Blake Snell Signs with Giants

Blake Snell
(Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

The San Francisco Giants have added a major piece to their starting rotation by agreeing to terms with Blake Snell. News of the deal was first reported by MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. With Opening Day in sight, the reigning NL Cy Young winner was one of the last remaining big-name free agents on the market. The deal is expected to be for two years/$62 million and includes an opt-out. The club has not confirmed the move.

A Season for the Ages

The 2023 season was one of Blake Snell’s finest. He led the major leagues with a 2.25 ERA and the NL with 6.0 bWAR in 180 innings. From a sheer run prevention standpoint, Snell was the best inning-per-inning starting pitcher in ‘23. What was interesting was the way he got to his production, mostly based on his elite swing-and-miss stuff, a major league-leading 99 walks and historically great numbers with runners in scoring position.

Snell was practically un-hittable for the San Diego Padres in 2023. He had 234 strikeouts in 180 innings pitched. His 37.4% whiff rate was the second-highest of any starting pitcher (min. 150 innings) in a season in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008) behind only Spencer Strider‘s ‘23 season (38.6%). His fastball, which topped out in the mid-90’s, was very impressive, but Snell also relied heavily on his secondary pitches to get outs. An astounding 51.7% of swings against his slider, curveball, and changeup resulted in whiffs.

Trouble Throwing Strikes

Blake Snell’s stuff was electric in 2023, but there were times where he struggled with his control. He led the majors with 99 walks and a 13.3% walk rate. That walk rate was at least in part due to an approach that Snell and the Padres were content with. When’s Padres beat writer A.J. Cassavell talked to Snell and Padres’ coaches this year, they espoused an idea of “good vs. bad walks.” Essentially, they were content with Snell pitching around certain hitters and using his elite stuff to get out of trouble.

On the flip side, Snell did very well in escaping trouble after allowing free passes. He had a .470 OPS with runners in scoring position, by far the lowest of any starting pitcher in baseball. While one could dismiss that as fluky, Snell also led the majors with a .374 OPS with RISP in his Cy Young Award-winning season with the Rays in 2018 — the third-lowest figure in a single season by an AL/NL starter (min. 100 batters faced with RISP).

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Nate Miller

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