As of this writing, Fernando Tatis Jr. and the San Diego Padres are on a four-game win streak, having swept the Cincinnati Reds in a four-game series at home. However, they’re still lagging behind the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West division with a 44-27 record to date. Things could have been a whole lot better for the Padres if only Blake Snell has been delivering on the mound.
Snell has become a disappointment in San Diego. The Padres made quite a splash in the offseason when they acquired the southpaw hurler from the Tampa Bay Rays for Luis Patino, Francisco Mejia, Blake Hunt, and Cole Wilcox.
The expectations were high for Snell. After all, he was only a couple of years removed from winning the AL Cy Young award at the time he was traded to the Padres. Yet, so far in his tenure with the Padres, it’s been mostly one disappointing start after another.
Padres Snell-ing the Drama
In his most recent start, Blake Snell saw his ERA go from bad to worse. He entered June 16’s game against the Colorado Rockies on the road with a 4.97 ERA and left after 3.1 innings of mound duty with a 5.72 ERA after giving up seven earned runs on nine hits (including two home runs) with a couple of free passes issued and only a single strike in an 8-7 loss. He was even lucky in avoiding a loss, as he was pulled off the game with the game tied.
This was not what the Padres imagined when they took over the responsibility of paying Snell’s salary that’s worth $10.5 million this 2021, $12.5 million in 2022, and $16 million in 2023. Right now, it appears as though the Rays have fleeced the Padres, flipping over an expensive asset that’s extremely underperforming for cheap assets.
Trouble with the changeup
Snell has already made 14 appearances for the Padres, which were all starts. Across 61.1 total innings in those games, Snell has come up with just a 2-3 record to go with the aforementioned 5.72 ERA, and a 1.565 WHIP — the highest since his first year in the majors.
A quick glance at Snell’s pitch outcomes comparison from his 2020 and 2021 seasons gives us some clue as to what’s been ailing the pitcher this year. Although Snell’s four-seamers velocity has improved from 95.27 MPH to 95.6 MPH, his ball percentage has gone up from 31.29% to 34.11%.
Even more dramatic is the rise in the ball percentage of his changeups, going from 41.62% in 2020 to 52.85% this season. His changeup has become more hittable, with opponents batting .259 against those pitches in 2020 to .406 in 2021.
To Be Fair
It’s not all on Snell, though. The Padres are still giving him a chance to rectify the situation he’s in. Heres’ what Dennis Lin of The Athletic got from Padres manager Jayce Tringler:
“I don’t know if it’s a comfort deal or what it is,” manager Jayce Tingler said. “He’s a phenomenal athlete, and he’s got the ability to repeat (his delivery). I think he’s just kind of trying to battle to find that, whether that’s the release point, whether that’s something in the delivery. He’s just still working through it, and I’m confident it’s gonna happen. I know it’s gonna happen. But right now, he’s kind of grinding to find it.”
Blake Snell certainly can still right the ship, with the help of his teammates. Both his FIP (4.38) and xFIP (3.64) are lower than his dizzying ERA, suggesting that some factor that’s affecting him are out of his control. Also, despite all the bad outings he’s been having, Snell still has a positive WAR of 0.6 while also just getting 3.23 RS/9 — fourth-fewest among all San Diego starters.