Tampa Bay Rays: Blake Snell to reclaim his role as ACE
By Seth Carter
The Tampa Bay Rays are loaded with pitchers. Today we take a look at what to expect from Blake Snell in 2020.
The Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation must strike fear into opposing hitters. Charlie Morton has been one of the best pitchers in the league the past few seasons. Tyler Glasnow harnessed the wild horse that is his stuff last season and rolled to a magnificent 1.78 ERA in 12 starts. Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough consistently keep hitters off balance and are ranked among the best in the league in hard-hit percentage. Brendan McKay has dominated the minors with a career 1.78 ERA and is ready to take the next step in the big leagues.
Then, there’s Blake Snell. His 2018 Cy Young Award campaign was epic. He won 21 games and finished with a 1,89 ERA in 31 starts. He struck out 221 batters in 180.2 innings pitched and helped lead the Rays to 90 wins that season.
Tampa Bay Rays – Blake Snell’s 2019 a Step Back
Last year, at a glance, it looks like he took a step backward as he finished with a 4.29 ERA and a 6-9 record in just 23 starts.
He dealt with injuries last season that, no doubt, impacted his numbers. According to Baseball Savant, in 2018 his slider, curveball, and fastball all measured as above-average in vertical movement. Last season, his fastball was the only pitch that measured above-average in vertical movement.
Tampa Bay Rays – Blake Snell’s 2019 Underlying Metrics
That didn’t stop him from reaching a career-high in strikeout percentage (33.3%) and an xERA of 3.02 which was .04 lower than his magical 2018 season. He was barreled up significantly less than his 2018 season, dropping the rate from 7.2% in his Cy Young season to just 4.7% in 2019 placing him in the 90th-percentile in the league.
Tampa Bay Rays – Blake Snell – Reclaiming the Title
Snell threw a bullpen session on Tuesday (It feels good to type that) and manager Kevin Cash said he looked “awesome.”
If Snell can remain healthy throughout the shortened season, he should be able to reclaim his role as the ace of the club. All of his underlying numbers show he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and his ability to get swings and misses is already among the best in the game and still improving.
Among starting pitchers with at least 100 innings in 2019, Snell finished in some elite company in K%.
2019 Starting Pitchers – K% Leaders (min. 100 IP)
- Gerrit Cole, HOU – 39.9%
- Chris Sale, BOS – 35.6%
- Justin Verlander, HOU – 35.4%
- Max Scherzer, WSN – 35.1%
- Mike Clevinger, CLE – 33.9%
- Blake Snell, TBR – 33.3%
- Lucas Giolito, CHW – 32.3%
- Jacob deGrom, NYM – 31.7%
- Robbie Ray, ARI – 31.5%
- Yu Darvish, CHC – 31.3%
- Charlie Morton, TBR – 30.4%
Yes, I went ahead and listed the top 11 so I could squeeze Charlie Morton in there. Only 13 starting pitchers (min. 100 IP) exceeded a 30% K-percentage last season. It’s an impressive feat.