The positives, negatives, and 2021 outlook for San Diego Padres’ pitcher Blake Snell
Blake Snell brings to the San Diego Padres something they haven’t had since Mark Davis in 1989 — a left-handed CY Young Award winner.
Interestingly enough, Davis won the award as a relief pitcher, whereas Snell earned it after a dominant 2018 season where he won 21 of 31 starts. The last pitcher to win the Cy Young award for San Diego was Jake Peavy in 2007.
The 2018 season is what led to where Snell is today. A phenomenal display of grit and determination showcased for a breakout year after an unimpressive 2017 season.
Similar enough, Snell actually declined in 2019 but then bounced back last season. The former Tampa Bay Ray arguably pitched his best career start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series. The lefty was in command through 5-1/3 innings, giving up only two hits with nine strikeouts before being infamously removed from the game in the sixth inning. Many questions surfaced after that move by manager Kevin Cash, but one thing is for sure — Snell dominated the Dodgers.
Blake Snell vs the dodgers in his career regular season & Postseason combined #Padres
• 2.25 ERA
• 0.67 WHIP
• 16.5 K/9 pic.twitter.com/xKQfWMEbho
Acquiring a starting pitcher with that caliber came at a hefty price for Padres’ general manager A.J. Preller. Former Padres’ No.3 prospect Luis Patiño headlined the return package for Snell, along with Francisco Mejia, Blake Hunt, and Cole Wilcox.
The Padres are clearly in win-now mode and have ascended themselves as National League contenders for the next few seasons. Trading for one of the game’s best left-handed pitchers will prove to be critical come October.
Snell provides the Padres with many amazing qualities that will only benefit the team. Snell sees a majority of his success in his strikeout ability, as well as keeping his opponent batting average at (.223) for his career. Opposing hitters face difficulty generating hits off of the former CY Young winner. He has a (10.49) K/9 ratio for his career and ended the 2020 season leading the league in strikeout rate (31%).
At just 28 years old, Snell is in the prime of his career. With his latest performance being considered his best, the interest to acquire him couldn’t have come at a better time. Snell showed signs of his 2018 All-Star season in this past Fall Classic and has clearly shown he isn’t scared of the World Series’ champion Dodgers. Snell has an (11.6) WAR for his career as well as an ERA of (3.24). He doesn’t issue many walks with his BB/9 at (3.76) for his career. The Padres have needed a dominant left-hander for years now, with 2015 Allstar and current Padres’ reliever Drew Pomeranz being the last lefty among the top of the rotation. There are many left-handed National League hitters on contending teams like Cody Bellinger (Dodgers), Juan Soto (Nationals), Freddie Freeman (Braves), Bryce Harper (Phillies), etc. So, having a lefty pitcher like Snell in the rotation is important.
Snell will be reunited with a friend and former teammate, Tommy Pham. Both Snell and Pham will provide veteran leadership to a young Padres team looking to make a statement for years to come.
Snell saw his home run count jump from (14) in 107 innings in 2019 to (10) home runs in just 50 innings during the shortened season. The 2020 season forced for a decrease in innings pitched for Snell, and due to that, his runs per nine innings increased from 2019 from (3.62) to (6.84). During his time with Tampa Bay, he wasn’t forced to throw more than six innings because of their “trust the process” mentality. That comes at a bit of a disadvantage because he hasn’t proved he can pitch a full 9-inning game. In fact, he has only pitched into the 8th inning three times in his career.
Snell has a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup in his arsenal, with his fastball sitting around 95 mph. With the season expanded to be longer than in 2020, he may not pitch far into games until closer to the playoffs. The Padres will utilize him differently than in Tampa Bay, but I think it will be to his liking knowing he isn’t thinking about being pulled when he gives up a hit. It is too early to know if Snell will be the 2021 Opening Day starter, but as the only lefty currently in the rotation, he may be 2nd or even 3rd behind Yu Darvish and Dinelson Lamet. Either way, you look at it, Snell will be among the top of the rotation for the next few seasons as he tries to get back to the World Series, where he proved to be clutch.