Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Exit Music (For A Player): Brandon Barnes

We're taking a look at the Astros who are still on the 40-Man Roster as part of our off-season Exit Music (For A Player) recap of 2013. Read the (small, for now) archive here. Today we take on Brandon Barnes.

Acquired: Drafted, 6th Round - 2005

136 games played, 445 PAs, .240/.289/.346, 76 OPS+
Baseball-Reference WAR: 1.7
FanGraphs WAR: 1.0
Walk Percentage: 4.7%
Strikeout Percentage: 28.5%
2013 Salary: $491,700

One of the Astros' legitimate feel-good stories, 2005 6th Round pick Brandon Barnes finally made his Major-League debut on August 7, 2012 against the Nationals. In 43 games (105 Plate Appearances), Barnes hit .204/.250/.265 with 29 strikeouts and five walks. His second Major-League hit left the yard on August 13 as a pinch-hitter in the 6th in a 7-1 loss at Chicago.

Barnes enjoyed an almost-full-time role in 2013, playing all three outfield positions in 136 games (but mainly in Center Field), and hit .240/.289/.346. His first 34 games of the season including a lot of defensive replacement/pinch-hitter/runner. In those 34 games, Barnes hit .323/.405/.477 with an other-worldly .475 BABIP.

From May 28 forward, when Barnes started 97 of his remaining 102 games, he hit .224/.266/.321 with a more-normalized .302 BABIP, with 104K:14BB in 369 plate appearances. In other words, Barnes hit .375/.468/.525 in March/April (.483 BABIP), and didn't post an OPS over .659 in any other month, and didn't break a .600 OPS in May, July, or August. In only one of those months, July, was Barnes' BABIP under .300 (.241).

High-Water Mark of 2013: July 19 vs. Seattle. Barnes goes 5x5 to hit for the cycle in a 10-7 loss to Seattle.

Honorable Mention: September 3 vs. Minnesota. Barnes went 3x4 with a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the 9th off Twins closer Glen Perkins to tie the game, and finished the day with 5RBI. Of course, the Astros lost when the Twins scored three runs in the top of the 12th. 

What Went Well: 
*April. Things were great in April for Barnes. As we've already mentioned, he hit .375/.468/.525.
*Barnes' fielding routinely made the Astros' highlight reels, and the (somewhat-unreliable) fielding data backed that up. He improved his 2013 UZR rating to 5.9 from his 5.3 in 2012. He's a great fielding outfielder, and Baseball-Reference gave him a 1.1 defensive WAR rating.
*Barnes' occasional power was up in 2013. His Isolated Power was a .105 in 2013, up from an .061 in 2012, and his HR/flyball percentage was 9.1%, up from 5.0% in 2012.

What Didn't:
*Barnes cut down on the number of pitches he offered at outside the zone, and overall swung less in 2013 than in 2012, but he also made less contact (-4.0% outside the zone, -5.0% inside the zone, and -3.8% overall) in 2013. His swinging strike rate went up from 12.3% to 13.8% in 2013. This was the 18th-highest percentage among MLB players with at least 400 plate appearances. (Hint: Chris Carter was 4th in MLB at Swinging-Strike%)
*Hitting breaking pitches. Barnes improved his wFB (Runs above average on fastballs) to a 4.5, way up from the -4.1 in 2012. But he struggled against sliders (-7.3), cutters (-1.0), and changeups (-4.4) in 2013.
*It's telling that Dave Clark was let go after the end of the season, as he was also the baserunning coach. Despite Barnes' obvious speed, he was only 50% on stolen base attempts. How much of that can be chalked up to Clark is unknown, but with Altuve leading the AL in getting thrown out trying to steal, Barnes' eleven CS was 3rd in the AL.

2014 Contract Status: 2nd Year of Pre-Arbitration, will be Arbitration-Eligible in 2016.
2014 Outlook: It will be interesting to see if George Springer pushes Barnes to a corner-outfielder position, but he'll need to hit better to justify it. Barnes clearly showed value in the field, and had a hot month mainly off the bench in April 2013.