For about 20 years now, the shortstop position has been a weakness for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
While the Barmes-Mercer combination didn’t exactly light the world on fire, by the end of the season, they did turn out to be a decent platoon and both players did some good things along the way to help the Bucs win and reach the postseason.
The Bucs face a decision in the offseason as Barmes is a free agent and Mercer isn’t likely an everyday shortstop, but manager Clint Hurdle handled the situation pretty well as he got the most from both guys.
With that being said, let’s take a look at how each guy graded out during the 2013 season.
Clint Barmes- .211 AVG/ .249 OBP/ .309 SLG, 5 HR/ 23 RBI
Barmes is the target of plenty of criticism from Pirates’ fans, but he’s not as bad as most people would like to think he is. Yes, he was overpaid, but you knew what you were getting from Barmes on a daily basis, which is a blessing.
Offensively he wasn’t good. His .249 OBP and .558 OPS quite frankly are downright lousy. But after struggling through the month of June, hitting below .200 in the months of April and June, Barmes picked it up rather nicely hitting .296 in the month of July.
Of course he didn’t sustain it as he hit only .162 in August and .174 in September before having a decent postseason where he hit .273. However when the Pirates have a deep lineup like they did the last couple months of the season, you can get by without a productive No. 8 hitter who brings a solid glove to the table.
When they don’t and everyone else struggles, Barmes’ struggles with the bat get magnified.
He did make 13 errors on the season and his .968 fielding percentage was particularly low for his standards, but his range turns many hits into outs, which is huge for a Pirates pitching staff that gets lot of ground balls.
Who knows if Barmes will be back in 2014, but if he’s not, the Bucs are going to have to find a shortstop with similar range and defensive abilities. That means they won’t get much of a hitter and ultimately Barmes could be missed.
He gives you a professional days work every game and deserves a lot of credit for Mercer’s improvement as well. Those are leadership qualities that were a big part of the Pirates success in 2013. Grade: C