The Walking Dead Inspired Pittsburgh Pirates Roster Deconstruction: Shortstop Edition


Even Catholic Churches picked on Clint Barmes in 2012.

The Walking Dead Inspired Pittsburgh Pirates roster deconstruction is about to begin. Every Pirates fan realizes what the Pirates do about this time of the year. It’s time to blow up the roster.

If you listened to Clint Hurdle on our recent podcast, Clint mentioned that there was a meeting this weekend to talk about the upcoming roster construction for 2013. We didn’t have the room bugged, but….

….we thought we should try and get a jump on the action by putting some early odds on who will make it to Bradenton in 2013.

We got started with the pitching staff and then moved to the catching position.   Now we move to the shortstop position.

If you watch The Walking Dead you’ve probably been enamored by Carl, the youngest cast member.  If you don’t watch the series, it’s based around a zombie apocalypse.   People talk, zombies die, repeat.  It’s pretty graphic and death happens often as you would expect.

Yet, somehow Carl is often left alone by his parents to find handguns, throw rocks at zombies, and wander around the countryside.

Carl reminds me of Neal Huntington.  He sorta resembles him too.  What is a little boy and a small market GM expected to do in a day?   Carl is gonna play with guns, throw rocks, and explore unsupervised.  Huntington is gonna mess around with lower tiered free agents, sign a few, try not to spend too much money and then get yelled at when it doesn’t work out.

But Huntington doesn’t act alone in the Pittsburgh Pirates free agent signings, but when they turn out poorly, as so often happens–he is the guy who takes full responsibility.   He has to–it’s his job we get it, but it’s hard for me to think about Neal Huntington and the free agent market without thinking of Carl.

Clint Barmes

Barmes hit .257 after the All-Star break to salvage his offensive season.  He sucked in away games and games played at night–which equates to he sucked most of the time.

But look closer, he was solid in the daylight–.280 average with a .331 OBP and a 395 SLG to add up to a  .726 OPS.  He messed with our heads in divisional play with just six hits against the Cubs, but eleven against the Reds.  He piled up the most hits he had against any division opponent when he faced the Cardinals pitching staff.  Barmes had fourteen hits with four going for doubles and a homer too.

Check this out:  Barmes had just 20 walks and 106 strikeouts.  Did you know that ten of those walks came in the month of September?  Ten!

We knew he would strikeout a lot, but he was supposed to hit some bombs.  He hit eight.  Eight.  Say it with me–EIGHT.  Half of those came in the daylight.  Maybe an eye test is in order.

He had twelve hits against Houston, the worst team in the league, but also struck out 14 times against them too.  Against the Brewers pitching staff he had just seven hits all year and never walked when the Bucs played the Beer makers.

We called him #AlwaysSmooth and against southpaws he hung in there at the plate to the tune of a .274 average.  Against right handers he hit just .217.

Barmes wasn’t as bad as his first half numbers, but he looked lost at the plate with such regularity it makes me wonder if that could return anytime soon.

Reasons He Could Get the Ax: Would a contender want the smooth fielding Barmes to solidify….ahh it sounded good didn’t it?

Reasons He’s Safe:   The Bucs won’t eat that contract.  We will hear all about stats like rPM, UZR/150, rGFP, and a few others as the defense of Barmes defense begins around Piratesfest time.

Odds that Barmes is in black and yellow for Spring Training : Lock.

Since Clint Barmes was the free agent signing that was most scrutinized during the 2012 season, we felt we should give a few hundred more words on his play in 2012.  Barmes was awful at the plate in the early going when he hit .149 in April and .189 in May.  He wasn’t much better in the field, butchering numerous plays, several in key situations.

We don’t recall Hurdle reminding the masses that Barmes was his guy during this time.   The player Clint Hurdle glowed about just months before,  the fresh faced shortstop the Pirates struted out for bloggers to interview at PiratesFest, looked lost.

Barmes couldn’t get on base.

The leather we heard so much about, wasn’t working that great early on either.

Fortunately, Barmes greatly improved his fielding.   When looking at his final 2012 fielding numbers it’s scary to think how much better they would have been if he didn’t get off to a sketchy start.

By the end of the season, Barmes and the Buccos shortstops had some of the best fielding numbers in the National League.  The company line became that Barmes wasn’t brought here for his bat.

The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates season poster inspired by The Walking Dead

The depth at the shortstop position has plenty of questions.  Here are the players who saw some time at short for the Bucs in 2012.  We predict all of them will be in Bradenton in a few months.

Josh Harrison

Reasons He Could Get the Ax: He didn’t have a great season.  He played 18 games at short and made four errors.  He didn’t get on base.  He had 54 more at-bats in 2012 than he did in 2011, but had just five more hits in his below replacement level season.

Reasons He’s Safe:  Despite awful numbers, he was called the spark plug by the coach.  Spark plugs are important.  It sucks that we couldn’t have one of those bad ass spark plugs with the double end, but oh well.

Odds that Harrison is in black and yellow for Spring Training: Lock.

Jordy Mercer

Reasons He Could Get the Ax:  Not many, really.  He was barely played by Hurdle down the stretch.

Reasons He’s Safe:  He looks the part.  He has hit for power in the minors despite striking out fourteen times in 68 plate appearances in 2012.  He hit .210 with a bomb, a triple and five doubles.  He’s the (gulp) short-term future at the position.

Odds that Mercer is in black and yellow for Spring Training: Lock.

Chase d’Arnaud

Reasons He Could Get the Ax:  He had some vicious slumps this season.

Reasons He’s Safe: He still has some upside although he only played 14 innings in 2012.

Odds that Chase is in Bradenton for Spring Training:  Lock, put it on the board.


So who’s gonna get the Ax?  Maybe we got the comparision wrong on this one.  Despite some awful play in 2012, we can’t see any of the Bucs shortstops getting the ax.  They are really like Carl…they can’t die.

They can wander all over the place and it all turns out ok.  We didn’t see any of them show improvement in 2012, outside maybe Mercer’s development in the minors.  But none of them got seriously hurt, so we do have that going for us.

But seriously, we can’t see the Pirates having the ability of moving or giving up on any of these players.  It’s an interesting situation, Barmes is under contract again for 2013.  Harrison, Mercer, and d’Arnaud are all still cheap.

No matter what happens, we think that most Pirates fans realize that Barmes is a Hurdle guy.

But how much of a Huntington guy is he?   We have to think Huntington wants to improve the position, but that’s not an easy task.  Solid shortstops aren’t found just wandering around Major League Baseball.

So what will 2013 bring for Indiana States’ best all-time shortstop?  What will the position bring for the Pirates?  It’s apparent that the position needs upgrading with Alen Hanson the only high impact possibility in the system.  Perhaps Barmes keeps it warm in 2013, Mercer improves enough to hold it down in combo with a one-year stopgap player  in 2014, and Hanson saves the day in 2015?


As Billy Beane said in Moneyball, I don’t get over these things.

It’s gonna be hard watching Barmes in 2013, solely based on the fact that I don’t know what I will be getting.  Will it be the guy who in September, when the games didn’t mean much to the opposition,  put up a .725 OPS?

Or will it be the guy who went 10-for-April?

I guess I should just enjoy the show.