The common (and mostly correct) assessment of what Clint Barmes brings to the Pirates is that he’s a player who provides a capable defensive option at shortstop but brings little to the table with his bat. One just needs to look to his 0 for 3 performance on Sunday against Houston to see that.
Barmes was never intended to be a player Pittsburgh looked to as a vital piece of its lineup, as made evident by his usual appearance in the No. 8 spot. His main contribution has been with his glove but recently he has shown some improvement at the plate.
Through April Barmes’ batting average was just .181 and he had an OPS of .422. Through 37 at-bats in May he’s seen his batting average rise 48 points to .229. So far this month he’s hitting .324 with an .873 OPS.
“He made an adjustment, suggested to him probably a week ago, and he was able to put it right into the game,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said during the Milwaukee series last week. “He’s worked on a number of different things throughout his career. It’s something we tried, talked about and said, ‘We’ve got to do this.’ Since then he’s just had much better at-bats. He’s held his position and his posture in the batter’s box much better. Kinda the same thing we talked with Jones about — staying tall and hitting the ball against your front foot and not lowering your angle and not crouching to hit it. He’s had some success.”
Barmes’ big moment came on a Saturday afternoon early in the month at PNC Park when he crushed a Stephen Strasburg pitch for a two-run home run to give the Pirates a 4-2 lead (that they would later lose to Washington).
Since then he’s had timely hits and provided a capable bat in the lower half of a Pittsburgh batting order that has sorely needed some production with the well documented struggles of Pedro Alvarez (thought Alvarez did have a decent weekend).
“The adjustment we made is just trying to get some weight on the back side,” Barmes said. “Just start it there and leave it there so when I want to start my swing I get to center and I don’t have to go further past that. Really that’s the biggest adjustment that I’ve made. It’s a minor one but it’s obviously kept me on the ball a little better and definitely behind the ball so I’m driving the ball better than what I have up to this point this season.”
Barmes acknowledged that he has not always been the most consistent hitter during his 10-year career and said that he has been able to get away with not getting behind the ball for a stretch.
“It’s nothing that we haven’t really tried to find or tired to be more consistent with in the past,” he said. “The biggest thing is just my weight shift back and trying to get some weight back so that I can go from being behind the ball and get to center as opposed to in the past I’ve always wanted to try to somewhat stay centered in my body and go from there. I’ll have spurts where I get by with it but as far as consistency, which is what I’ve battled my whole career. it’s not very good for that.”
I’m on record as saying I think Jordy Mercer should get more playing time at shortstop, but the Pirates — at least for now — have an option at the position that can add something to the offense in Barmes. I think we can all agree that is more than (currently injured and a black hole at the plate before that) John McDonald brings to the team and it will not hurt to have someone around who can play there and split time as needed.