First Pitch: The Pirates Need to Play Travis Snider

Travis Snider was on the bench today in favor of Gaby Sanchez.

Travis Snider was on the bench today in favor of Gaby Sanchez.

We’re one game into the season, and already there’s a decision made by Clint Hurdle to second guess. The Pirates started Gaby Sanchez over Travis Snider today, putting Garrett Jones in right field. The lineup was announced yesterday, and I withheld my opinion, figuring it could just be a one game move. But it didn’t sound like a one game move based on comments by Hurdle today. It sounded more like Hurdle views a lineup with Sanchez and Jones playing everyday as the best lineup the Pirates have.

The Pirates could have Jones get the majority of the playing time and still skip starts against left-handers. That would be smart, since Jones is clearly established as a platoon player. Having Sanchez get the majority of the playing time in the lineup is not smart. In his career against left-handers he has a .291/.385/.484 line in 374 at-bats. In his career versus right-handers, Sanchez has a .248/.314/.398 line in 1098 at-bats.

Travis Snider isn’t exactly a better option. He has a .251/.315/.422 line in 774 at-bats against right-handers. One key difference is that Snider is 25, while Sanchez is 29. There’s still a chance that Snider could improve on his numbers. There’s little chance that Sanchez will see any improvements. Even in his best years, Sanchez wasn’t great against right-handers. In 2010 he had a .742 OPS. It was the exact same in 2011. So in his best seasons, Sanchez only managed to put up a .742 OPS versus right-handers. Snider’s career OPS against right-handers is five points lower, and he’s still got a chance to improve.

The Pirates added both Snider and Sanchez at the trade deadline. They dealt Brad Lincoln to get Snider, and traded a first round compensation pick and Gorkys Hernandez for Sanchez and Kyle Kaminska. The price paid for Sanchez was arguably higher, but the potential from each player should have been clear. Sanchez had a clear history of being a platoon player, and a guy who was barely passable versus right-handers in his best year. There’s some value in that, especially when the Pirates have the perfect platoon mate in Jones. Meanwhile, Snider didn’t really have a history. He didn’t have a real shot at proving himself in the majors, and was looking good before the trade and before his hamstring problems.

It’s not a guarantee that Snider could finally realize his potential. He could very well continue to be the same player we’ve seen in his first 963 at-bats in the majors. The hope rests in the fact that he’s 25 years old, and hasn’t been given a full season to adjust to the majors. He’s pretty much in the same situation that Pedro Alvarez was in a year ago. Alvarez was given a chance to adjust to the majors. Based on the early indications, it doesn’t look like Snider will get that same chance.

There’s really no upside to starting Sanchez everyday. Sure, he had a good Spring. But Spring Training stats are largely meaningless. They definitely don’t mean as much as his career stats, especially at the age of 29. The best case with starting Sanchez against right-handers seems like the worst case for Snider. Sanchez isn’t at the age to improve over his career numbers. Snider still has a shot. The Pirates would be better off sticking with the plan of having Jones and Sanchez platoon, while hoping for a breakout from Snider or Jose Tabata in the outfield.

Links and Notes

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**Bats Fail Burnett in 3-1 Opening Day Loss.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Season Previews.

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**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Season Preview: 21 Questions to Answer.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Week Seven Recap.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://atung.net/ Steve Zielinski

    It’s time for Hurdle to go.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Steve…with you 100%.

    • http://twitter.com/saywhatranone saywhatranone

      Wow after one game. You probably think we should trade Crosby too because he’s missed a lot of games over the past 3 seasons.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        has nothing to do with one game.

        I haven’t liked Hurdle since we hired him. He is great in the clubhouse and lousy on the field.

      • http://www.facebook.com/azibuck Andy Zibuck

        No. After 325. Is this your first year as a fan?

        • http://twitter.com/saywhatranone saywhatranone

          ha no but can you name a better manager since Leyland? The problem isn’t Hurdle.

          • NastyNate82

            Its a MAJOR issue if he doesn’t understand (or refuses to understand) the platoon advantage. Its asking too much of a limited player (which Sanchez is).

      • http://atung.net/ Steve Zielinski

        You are wrong. The lineup for one game did not cause me to sour on Hurdle. The lineup was just a trigger. The causes can be found in his vet fetish, his use of the bunt, his gut feelings, etc.

