By John Perrotto
The Pirates take their sabermetrics seriously.
That point was never driven home more than Monday with the press release issued by the Pirates announcing the signing of free agent shortstop Clint Barmes to a two-year contract worth $10.5 million.
The release included all the usual statistics. However, it also mentioned that Barmes led all National League shortstops in 2011 in UZR, an advanced defensive metric called Ultimate Zone Rating that can be found at Fangraphs.com, while playing for the Houston Astros.
“I can’t understand how they figure all that stuff out or how they add it all up,” Barmes said. “I do know that I wouldn’t be where I’m at now without my glove. I take a lot of pride in my defense. It’s neat to hear they are coming with up these kind of stats for that part of the game and it’s neat that they think I’ve played pretty well defensively.”
The advanced metrics also suggest that Ronny Cedeno played well in the field for the Pirates last season. He ranked fourth among NL shortstop in UZR behind Barmes, the Colorado Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki and the Cincinnati Reds’ Paul Janish.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, though, used another sabermetric stat to explain why the 32-year-old Barmes was a more attractive option than the 28-year-old Cedeno, who became a free agent earlier in the month when his $3-million club option for 2012 was not exercised.
OPS is the acronym for on base-plus-slugging percentage. Barmes had a .698 mark last season while Cedeno finished at .636.
In the more traditional measures, Barmes had a .244 batting average with 12 home runs and 47 RBIs in 495 plate appearances. Cedeno hit .249 with two homers and 43 RBIs in 454 plate appearances.
“It’s a thin shortstop market in free agency and a number of clubs need shortstops so we felt we needed to strike quickly,” Huntington said. “After Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins, Clint was No. 3 on our list. “When you put the combination of him being positionally average on offense with good defense at a key defensive position and a quality guy in the clubhouse, it was a good fit for us.”
Barmes is the second free agent the Pirates have signed this month along with catcher Rod Barajas. They also would like to add a first baseman and Huntington characterized his attempts to re-sign Derrek Lee as “ongoing conversations.”
The Pirates also have an interest in signing free agent left-handed starting pitcher Chris Capuano and are said to be willing to give him the two-year contract he desires.
The 33-year-old Capuano logged his first full season in the major leagues since 2007 this year after twice undergoing Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. He went 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA in 186 innings for the New York with solid peripheral statistics of 8.13 strikeouts and 2.56 walks per nine innings.
John Perrotto has covered the Pirates and Major League Baseball since 1988.