4 reasons why the SF Giants should choose Yoshinobu Yamamoto over Blake Snell
A hallmark of Giants pitchers in recent years has been command. The Giants like pitchers who fill up the strike zone and record swinging strikes. That philosophy likely will not change going from Brian Bannister and Andrew Bailey to Bryan Price.
The Giants' pitching staff led baseball with a 2.53 BB/9 rate in 2023. Yoshinobu Yamamoto has a five-pitch mix and has above-average command of all five of his pitches. The 25-year-old pitcher has tallied a 2.1 BB/9 rate across seven NPB seasons.
On the other hand, Blake Snell can be wild at times. Nevertheless, he is more of the effectively wild variety given that his four-seam fastball, curveball, and slider are extremely tough on opposing hitters. The veteran pitcher recorded a 5.0 BB/9 rate in 2023, but that had little impact on his performance as he led the National League with a 2.25 ERA.
That might be okay today, but I do wonder how a pitcher with subpar command performs once his stuff regresses. There are just not many instances of that. Normally, pitchers who remain effective into their 30's do so in part to above-average command. In this regard, Yamamoto feels like a better stylistic fit for the Giants' pitching philosophy.
4. Durability and ability to pitch deep into games
This has been a knock on Snell for much of his career. Despite winning his second Cy Young award in 2023, the lefty pitcher accumulated 180 total innings and averaged 5.2 innings per start. Opposing hitters typically get better each time they face the same pitcher in a game and Snell is no different.
Managers have made an effort to protect him from that third turn through the lineup for much of his career. This has limited his overall workload as he has never pitched more than 180.2 innings in a year and has eclipsed 150 innings just twice across seven full seasons. Is that type of player worth a $200 million investment? Does that characteristic get worse with age?
On the other hand, Yamamoto has made at least 25 starts in two of the last three seasons, which is about a full workload in the NPB. Plus, he likes to pitch deep into games and welcomes that challenge as he averaged nearly 7.1 innings per start in 2023. This is the type of length you want from a pitcher during the regular season and what you expect from an ace during the biggest games.
Both Yamamoto and Snell are aces in their own respects. Snell has the accolades of two Cy Young awards to support his case, whereas Yamamoto has won three straight MVP awards in the NPB. There is no wrong answer here, but Yamamoto seems like a better fit for the Giants.