  • emjayinTN

    A well pitched game where the Pirate pitchers struck out 15 of the 27 outs in the game. Of course, that does not help very much when you have an anemic lineup that has yet to find itself in 2013. THREE hits? We came out of Spring Training with only Marte and Sanchez batting over .300, and a team average of about .240 and guys like Walker (.200), Barmes (.178), and Martin (.150) at the Mendoza Line or much worse. It is not the absence of one person from the lineup, but I do agree you have to send him out there against a tough RHP. The alphabet man was on, and our hitters looked like they were still in mental-February.

    • NorCal Buc

      We were facing, arguably, the toughest right handed NL pitcher, on opening day in 38 degrees.

      • NastyNate82

        Toughest NL righty? Samardzija is good, but not even top 5 in that category.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

    How are Snider or Tabata supposed to get any better not getting ABs? I disagree big time with not trusting the younger guys to step up. I still think starting a few years ago that they should’ve done what Detroit did several years ago when it seemed like every player was a rookie or under 24. In my opinion, this team kept losers like Doumit and everyone else from that group far too long. I think that’s my biggest issue with Huntington.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Don’t blame THIS move on Huntington. You know how Hurdle likes his vets.

      .

      • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

        Oh, I know. Huntington should be the one running the show, and if all Hurdles going to do is provide a fun environment and not make proper on-field decisions (like going against historical splits data), then he can be an assistant coach. Huntington needs to get real about this stuff with Hurdle, or that silly old man is going to make NH look even dumber than he may already be.

  • http://twitter.com/AJ21PSU AJ21PSU

    I think jumping to the conclusion that Sanchez is going to play over Snider is a bit premature. I didn’t hear any of the post-game comments, but let’s just slow down a bit. I agree that Snider and Tabata both need to get a legitimate shot to play, but I’m not jumping to the conclusion that they won’t just yet.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      more Snider than Tabby….Tabby had his shot.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

      Well Hurdle had a prime opportunity to take advantage of the platoons and refused to do so on opening day….not a good tone to set.

  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 jlease717

    Why Snider should play over Tabata is beyond me. He’s younger, and has shown more. But Hurdle did say he thought Jones and Sanchez ‘earned’ their spots.

    If he’s not going to play either Tabata or Snider, this isn’t good roster management.

  • http://twitter.com/saywhatranone saywhatranone

    Typical yinzers is all i have to say. It’s been one game and the world is ending. How about you see how the lineup plays out the first month. Sanchez and Jones were both hitting very well in ST (at least from what I hear). If they both went a combined 4-8 with 3 rbis, no one would be bitching.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      nope…I ‘bitched’ BEFORE the game when I saw the lineup.

      If they had gone 4-8, I would’ve assumed 3 of the hits woulda been from GI.

      • http://twitter.com/saywhatranone saywhatranone

        I trust Hurdle’s judgement with this lineup more than anyone here. I enjoy the site but there is a reason he is a coach. Not to say, he hasn’t made questionable moves but I don’t think Snider would have made a difference in the outcome.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

          “Not to say, he hasn’t made questionable moves” is a monumental understatement.

          I’m glad YOU trust Hurdle. I don’t. I’m still shocked GI wasn’t bunting after Marte got on in the bottom of the first.

          Maybe Bannister talked him out of it? lol

          • http://twitter.com/saywhatranone saywhatranone

            I don’t like Jones in the 2 spot for that reason. Usually #2 hitters can bunt and I don’t think Jones has much experience bunting since he’s mostly been a middle of the lineup guy coming up in the minors and in the majors.

            • NastyNate82

              I just think Hurdle’s thinking is outdated, whether its platoon or lineup construction. He’s batting a guy leadoff who rarely walks, but he’s hitting there because he’s “fast.” I think Marte is going to be a good, but flawed player (if he turned out to be like Carlos Gomez on the Brewers, that’d be very good).

        • http://atung.net/ Steve Zielinski

          “…there is a reason he is a coach.”

          Wal-Mart won’t hire him?

