 3 Cy Young finish. I mean, that's some seriously dominant stuff there. And yet the Pirates only managed to get him a 7-5 record at the break.

Post All-Star Break 2007: 4.83 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 8.28 K/9, 3.44 BB/9, 1.28 HR/9
Besides the slightly higher WHIP and ERA (both of which can fluctuate on things the pitcher can't control, namely the defense behind him), this line is almost identical to his June-September stats in 2006. The question, I suppose, is why the sudden regression? Was he frustrated by his mediocre record in the first half and went the Kip Wells route of trying for more strikeouts at the cost of more walks and more homers? Or did hitters simply adjust to whatever he did in the first half?

A couple things are pretty clear to me through all these numbers (I don't think the other pitcher's breakdowns will be this dense, this is just how Snell worked out). Snell is the best when he's keeping the ball in the park and keeping his walks down, even if that means a slight dip in strikeouts. You'll notice that his K/BB rates were actually better in the stretches when his strikeouts dropped. The other thing he did in 2007 that he didn't do so well in 2006 that I haven't mentioned yet is get lefties out. In 2006 they hit .305/.386/.526(!) against him, while in 2007 he held them to a .284/.353/.447 line. I don't have the time splits available for righty vs. lefty and I wish I did, because I'm almost positive Snell was nearly as effective against lefties as he was against righties before the break. So that's the bottom line for Snell: keep the ball in the park, don't walk people, and get lefties out. Easy, right?