Pirates Notebook: Snider’s Slam Swing Sustains Strong Start

Travis Snider

Travis Snider could regress a bit from his .346 BABIP, but the power is there. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Maybe Brad Lincoln hits a pinch-hit home run if you give him a chance.

Travis Snider did so to lead the Pirates to a 5-4 victory Tuesday, all a part of a successful 2013 campaign with the Pirates after being swapped for Lincoln.

His approach has been strong this season: swinging at the fewest pitches in his career, especially outside the strike zone; making the most contact on pitches in his career. Thus, Snider has reduced his strikeout rate to a career-best level, and is maintaining a walk rate above his career average. All of that has been in only 119 plate appearances, though, so there is more to see before we declare Snider a changed man in terms of plate discipline.

The results have been among Snider’s career best offensive: with highs in on-base percentage and wRC+, and his numbers could be even better had he gotten more lift on a couple doubles off the wall. If he will never live up to the expectations of an elite power prospect, Snider can still be very effective attacking right-handers at the top or middle of the order. For his part, Snider does not consider himself a power hitter, but his manager might.

“We seem to be the only ones here not concerned about the power,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We wanted him to focus again on being a good hitter, because I think that’s one of the things that had escaped him a little bit.”

Travis Snider's stance

On the left is Travis Snider’s stance in 2001, with his knees more bent. On the left is Snider’s stance Tuesday night, more straight from top to bottom.

Don’t forget, he is still only 25 years old. Hurdle noted the Pirates have been re-building Snider’s swing since he arrived from the Toronto Blue Jays on July 30, 2012.

“When we got him, we felt that the basic stroke and the strengths of the stroke had kind of disconnected,” Hurdle said. “We felt confident that once he got the swing back, the power will follow.”

As for Lincoln? He is moving back and forth between Toronto and Triple-A Buffalo. Snider appears to be with the Pirates to stay.

The Pitchers Three

Hurdle provided updates on the rehabilitations of starting pitchers James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton.

  • First, McDonald: He threw a successful bullpen session Tuesday and is scheduled for a side session Friday before his rehab starts are scripted out. (“So far, so good,” Hurdle said.)
  • Now for Karstens: His bullpen session Tuesday went well too, and an announcement about his next rehab start should come today.
  • Finally, Morton. He had a “productive outing” for Double-A Altoona on Tuesday, Hurdle said, throwing a four-pitch mix with increasing comfort and good stamina, even touching 96 miles per hour. Next up are six innings (90 pitches) in Buffalo for Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday, then seven innings (100 pitches) on May 31 in Columbus.
  • What role will Morton play after those rehab starts? “We all believe that starting is Charlie’s niche,” Hurdle said, though he says the team still has time to decide.

Bonus Hurdle!

  • On the Pirates’ 14 comeback wins, tied for the most in MLB: “The mindset was developed after the last month of the [2012]. I think the guys came to spring with a little bit of a rock in their shoe, and rightfully so. They didn’t like the way things finished. We’ve moved on past it, but I think there are times you need to hold on to that angst.”
  • On the Pirates’ MLB-best 2.54 ERA in May: “We’re throwing strike one efficiently enough that it’s setting us up for the rest of the at-bat,” and that “many men have been left on base” by the bullpen.
  • On facing the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija, who shut out the Bucs for eight innings, with two hits and 9 strikeouts: “We need to put other uniforms on, because he only picked up his second win of the season last week, and he had to hit a two-run homer to do it. He’s been nails against us… I tell my guys, ‘We’re due!” If he comes up with that stuff we saw Opening Day, it’s going to be a challenge.”

Starting Lineups

Chicago Cubs (18-26, 10.5 games back in NL Central)

  1. CF Julio Borbon (.222 average)
  2. SS Starlin Castro (.271)
  3. 1B Anthony Rizzo (.267, 10 homers)
  4. LF Alfonso Soriano (.270)
  5. RF Scott Hairston (.115)
  6. C Welington Castillo (.286)
  7. 3B Cody Ranson (.302)
  8. 2B Darwin Barney (.223)
  9. RHP Jeff Samardzija (2-5, 3.49 ERA, 64 K, 21 BB)

Pittsburgh Pirates (27-18, 2.0 games back in NL Central)

  1. LF Starling Marte (.309)
  2. RF Travis Snider (.278)
  3. CF Andrew McCutchen (.274, 6 homers)
  4. 1B Garrett Jones (.282)
  5. 2B Neil Walker (.241)
  6. C Russell Martin (.269, 6 homers)
  7. 3B Pedro Alvarez (.197, 8 homers)
  8. SS Jordy Mercer (.279)
  9. LHP Francisco Liriano (2-0, 1.64 ERA, 16 K, 5 BB)

Author: James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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