  • IC Bob

    I am glad he put Sanchez in over Snider. Snider was brutal all spring. He has been brutal his entire career. He gets hurt the moment he does play. Sanchez had a horrible year last year and his overall number still are better then Sniders. Additionally Sanchez put up most of his number in a pitchers park and they still eclipse Sniders in Toronto which is a hitters park. I really hate when the only argument we can come up with is Snider is 4 years younger so his potential is higher. Using that argument we would never have even signed Jones because he would have appeared to be washed up. Play the best players until we are out of it and then start experimenting with younger players ( Snider, Tabata,etc).

    • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

      Actually, Sanchez hit well (.283/.367/.467) in the old Marlins ball park; it’s the other places that were problematic for him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.yazhynka Richard Ya’Zhynka

    Jones and Sanchez should be in a strict platoon at first-base. Snider and Tabata should platoon in rightfield – until Marte gets sent back to Indy in June.

  • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

    If this is the plan, it has the added benefit of having Jones play right field, where he is an out-and-out liability.

  • leadoff

    t his closer lose the game if he can help it. I also remember that manager manaIt is hard to judge the Pirates with one game as the scenario, 38 degrees, a guy pitching 95mph and coming to the conclusion that Sanchez playing over Snider mattered that much.
    What mattered was with two on in the first inning and no outs, the Pirates got nothing from Cutch or Alvarez, that is what mattered, as I recall Sanchez was one of the baserunners on in the ninth with the tying and winning runs when Martin popped up. I also remember a manager that uses defense to his advantage, I also remember a manager that is not going to leged the Cubs.

  • leadoff

    Sorry the first post did not load properly. This is the way it should have read.

    It is hard to judge the Pirates with one game as the scenario, 38 degrees, a guy pitching 95mph and coming to the conclusion that Sanchez playing over Snider mattered that much.
    What mattered was with two on in the first inning and no outs, the Pirates got nothing from Cutch or Alvarez, that is what mattered, as I recall Sanchez was one of the baserunners on in the ninth with the tying and winning runs when Martin popped up. I also remember a manager that uses defense to his advantage, I also remember a manager that is not going to let his closer lose the game if he can help it. I also remember that manager managed the Cubs.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      leadoff…we’re not judging this on one game.

      This lineup just should’ve never happened….period…unless injuries had occurred.

  • La Pirate

    If Snyder is not going to play much then why in the heck did he make it north? Presley outplayed both he and Tabata and is much better suited to be the extra outfielder. i think they gave Snyder a spot because they said it was his at the beginning of the spring. So its unclear exactly what the Pirates plan on doing. I dont put much into Snyders at bat under the conditions but he has not looked good since his arrival in Pittsburg. Presley is the better of the 3 and I hope he gets off to a good start in Indy.

  • https://profiles.google.com/109574077056716189484 Joel Davis

    Snider is just not very good. It has to be an upgrade defensively to have Sanchez at first and Jones in right. In regards to the righty/lefty ops split, you can at least count on Sanchez to break 700 & his lefty splits could take a hit if he is not getting regular at bats. This has been Hungtington’s obsession since he has been hired. Utilize young ex-prospects and HOPE that they reach there full potential. See: Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Clement, Lastings Milledge, Jose Tabata, Andy Laroche, Brandon Wood, Brandon Moss, John Bowker, and now Snider. Obviously it’s been a failed strategy. I’ll take the two time all-star.

    • NastyNate82

      Its not an upgrade defensively. Jones in RF is kind of a step-up from Manny Ramirez. Snider isn’t a Gold Glove caliber fielder, but he’s better than Jones.

  • piratemike

    This is a team loaded with fringe players so I guess it doesn’t matter in the long run who plays.
    Garbage in garbage out.

  • leadoff

    Nothing could be farther from reality, there is no garbage in the starting lineup for the Pirates, they have average to above average talent, garbage is a generic term that does not fit when talking about the current Pirate roster.
    If you think they are gargage release them and see how long they last before someone scoops them up also wait till you have to pay some of this garbage and the Pirates don’t pay some of this garbage, the outrage over the cheap Nuttings.
    This is the problem with the Pirate fan base, while the Pirates have them they are garbage, when the Pirates don’t pay the same garbage players, the Nuttings will be cheap.
    Show me one team in baseball that has a 25 man roster that has above average talent for all 25 guys!

