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Theories Regarding Blake Snell's Use of the Stretch

You’re such a mystery, Blake

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Last week on DRaysBay, our very own Danny Russell “fixed” Blake Snell, by pointing out inconsistencies in Snell’s delivery from the stretch. So what did Snell do in his very next start? Why, he pitched out of the stretch nearly exclusively, of course!

Here is Snell before the first pitch of the game.

He is in his typical pre-pitch stance with no runners on base, and he goes through his full windup before allowing a leadoff single to Dustin Pedroia on the second pitch of the at bat. That single forced Snell into the stretch quite early in the outing, and from there Snell almost ignored the windup entirely for the rest of the game.

So why was Snell in the stretch so frequently during Monday’s game? The answer is not so clear.

Theory 1: That was the gameplan

This is the theory that would seem to make the most sense. There aren’t perfect stretch/windup splits released publicly, but from the naked eye, it appeared that 98 of Snell’s 102 pitches on the afternoon came out of the stretch. That sounds like a game plan.

One thing is for sure, however, Snell started the game from the windup. He was forced to abandon the windup early thanks to a second-pitch hit from Pedroia, but the first two deliveries of the game came out of the windup.

One has to imagine if Snell, Kevin Cash, and Derek Norris came up with a game plan to attack out of the stretch, Snell would have been doing so from the very first pitch. One theory down.

Theory 2: That was the gameplan (after the first inning)

Ok, maybe it wasn’t the Rays’ game plan going into the day, but Cash could have noticed something after the first inning that he relayed to Norris and Snell to keep the young lefty in the stretch. Of course, the Red Sox were the best hitting team in baseball in 2016 with runners on base, and Snell’s career has seen him pitch worse with men on base, but maybe Cash was onto something. Maybe he had a hunch.

Flash forward to the second inning, however, and here is Snell before a pitch to Chris Young.

There goes that theory. Snell is back in the windup to start the at bat with Young in the second inning.

Theory 3: It is left-handed/right-handed based

Snell had just pitched out of the stretch for the entire at bat to Mitch Moreland to start the second inning, and Moreland is a lefty. Maybe Snell has more faith in his delivery from the stretch against lefties, but prefers to pitch out of the windup against righties.

Nope! That’s half-way through the very same Chris Young at bat. Snell is now changing from the windup to the stretch in the middle of at bats.

Theory 4: It is a fastball/off-speed decision

The Rays’ broadcast dutifully noted that the first two pitches to Young in the at bat pictured above were fastballs, before Snell put him away with three off-speed pitches. Maybe we’re onto something here.

The first two pitches of the at bat were from the set, and the last three pitches were out of the stretch. Maybe the cadence was then: fastball gets the windup, off-speed gets the stretch.

Nope. Correlation does NOT equal causation!

That’s Snell right before his first pitch to Sandy Leon to start the very next at bat. Snell is out of the stretch, and what does he throw? A fastball, of course.

Four theories down, and this is beginning to feel a bit like an Agatha Christie novel.

Theory 5: He was forced into using the stretch so often early in the game that he simply got into a rhythm out of the stretch

This is a decent theory. As previously noted, Snell was forced into the stretch in the third pitch of the first inning, and with nine base runners over five innings, he was bound to be pitching out of the stretch plenty, regardless.

There are two holes in this theory, however.

The first is the fact that Snell started the second inning out of the stretch. At this point, Snell had a fresh start to the second and while there had been a few base runners in the first inning, he had started the game in the windup. There wasn’t enough at this point to have made him more comfortable in the stretch rather than in the windup, his typical attack with the bases empty.

Second, and more damningly, there’s no way Snell would want to continue any of the juju from the second inning. Snell was visibly upset after Brad Miller’s error that ended up costing the Rays three runs and extended what should have been a scoreless second inning for Snell. Snell was forced into the stretch for the next five batters, four of whom reached against him. There’s no way Snell would walk back out to the mound after that trying time and think I really need to keep doing what I was doing in the second inning unless it was something pre-determined by Snell and the Rays.

That leaves us with no real answers as to Snell’s somewhat strange approach in Monday’s game. Was Snell supposed to go out of the stretch all 102 pitches and simply forgot to do so four times during the game? Was he trying to speed up his pace to throw off the hard-hitting lineup of the Red Sox? Was it a special Morning Game approach for Snell? There are no definitive answers.

What do you, the readers, think is the best theory? Also, feel free to leave your theories (or answers!) in the comments below.

Poll

Why did Blake Snell pitch out of the stretch so frequently on Monday?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    It was the game plan
    (10 votes)
  • 14%
    He wanted to keep the Red Sox off balance
    (9 votes)
  • 42%
    Snell doesn’t even really know
    (26 votes)
  • 26%
    He read Danny’s article last week
    (16 votes)
61 votes total Vote Now