As if it hasn’t been talked about enough, I would like to dedicate the entire focus of this post to Blake Snell’s performance the third time through the order. Rest assured it is my intention that what follows will stand apart from the litany of conversation surrounding Snell’s late-game struggles. I will not then be asserting my opinion of Kevin Cash’s decision to pull Snell in the World Series. That is not the purpose of today. Today I do not really care if Snell hurts or benefits his own team, I care if he hurts or benefits our teams. Our fantasy teams.
With Snell being traded to the San Diego Padres, the assumption is he will see an increase in innings, as he will no longer have the Tampa Bay Ray’s intense devotion to numbers holding him back. Although this may be a faulty assumption, we at least know, barring an injury, Snell won’t throw for fewer innings in San Diego. Therefore, let’s say the Padres do increase Snell’s usage. Should we as fantasy managers be weary like the Rays, or do more innings mean more value for Snell and our fantasy teams?
Times Through the Order Analysis
Before we get into the fantasy analysis, let’s take a look at how Snell has actually performed over the course of his career each time through the order (TTO). We will look at hits, earned runs, walks, and strikeouts on a per inning basis, as Snell might appear better each time through the order if we compare just the raw counting stats not accounting for innings.
Snell gets worse across the board each TTO. That isn’t particularly surprising. What might be surprising is Snell seems to fall off a bigger cliff 2nd TTO than the cliff he falls off 3rd TTO. This is actually slightly misleading. If you take out Snell’s 2020 season the above table becomes:
Snell still is worse each time through the order, but his hit and run prevention abilities decline even more 3rd TTO than we initially saw when factoring in 2020. I prefer this table. We all understand 2020 to be an outlier, and for Snell, the 2020 season is definitely an outlier. Snell came into the season not as stretched out as he would be in a normal season. As a result, for a good portion of the shortened season, the 2nd TTO became the new 3rd TTO for Snell, resulting in a skewing of Snell’s 2nd and 3rd TTO statistics. I remain hopeful of a return to normalcy this year, but even if the COVID-19 complications persist, I expect Snell to handle the offseason better this time around. As such, I think it is best to ignore Snell’s 2020 season here.
The question still remains: How does Snell compare to other pitchers across the league?
Snell’s declines are not exaggerated (see all the red 3rd TTO when comparing the trends). He does in fact deteriorate worse than the rest of the league 3rd TTO. However, Snell remains, besides walks, a better pitcher 3rd TTO than the rest of the league (see all the blue 3rd TTO when comparing the per inning stats). With that being the case, Snell should be in line for more innings in San Diego. However, to be sure Snell indeed deserves more innings, let’s do one last comparison between Snell and pitchers who have thrown more innings than he has 3rd TTO.
Not only did more numbers turn red in the comparison chart, but it seems Snell is quite a bit worse 3rd TTO than the pitchers he may aspire to be. It seems like the Rays were on to something. I still think it is safe to assume the Padres allow Snell to go deeper into games than the Rays, but this does give me pause. Either way Snell is still no worse than the standard pitcher 3rd TTO.
Now it’s time for the good stuff – Snell’s fantasy value. If Snell’s usage does increase in San Diego, should we as fantasy players be worried about Snell’s poorer performance 3rd TTO hurting his value? For points leagues, as long as Snell does not lose points, the extra innings should be worth it. Determining this is fairly straightforward. For starters – ignoring wins, losses, and quality starts – we can actually calculate the points Blake Snell scores each time through the order. Doing so will produce:
At no single point in his career does Blake Snell lose points 3rd TTO. That means as long as Snell is able to hold onto wins and quality starts, he will return more value 3rd TTO. When considering qualities starts, as long as Snell is allowing less than a run an inning, he is more likely to keep or gain a quality start than to lose it. As we saw earlier Snell allows .54 runs per inning 3rd TTO, well below the one run threshold needed to hold onto the quality starts.
On the other hand, for wins and losses, Snell will win more games as long as he is giving up fewer runs than the Padres are scoring. Fortunately for Snell, the Padres scored the fifth-most runs in the league from the 5th inning forward last season (Snell usually takes a little more than 4 innings to get through the order the first two times). They scored .55 runs per inning, just slightly edging out the .54 runs Snell gives up. It’s close, but I am a believer in the Padres offense. I think it is reasonable to assume they sustain their 2020 performance and continue to outpace Snell in runs, at the very least preventing Snell from picking up additional losses late in-game. More innings spells good things for Snell in points leagues.