    • piratemike

      Because of the unfair nature of MLB it is not all Huntington’s fault for not having the best players available to him but no matter where you place the blame there are too many fringe players on this team.
      .
      I don’t deny that most of these players might be picked up by other teams but one team wouldn’t pick up all of them……that is the problem if we had a Snider by himself surrounded by quality players he by himself wouldn’t be a problem but when he is placed on a team with a lot of other players who are no better than him THAT is the problem.

  • elgaupo

    You’re slippin Tim…

    a) – AJ Burnett was 5th in all baseball last year with a 56.9 % Groundball
    Percentage. (GB%)
    – Jones is a butcher at 1B while Gaby is plus.
    – Our 3B’s throws are all over the place.

    b) – Jones crushes RHP and needs to start against all RHPs
    – PNC’s RF is easy to hide Jones.

    c) – Snider isn’t that good and can’t catch up to a good Fastball
    – Jeff Samardzija has a good Fastball

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      a) I don’t think the defensive value of a first baseman warrants starting a guy with historical struggles against right-handers.

      b) I’m not saying they shouldn’t start Jones. And if you watched the game yesterday, there were some plays where Jones looked pretty bad in RF.

      c) What is this based on? Seems like an opinion. In Snider’s career he’s better against right-handers than Sanchez.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        I’m with you on all 3 counts, Tim.

        Throw Snider out there every day.

        Foo

        .

      • https://profiles.google.com/109574077056716189484 Joel Davis

        The guy has become progressively worse over time. His OPS has been 804, 747, 767, 617, & 697. That doesn’t seem like someone who is about to breakout. Couple that with the fact that he was playing in an absolute launching pad in Toronto and you come to the conclusion Hurdle came too. Also, as far as referencing defense in ONE game, Snider made a total ass out of himself in Right Field during the Spring.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          He’s never had a season where he’s been given a chance to be a regular starter. Hard to break out in that scenario.

          I don’t think Hurdle came to the conclusion because of Snider’s previous park. I think he came to the conclusion because of Sanchez’s spring stats.

          Jones struggling in right field is not about one game. He’s a defensive liability anywhere.

      • http://www.facebook.com/azibuck Andy Zibuck

        Tim, not sure how you or hardcore sabreheads feel about it, but I find the spits v. power/finesse pitchings interesting. In a *very broad sense*, it gives you clues about whether a guy can hit a good fastball. Snider’s (small sample) says perhaps he can’t. Snider’s OPS

        v. Power: .517
        v. avg. P/F .621
        v. Finesse .950

        What defines the categories is a pitcher’s K+BB over a period of time. Again, I don’t take this stuff to the bank, but find it interesting. Steve Pearce struggles with offspeed stuff, right?

        v. Power: .651
        v. avg. P/F .758
        v. Finesse .566

        Maybe it’s fun/odd/meaningless, but I’m pretty sure it jives with Snider’s scouting report.

        I’m an avowed Hurdle Hater (TM), but I wonder if this one wasn’t OK. And it’s not like he could admit this publicly, answering this vaguely would be appropriate.

  • Ecbucs

    again for those who want to argue that Snider isn’t that good.

    Why did the Bucs want him in the first place? The off season plan seemed to be that the team made its big deals last summer (other than Hanrahan) so Wandy was acquired to be in rotation this season and Snider was acquired to be in right (he still might be or maybe he has shown he ins’t that good. If he isn’t it turns into a bad trade – Lincoln could still have been traded but for someone else).

    If Snider is bad that means almost all of Neal’s deals for prospects have turned out to be failures. Sanchez for Alderson, Bay for prospects, Nady for Tabata et. al.

    • https://profiles.google.com/109574077056716189484 Joel Davis

      That’s right. Because they have been failures. It’s due to a flawed strategy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      So why is Gaby playing? He sucked last year.

      Play Snider every day and see what you have. Quit jerking him around.

      And….how do you know that wasn’t the best offer for Lincoln? We have NO idea…this might’ve been NH’s best trade offer.

      I’d do that deal every day and twice on Sunday! And, I LOVED Lincoln at the time!

