Barmes Makes Adjustment, Improves at the Plate

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.

Clint Barmes' recent adjustments to his swing have paid off.

Clint Barmes’ recent adjustments to his swing have paid off in hits and helped the Pirates get some production from the bottom of the batting order.

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.

Author: Tom Bragg

Tom Bragg is a beat writer and analyst for PiratesProspects.com. He is the former sports editor of the (Fairmont) Times West Virginian and has worked at the Charleston Gazette, Charleston Daily Mail and the (Ashland, Ky.) Independent. His freelance work has appeared in newspapers all over West Virginia and he has written for The Associated Press with stories posted to several major media outlets (ESPN.com, SportsIllustrated.com, FoxSports.com). Tom graduated from Marshall University in May 2010 with a degree in Print Journalism. Follow Tom on Twitter: @TomBraggSports

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  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    If he can keep his average around .250, he can be a very valuable piece.

  • NorCal Buc

    I’m on record as saying that Bames MUST start for his defense. CLint would’ve reached that seeing eye hit in Sat’s 8th inning, that drove in H’s tying run.

    Mercer does not reach balls beyond what he can glove. Barmes would have “dove and smothered” for a force out at 2nd. I was pained to watch Jordy Mercer flail at that grounder.

    Were Mercer to start games, I would insert Barmes into those games in the 7th inning.

    • joe g.

      Agree NorCal. Thought the same thing Sat. night. Mercer looks more like a second basemen to me. He lacks D’Arnaud’s range as far as the young SS prospects are concerned. Of course, Chase has his own developmental issues.

  • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

    “Barmes acknowledged that he has not always been the most consistent hitter during his 10-year career…”

    It appears that Clint’s defensive gifts are second only to his gift for understatement.

  • https://profiles.google.com/115008203438545926130 Jim Manning

    Wow! Congrats to Barmes and the org for finally figuring out that its impossible to be successful swinging off balance and off one foot.Been driving me crazy watching bat after bat reaching like a little leaguer.Now if they could tell pedro to keep a more direct swing path instead of that long outside in,turning over his wrists strike out or ground out to 1st swing that makes him so incredibly inconsistent.yesterdays homerun to left field was a thing of beauty.Pedro has to realize he has so much power that the ball will still travel a long way with a more direct swing path.

  • http://www.facebook.com/azibuck Andy Zibuck

    SSS.

  • jamminjoe66

    Must not have watched Barmas botch the throw to 2nd the other night or the botched run down because he panicked. The next time I see him dive into the hole & throw someone out like you suggested before will be the 1st time.

    • ianmonk

      I read the article and instantly thought Joe is going to shit all over this.

      • jamminjoe66

        A 1 1/2 week sample size doesn’t show me anything compared to 1+ year of putrid hitting. Hurdle is probably tripping over himself while patting himself on the back. Hey Clint (former hitting coach)what took you so long to figure it out.