Why does Clint Barmes swing so much?

Not only do the Pirates have some of the worst production in the league (lowest amount of runs, lowest on-base percentage, second-lowest batting average, etc.), but they also have terrible plate discipline. The Bucs swing at 48.7% pitches, which is highest in MLB. They swing at 33.8% of pitches outside the strike zone, and swing and miss at 10.2% of pitches, both of which are second-highest. Most of these poor stats are formed from one player: Clint Barmes.

Barmes swings at anything and everything. Here’s a look at his plate discipline compared to league averages:

O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
Barmes
46.50%
67.90% 57.40% 62.20% 84.20% 75.40% 50.70% 66.50% 13.30%
Average 29.90% 63.90% 45.40% 67.40% 87.10% 80.00% 45.50% 59.70% 8.80%

Key:
O-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone.
Z-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone.
Swing%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter swings at.
O-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with outside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
Z-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with inside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
Contact%: The overall percentage of a batter makes contact with when swinging the bat.
Zone%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter sees inside the strike zone.
F-Strike% – The percentage of first pitch strikes.
SwStr%: The percentage of total pitches a batter swings and misses on.

Clint swings at 46.5% of pitches outside of the strike zone; the league average is just below 30%. Overall, he swings at nearly 60% of all pitches he sees. He also sees first pitch strikes 66.5% of the time. The problem is that he cannot make contact. He swings and misses at over 13% of pitches; league average is below 9%. He makes contact with 75% of pitches, but league average is around 80%. For comparison, Alex Presley and Neil Walker make contact about 83% of the time. Not surprisingly, Pedro Alvarez only makes contact with 72% of pitches.

However, it was not always like this for Barmes. Check out his plate discipline since 2009:

Season
Team O-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Contact% F-Strike% SwStr%
2009
Rockies 33.70% 51.60% 62.40% 78.40% 62.80% 10.90%
2010 Rockies 36.90% 50.50% 72.20% 83.20% 62.70% 8.10%
2011 Astros 36.70% 50.60% 69.40% 81.10% 58.20% 9.30%
2012 Pirates 46.50% 57.40% 62.20% 75.40% 66.50% 13.30%

As well as a chart of his progression:

As you can see, Barmes has had a much different approach at the plate this season.
– He’s swinging at a lot more pitches outside the strike zone
– Overall, he’s swinging at about 7% more pitches than he usually does
– He’s making contact with less pitches outside of the zone
– Overall, he’s made contact with about 5% less pitches
– He’s swinging and missing more frequently
All of this has resulted in a .193/.213/.304 hitter with 3 HR and 14 RBI.

After seeing this, Barmes’ struggles at the plate could be repaired. He simply needs better pitch recognition and a better ability lay off pitches. He’s swinging at far too many pitches outside the strike zone, but a 10-year MLB veteran should be able to fix that. Manager Clint Hurdle sat him out a few days to clear his mind, and it seemed to help a little bit; Barmes is hitting .300 (9 for 30) in June. Still, there’s a lot of improvement to be done, and the Pirates need Barmes to produce if they want to stay in the race.

Statistics from FanGraphs.

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