Snell Stretches Out
Today’s outing was weird in many ways. If one were to only watch the box score, Snell’s outing was rough as he needed a lot of pitches to get through the first two innings. The actual live video was actually more bizarre than rough.
The second inning began with Snell striking out both Mitch Moreland and Chris Young before allowing Sandy Leon to go down and scoop a changeup to center field for a single. The next batter, Marco Hernandez, hit a grounder to Tim Beckham that 9999 out of 10000 times is successfully converted into a fielder’s choice, yet this time was booted by Brad Miller. What should have been a 17 pitch inning ended 22 pitches, four baserunners, and two runs later. What happened, happened. That was not the weirdest part of the outing.
Blake Snell began the game pitching from the stretch to Dustin Pedroia, who reached on a single and Snell pitches the rest of the frame out of the stretch with at least one runner on base. The second inning is where things got weird. Snell’s first pitch of the second inning was thrown from the stretch, and so were the next three pitches as he struck out Mitch Moreland. Chris Young stepped up next, and Snell’s first two pitches of the at bat were from the wind-up. Then, he inexplicably switched to the stretch for the final two pitches of the at bat as he struck out Young on an excellent changeup. Sandy Leon saw Snell throw all of his pitches from the stretch despite the bases being empty. Snell spent the rest of the inning giving up three-out walks and hits until finally striking out Xander Bogaerts.
The third inning was groundhog day as Moreland once again led off the inning and Snell threw to him exclusively out of the stretch as he would for the rest of his pitches throughout the remainder of the outing. The only batter who reached base was Andrew Benintendi who had a softly hit infield single to the right side that never reached the dirt. Perhaps this is how Snell and Jim Hickey are going to fix the inconsistencies in his delivery that Daniel Russell of DRaysBay pointed out after Snell’s most recent outing. The approach did not make a difference after the extended second inning, but he looked like a different pitcher over the final three frames. His strike percentage was 56% in the first two frames and jumped up to 68% over the final three frames.
A pitcher ditching the windup in order to pitch exclusively from the stretch is not a new concept. Yu Darvish made the transition years ago while Stephen Strasburg and Noah Syndergaard are following suit this season. Strasburg got the idea after watching video of Darvish. He told Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal, “It’s not a crazy idea. It’s all about repeating mechanics. What the difference with nobody on? Less is more.” Syndergaard spoke along similar liness stating, “I always had trouble find a balance point and would not be under control at all. I like my motion now because it’s simple and easy to repeat.”
Kyle Boddy of Driveline Baseball made an interesting observation on Twitter as he reacted to Diamond’s story:
If you strictly threw out of the stretch you’d get way more reps at it and be better at holding runners, too. But it is what it is.
— Kyle Boddy (@drivelinebases) April 12, 2017
Snell has had issues with repeating his delivery and maintaining control of his pitches in outings dating back to last season. Why he decided to ditch the windup within an outing and even within a single plate appearance today is a mystery. Once Snell got the fourth out of the second inning behind him, he pitched some of his best baseball of the season hitting most of his spots and pitching off his secondary pitches as if he chose to shove rather than sulk about what should have been. Perhaps Snell is joining the gospel of Darvish and will now stay exclusively from the stretch in order to make his mechanics more repeatable. If he can pitch more like he did in over the final three innings of his outing, he may be onto something.