Thursday, March 1, 2012

Clint Barmes

Clint Barmes, born in Vincennes, came out of Indiana State University, and was drafted in the tenth round by the Rockies in 2000. The SS came up to the big team in 2003, and yo-yoed back in forth for three seasons with the Rox, putting up some pretty impressive batting numbers as a part-time player.

In fact, in 2005 he was the NL Rookie of the Month for April, and was hitting .329 when he broke his left collarbone in early June while carrying a load of deer meat up his apartment steps. Barmes came back in September, hitting just .216 after the layoff.

In 2006, he was given the everyday job at short, and had one of his worse years at the dish, hitting .220 with a .264 OBP. That opened up competition for the job the following year, and a youngster named Troy Tulowitzki claimed the position. Lotsa luck knocking him out of a job.

He was shuffled to second base in 2008, and after initially losing out to Jayson Nix and then going on the DL, Barmes eventually started for the Rox the next two seasons, hitting a solid .290 in 2008 but slumping to .245 in 2009, though he did have his best season as a slugger, with 23 HR and 76 RBI.

The next year, he flipped between middle infield positions when Tulowitzki was hurt. But his .235/8/50 line didn't cut it, and he lost the second base gig to Eric Young Jr. He was shipped to the Astros for P Felipe Paulino in the off season.

In 2011, Barmes missed several weeks for Houston with a broken left hand, incurred when he was hit by a pitch just as camp was set to break in late March. He went on to play 123 games with a line of .244/12/39 and entered free agency.

He hit the jackpot in Pittsburgh as the perfect storm washed him ashore on the banks of the Allegheny. Clint Hurdle had wearied of Ronny Cedeno's "the lights are on, but nobody's home" act. The timing wasn't great, as shortstop market was pretty weak.

RC's option wasn't exercised, and he signed with the Mets in January for $1M as a back-up infielder. Without a MLB ready SS in the organization, the Bucs, as they did with Rod Barajas in a similar market and situation, identified Barmes quickly (they considered him the top mid-tier FA available, plus Clint Hurdle had coached him) and overpaid to get him in November before the market was picked over.

Barmes earned $3.925M with the Astros, the biggest paycheck of his career. The Pirates inked him for two guaranteed years at $5M and $5.5M. It was the Bucs biggest FA deal in total dollars since they signed 3B Steve Buechele for four years and $11M in the 1991-92 offseason. That's pretty sweet for a guy who was considered a bench infielder by many clubs.

He comes to Pittsburgh with a rep as a good glove guy with a stick that has some pop, but not very strong at getting on base with a .302 career OBP. Barmes leather netted him a 10.8 UZR/150 in 2011 and he had his highest MLB single season WAR of 3.1, mainly due to that solid fielding.

That comes with one caveat: he's only played 1000+ innings at short twice (2006, 2011) in his nine year career, although he's posted strong defensive ratings both seasons. Barmes will be 33 next week, and given his age, his range could decline, although his ability to catch and throw what he can reach shouldn't be affected. And his more consistent technique should help Neil Walker make the turn at second, a work in progress that was hampered by Cedeno's sometimes erratic feeds. So Barmes should be a plus at short.

The hitting could be a different story. There’s a strong chance that his offense could drop off in PNC Park, after stints in hitter friendly Coors Field and Minute Maid Park. He's a fly ball hitter - 47.6% career, and he's only been under that line once since 2005 - and PNC is not kind to guys that put the ball in the air.

His average reflects a lowish .281 Batted Ball in Play for Hits average, which correlates to so many fly balls. Another stat to watch is that even in the friendly confines he's called home, his FB/HR ratio is just 6.8%, well under the league average of 9.1%. His career Isolated Power number is .149, on the lower end of MLB average.

So don't be surprised to see a few Coors Field homers/doubles become cans of corn in front of the Notch. However, Barmes does have a .276 BA at PNC in 99 plate appearances with 4 homers and a .425 slugging %, so perhaps that won't be quite as big a deterrent as the stats would suggest.

The Bucs rolled the dice on signing Barmes, though given the fact that he's a placeholder until until someone in the system - Chase d'Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, Brock Holt, et al -  can step up, it was an understandable risk. With the dearth of quality shortstops both in Pittsburgh and major league ball as a whole, the FO is hoping to get two healthy, steady years out of Barmes.


WilliamJPellas said...

Barmes is definitely a traditional, glove-first shortstop, but he's a fairly big guy for the position and he has better than average power. He's done pretty well in his career for the most part when he's had steady playing time, so I'm optimistic that we'll have a solid starter for the next couple of seasons and maybe a little better than that. I'd personally be thrilled if he plays the same Gold Glove-level of defense he showed last season and can give us a .250-ish average with a dozen or so home runs to go along with his sterling and steady work in the field. Do that, and he's worth every penny. I have a funny feeling he might have at least one year at the plate that will be above his career norms.

Ron Ieraci said...

Hopefully, Will. He'll be fine if he can put up a .250/12/50 line to go with his mitt.