Giants' latest addition is the king of missing bats

March 19th, 2024

A version of this story first appeared on in February.

The master of missing bats is staying in the NL West.

That would be , reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, who on Monday night agreed to a two-year, $62 million contract with the Giants (including an opt-out after 2024), a source told's Mark Feinsand. The club has not confirmed the deal, which ended Snell's extended free agency with 10 days remaining before the start of the regular season

Well, here's one more reason the left-hander is one of the nastiest pitchers in baseball: No Major League pitcher induces more extreme swings and misses than Snell.

We can measure Snell's skill at missing bats for the first time ever thanks to Statcast's new bat tracking technology -- which we can give you a preview of, using last season's testing data, before bat tracking debuts on the Statcast leaderboards starting in 2024.

For every swing and miss, Statcast tracks exactly how far away the barrel of the bat was from making contact with the ball. Snell, as you might expect for a Cy Young winner, stands out from all his peers in one particular respect: He misses bats by a very wide margin, very often.

Let's use a miss distance of 1.5 feet as a baseline for a big swing and miss. That means the hitter missed the ball by more than the full width of the plate, whether he was under the ball, waving over the top of it, tied up by a pitch inside or flailing at one away.

Snell easily tops that leaderboard:

Most whiffs of 1.5+ feet induced in 2023

  1. Blake Snell -- 27
  2. Spencer Strider -- 23
  3. Tyler Glasnow -- 16
  4. Kodai Senga -- 14
  5. Sonny Gray / Chris Sale -- 10

If you watched Snell on his Cy Young run for the Padres, you can probably guess how he gets such big misses. It's his wipeout curveball.

Snell's signature is the curveball in the dirt. He got 109 of his career-high 234 strikeouts last season on his curve, and 80% of those curveball strikeouts were below the zone. Those curves, on average, came in less than six inches off the ground.

Hitters chasing all those low curveballs produced Snell's most extreme bat misses. The sharp break on Snell's curve means the ball's snapping way underneath the bat. When he sequences it with his 96 mph, rising fastball, the batter's prone to be way out in front, too.

Here's what that looks like. Let's go back to three of Snell's biggest whiffs of the 2023 season.

1) June 28 vs. Rodolfo Castro -- 2.6 feet

This was Snell's biggest whiff of the season, and it was also a strikeout. It's hard to see the full extent of the miss from the broadcast angle, but so you can see just how badly Castro was fooled, here's the side view of the swing -- and a Statcast data visualization of the bat path and pitch trajectory.

2) Aug. 28 vs. Jordan Walker -- 2.4 feet

Not a K, but Snell did get the highly touted rookie Walker to hack at this curve like it was in the lower third of the strike zone, when it actually ended up in the dirt down-and-in.

3) Sept. 8 vs. Yordan Alvarez -- 2.3 feet

Even a superstar hitter like Alvarez isn't immune to Snell's curveball. We saw how Jordan Montgomery got the better of the Astros slugger in the playoffs with his "deathball" curve … and Snell's curve is better than Montgomery's.

Snell's curveball missed bats by an average of 10.4 inches in 2023. That was the largest miss distance of any pitch type in the big leagues -- just ahead of Snell's old Rays teammate Tyler Glasnow and his own power curveball.

Largest avg. whiff distance by pitch type in 2023
Min. 25 swings-and-misses vs. that pitch

  1. Blake Snell's curveball -- 10.4 inches
  2. Tyler Glasnow's curveball -- 9.6 inches
  3. Michael King's sweeper -- 9.1 inches
  4. Luis Garcia's slider -- 8.8 inches
  5. José Leclerc's slider / Alek Manoah's slider -- 8.4 inches

Snell also combines quality and quantity -- he generates a high volume of swinging strikes with his curveball and misses the bat by a lot when he does.

There's a much shorter list of pitchers who do both with a single nasty pitch type. If you raise the minimum number of whiffs to 75, for example, you're left with a top five of Snell's curve, Glasnow's curve, Fernando Cruz's splitter (8.0 inches), Kodai Senga's ghost fork (7.7 inches) and Spencer Strider's slider (7.6 inches).

The other big difference between Snell and everybody else is how often he puts hitters away with a pitch they can't come close to touching.

Snell racked up 32 strikeouts last year where the batter missed the ball by a foot or more. No other pitcher -- not Strider, not Glasnow, not Senga -- was particularly close.

Most K's with a 1+ foot whiff in 2023

  1. Blake Snell -- 32
  2. Sonny Gray -- 20
  3. Kodai Senga / Tyler Glasnow -- 17
  4. Spencer Strider / Zac Gallen -- 13
  5. Chris Sale / Fernando Cruz -- 11
  6. Pablo López / Braxton Garrett -- 10

Here's what all 32 of those strikeout swings looked like. Just for fun.

The point is: Major League hitters aren't coming close to touching Snell. Anyone watching an ace pitcher dominate can see how great he is at missing bats. But it's cool that we can finally measure the gap -- literally -- between Snell and the best hitters in the world.