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Travis Snider's potential is wrapped up in his swing mechanics

The lefty could function as the other half of a platoon with Paulo Orlando to begin the season.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

"When he really gets ahold of one, it just sounds different coming off the bat, you know?"


Some version of that exchange went down between Ryan and Rex during a Spring Training game a few days ago. As you can see by the response, it wasn't a particularly deep conversation. I think the point is that Travis Snider has real potential - he can truly hit the ball hard. Here's the problem: He does not hit the ball hard often enough.

There's kind of a problem with trying to analyze Snider's career through the stats, though. The most plate appearances he has gotten in a single season is 359, which came in 2014. The only other time he's gotten more than 300 plate appearances in a season was 2010 with the Blue Jays. So you could try to analyze Snider using his career values, but the guy has plate appearances every year since 2008. He's almost certainly not the same player now compared to what he was in 2008 or 2009.

Despite that, Snider is still only 28. He can still put it all together. This is probably the thought process behind every team acquiring him, but he hit 22 percent above league average in 2014. The potential is there. As I mentioned earlier, the problem is that he doesn't hit the ball hard often enough. There are two aspects to this.

First, Snider strikes out a lot. He has a career 25 percent strikeout rate, far above average. In 2014, when he hit 22 percent above league average, he struck out only 18.7 percent of the time, quite the aberration when looking on a season-by-season basis at his K rates. In general, it's hard to generate hard contact when you're not hitting the ball. Snider needs to hit the ball more.

The second aspect is his actual rates of soft, medium, and hard contact. His career rates of these categories are actually very close to 2015 league averages, but the last two years have seen a little more soft contact and a little less hard contact. In general, I think this relates fairly well to his batted ball type distributions. For a guy who showed a good amount of power in the minor leagues, Snider sure hits a lot of grounders. Snider's career 47.1 percent rate of grounders is above the 2015 average of 45.3 percent, and his most recent three years show high grounder rates. His line drive rate leaves something to be desired, and he also hits a bunch of popups. He's like Mike Moustakas, pre-OppoMoose, in this way, but he hits far more grounders than fly balls.

The first aspect is far more related to his overall performance than the second aspect. When looking at Snider's production by batted ball type throughout his career, it's really not that bad. Snider just does not make enough contact. His plate discipline numbers are fairly normal-looking; it's just his swinging strike rate that's a little high and his overall contact rate that's a little low.

I wanted to get a look at Snider's swing to see if there were any hints as to why he strikes out so much. Baseball Savant can be a good resource for this; users can construct queries and restrict results to show only those with media attached to them.

Here's the first swing. It's very Moustakas-ian. His lower half looks like it's way ahead of his upper half, and his hands drag behind him. Snider was way behind on the pitch. He popped this up into foul territory on the third base side for an out.

snider popup

If I'm not mistaken, this is what is known as "flying open". His lower half is basically done before the bat head even starts to come around. This was a 94 mph cutter from Kenley Jansen, so it's not like it's easy to hit that pitch, but that swing certainly didn't help.

This one is a little bit better but result in a weak, chopped grounder. His lower half looks a little bit better in sync with his upper half, but there wasn't much power behind that swing. The pitch was low, so a grounder was a highly likely outcome anyway.

Here's an example of Snider doing a good thing with the ball - hitting a homer.

snider homer

He's much more balanced, the hands are not dragging behind, and everything generally looks more solid. He hit this out beyond the center field fence at PNC Park.

Going through other videos, a lot of what is shown is Snider hitting something to the opposite field. Many swings look similar to the first example, not the second.

There's definitely potential there. That homer swing is excellent. That popup swing is not. Somehow, the Royals have to coax more of the former than the latter.