      • https://profiles.google.com/109574077056716189484 Joel Davis

        Because Gaby is not part of the same strategy. He wasn’t a former top prospect who never developed. He was a two time all-star who was hurt last year. That is quite different from Snider. It was a steal for the Pirates to get him for a first round pick and a bum (by the way another former prospect who never lived up to hype who Huntington had to acquire). I’m thrilled with this decision. It doesn’t even account for the fact that having Gaby bat sixth splits up the lefty bats, which is nice for the late innings.

        • Ecbucs

          Gaby was a two time all-star but the most homers he has hit in a season is 19, he has never opsed at 800 or above. He is below average offensively as a first basemen.

          His best use is most likely as a platoon partner with lefty hitter which I would think is not worth a first round pick. There is a chance you get nothing but can also get someone with a better ceiling.

          Leadoff below is critical of Hurdle, well NH brought in Hurdle and extended him. If Hurdle is bad, then NH is bad for keeping him.

          • leadoff

            You can’t automatically blame NH, we don’t know if he is the only one making a decision on a manager, we don’t know if he has the money for a better manager. We don’t know if a high tier manager would come here, until we can answer these questions we can’t blame anyone in particular.

      • leadoff

        IMO, how these guys play the first month of year is on Hurdle, he continued to play guys like Brad Hawpe in ST when the guy had no chance instead of running guys like Snider out there on a regular basis.
        I watch a lot of ST games and Hurdle is just stubborn with his system. He has exact playing times for his players no matter what.
        When you sit there and see that the teams they are playing against are mashing the ball all over the yard with good timing, and then you see the swings your players are taking and the poor contact they are making you have to shake your head at what they are doing.
        This “we got our work in” is just bolony, I would have played them nine innings a game till I saw the timing from these hitters, I would not have waited till the last week of ST before I turned them loose. What do I care about players that are not going to make the team, his job is to get the players he is going to use at the major league level ready and he knows who those players are.

  • leadoff

    I know the Pirates are thinking Sanchez ,Snider and Tabata make good bench prospects and have high upsides, but it is time to forget about upside player prospects and go with players that you know what you have. Yesterday was a day that you would have wanted someone on the bench that can hit a home run in a pinch hit role, we don’t have one.
    The Pirates IMO, need to make a deal with someone for a corner outfielder or 1st basemen that can play on a regular basis, the Pirates are at the point in their development where they are close and could use solid ballplayers instead of high upside prospects. The Pirates look to me like they have too many cookie cutter players, time to move some of them and get one or two players that can do it all.
    Sanchez
    Tabata
    Snider
    Presley
    Jones
    These guys are all the same, mix and match, take your pick, but I would move all of them or most of them for one or two everyday players.

    • http://www.reverbnation.com/johnrussellskinner johnrussellskinner

      If we get the kind of production out of Jones this year that we got last year, I do not see a valid argument to trade the guy. A guy that gives you nearly 30 HR is not affordable for this team on the open market. Look at his OPS in comparison to Alvarez last year. As far as guys who have had a few decent/servicable consecutive seasons post 2010, we only have 4. Cutch, Walker, Alvarez, and Jones. I agree that they do not have that everyday RF with power (as Jones is best in a platoon), but they are exploring the internal options with upside. Maybe they find a bargain, or maybe it’s a repeat of the revolving door from last year. Snider really hasn’t had the time to prove/disprove himself at this point. After one game of the new season, we have to allow these guys time. I know the new season is incredibly exciting, and we were all twiddling our thumbs to get things started, but one loss to a pitcher who was dealing yesterday doesn’t mean doom and gloom. Roster management could have been better (pinch hitter role already a problem with no lefty on the bench), but it was just 1 game.

  • Y2JGQ2

    Tim- as always I value your opinion and love the fact that you bring things to light, but sometimes I think you are too much into logic, and maybe not enough into the other things that go into making decisions. Beyond the bat, having jones and snider in defense at the same time is worse than having jones and sanchez. There’s no debate on that, and while you yourself stated that Snider was having trouble hitting well even against minor leaguers in camp, Sanchez came in and did a great job. So in spring he played better, and he’s better defensively…..I agree that Snider COULD still get better, but so could Sanchez even though I agree it is less likely. It’s a good debate to have, but Sanchez’s glove over Snider’s glove is enough to make this the best move, at LEAST for now. Things change, so we’ll see if Sanchez hits, if not, i’m sure Snider will get his chance