Even with a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates that has been known to struggle from time to time with the bats this season, sometimes sacrificing offense for defense is the difference between winning and losing games.
There are two positions on the baseball diamond that I feel defense is more important than offense and that’s catcher and shortstop.
Many Pirates fans scream when Rod Barajas gets more starts over Michael McKenry, but the numbers don’t lie. While McKenry is raking at the plate, the pitchers throw much worse to him at more than a run per game difference. The Pirates also lose more often when “The Fort,” is behind the plate. I love McKenry being a gamer, but preventing runs is just as important as scoring them.
That brings me to the shortstop position and Clint Barmes.
You can’t say enough about the job the veteran has done defensively this season, but it’s also very difficult to run a pair of guys hitting barely over .200 at the end of your lineup. You can get by with one, but if your 7-9 hitters are automatic outs, then you are in trouble.
That brings me to rookie shortstop Jordy Mercer, who after months of getting the Pedro Ciriaco treatment, received back-to-back starts from manager Clint Hurdle during the final two games of the Arizona series, which begs the question of whether or not Mercer should receive more starts over Barmes in the future.
That answer is a definite yes.
I never liked Hurdle sitting Barmes for the like of Josh Harrison. Harrison is not a shortstop and doesn’t field well at any position. Sacrificing the steady glove of Barmes for the couple hits Harrison can bring was never a good idea to me.
But Mercer is a different story.
He may not have the range of Barmes, and may not be a MLB shortstop long-term, but he can field the position effectively. He won’t save the Pirates runs throughout the course of a game the way Barmes has, but I have the confidence that Mercer will make the routine plays. That’s more confidence than I have in a guy like Harrison.
In addition, Mercer has some pop in his bat.
The 2008 third-round pick has only six hits in 30 at bats so far, but five of those have been extra-base hits. Barmes has 18 extra-base hits in 313 at bats.
It would be interesting to see what type of production Mercer can offer if he’s given more consistent at bats. It’s not like Hurdle is getting production from the position right now.
That’s not to say Barmes isn’t a big part of this team and won’t play a big role the rest of the season. He’s been a true professional and excellent clubhouse guy and his glove has been valuable.
That can still be the case, but maybe for the short-term it won’t be such a bad idea for Hurdle to give Mercer a longer look.
Who knows, maybe with some regualr at bats, the kid could be an unsung hero of this team