Former Pirate shortstop Clint Barmes announced his retirement after 13 Major League seasons yesterday.
Everyone knows what the state of the Pittsburgh Pirates was prior to the last three seasons. From 1992 through 2012 the Pirates had 20 consecutive losing seasons, and North American professional sports record that is likely to never be broken. However, that tide has turned as the Bucs have made three straight trips to the postseason and are very much so a postseason caliber team once again this year.
Many people, both on and off the field, played a major role in the turn around of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The reason for this article is that one of those people announced their retirement yesterday. It is someone who is often times overlooked for their contributions, former Pirate shortstop Clint Barmes.
Clint Barmes signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to the start of the 2012 season. Even though the Pirates finished with a losing record in 2012, that was the year that the turn around really began. The Bucs finished the season at 79-83 overall, but spent most of the first five and a half months of the season over .500 and in competition for a playoff spot.
Clint Barmes would go on to spend the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons in Pittsburgh where he would go on to become a fan favorite. During his three seasons in Pittsburgh Barmes was never known for his offense as he slashed just .224/.271/.314/.585 with a 257 wOBA and a wRC+ of 61.
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What Clint Barmes was known for those was his reliable defense, great leadership, and willingness to help the young guys learn. During his three years as a Pirate Barmes combined to post a UZR/150 of 41.1, while also posting 28 defensive runs saved at the shortstop position. Clint Barmes also was extremely popular in the Pirate clubhouse, and was part of the team’s leadership council in both 2013 and 2014.
Clint Barmes also had a way of striking up the vocal chords of Pirate fans at PNC Park. During the 2013 season Barmes changed his walk up song to ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey which became the theme song of the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates. Every time Barmes would come to the plate, thousands of fans throughout PNC Park would sing along with his walk up song. Often times continuing to sing even after the song ended and his at bat had begun.
One big contribution Clint Barmes made to the Pittsburgh Pirates during his three seasons with the Bucs was the way he helped, at the time, young and upcoming shortstop Jordy Mercer improve at the position. About two months into the 2013 season Mercer began to split reps with Barmes at shortstop, and then he replaced Barmes as the starting shortstop for the 2014 season.
Many veteran players would have complained about this happening and had a poor attitude, but what Clint Barmes did was the complete opposite. Instead, Clint took on a leadership and mentor role for Jordy and worked extensively with him to help him improve his defense at shortstop. Barmes worked with Mercer in Spring Training and before games giving him tips on his defense, and now both Mercer and Pirate fans are reaping the benefits of this.
Possibly the biggest contribution Clint Barmes made to the Pittsburgh Pirates came in Spring Training 2013, though. That was the year that the Pirate front office and coaching staff went all in on defensive shifting and advanced metrics. This led to the coaching staff instructing the players to lineup in very nontraditional spots for their respective positions throughout Spring Training.
Many Pirates players, position players and pitchers alike, were leery of this. However, one player that was not was Clint Barmes. Barmes completely bought in to what the coaching staff was trying to accomplish, and his veteran leadership and confidence in the staff helped to instill this same confidence in the staff’s shifting within his teammates. Travis Sawchik does a great job of discussing this in his book Big Data Baseball.
The turn around of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise that started in the 2012 season is thanks in part to many people. Neal Huntington, Bob Nutting, Frank Coonelly, Clint Hurdle, Andrew McCutchen, and A.J. Burnett are just some of those prominent figures. However, do not ever forget that Clint Barmes played an important role in this too.
Thank you, Clint, enjoy retirement, and don’t ever stop believing.
*- Stats and defensive metrics via Fangraphs