Few were excited when the Pirates announced they would be bringing back outfielder Travis Snider, tendering him arbitration where he will likely make in excess of $1 million after he posted a .614 OPS and hit five home runs.
Even fewer were excited the hear the Pirates will likely be staying internal with their right fielder, meaning the season will start with Snider and Jose Tabata splitting time. Both of these outfielders leave much to be desired from a corner spot, as neither hit enough home runs or hit with enough power to be in the middle of the order.
Snider’s time in Pittsburgh has been marred by lingering injuries and inconsistency. Yet, he was a top prospect very recently and is still young enough where he can reach some level of his potential.
Even more importantly, there was an area where Snider was by far the best Pirate in 2013, and it wasn't even close.
According to FanGraphs’ “Clutch” rankings ((WPA/pLI) – WPA/LI), Snider is by far the most clutch Pirate in addition to being one of the best hitters in high leverage situations in the major leagues. Snider, who ranked seventh in this statistic in 2013, finished behind (in descending order) Brian Dozier, Chris Davis, Paul Goldschmidt, Adrian Gonzalez, Carlos Santana and Alex Avila.
And those guys aren’t getting non-tendered any time soon.
FanGraphs stated that a rating of 2.0 in this category is excellent, while a 1.0 is great and a .05 is above average. Snider’s score of 1.64 is near excellence.
But how did Snider rank so highly? Well, it’s mainly because of his penchant to do something the Pirates have been seeking since Craig Wilson was given a starting job.
Be a good pinch-hitter.
Whether it be his pinch-hit grand slam against the Cubs in May, his game-winning homer against the Brewers in September or his multiple pinch-hit homers against the Reds, Snider provided the team with numerous wins with just one swing in a single at bat. This goes without giving mention of his walk-off winner against the Reds as well as his game-winning hit against the Los Angeles Angels in what was one of the craziest games of 2013.
With how often fans complain about the lack of offense off the bench, it’s a mystery why no one seemed to want Snider back. Give the front office credit for assessing Snider the way they did, clearly factoring in his abilities as a pinch-hitter, and a clutch one at that.
Even if Snider doesn’t win the right fielders job or reach his potential, the Pirates are left with someone who fills a void they’ve been searching for since the Dave Littlefield days.
Who isn’t excited about that?
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