Yesterday, Tom Gorzelanny struck out 12 Toledo Mud Hens in 5 innings. Today, Ian Snell struck out 17 in 7 innings. These are admittedly impressive numbers, but numbers without context never mean much. It's first worth pointing out that the Mud Hens came into today with a whopping 131 more strikeouts than the next closest International League team.
Beyond that, it's never as easy to judge minor league performances because things like Pitch FX aren't available. I still think Gorzelanny was hurt last year and he didn't pitch nearly as badly out of the bullpen as his ERA indicated when he was up earlier this year. I'd like to see him get another shot in the rotation at some point or another, though I don't really think it's the most pressing need in the world or anything.
Snell is a different story. There's a reason that the front office didn't demote Snell until this week, and that's because his stuff is way too good for AAA. He's got a good fastball and a good slider. His big league struggles were based entirely on two things; he's never really developed a great changeup and in this past year or two he's suffered from Kip Wells Disease (painting the corners to get a strikeout creating lots of walks and a high pitch count and all of the bad stuff that goes with those two things). When he was sent down, I said to my dad, "Watch, he's going to dominate in Triple-A."
Still, 17 strikeouts is a lot. Snell's heard for the past week that he's going down because he's untradeable and he'd pass right through waivers and the evil media and the mean old independent bloggers have been on his case, and it's all sort of been like the biggest Ian Snell insult of them all, so of course he roared back with a performance like this. The important thing to remember is that he can pitch well in Triple-A and he might even be able to strike 17 Mud Hens out without actually improving on the things he needs to work on. We don't know if that's what happened today, but I'm sure that it won't be hard to ascertain in the coming weeks.
UPDATE: If you click on over to IndyIndians.com, they have highlights of Snell's performance posted. You'll never guess how he got all of the strikeouts they're showing.