The Pirates switched shortstops this offseason, declining Ronny Cedeno's one year, $3 million option and bringing in Clint Barmes on a two-year, $10.5 million deal. The move is curious. Barmes is four years older than Cedeno, more expensive and not necessarily a better player moving forward. His defense is well-regarded, however, and GM Neal Huntington considers Barmes in the "middle of the pack in terms of offensive production for a shortstop."
At first blush, that assessment of Barmes' offensive prowess seems reasonable, if somewhat generous. He batted .244 with a .312 on-base percentage and a .386 slugging percentage with Houston this past year, and his three-year line is .240/.300/.394. For comparison, shortstops have a collective .263/.317/.380 triple-slash over the past three seasons.
But here's the problem: Barmes posted those numbers in Coors Field (2009-10) and Minute Maid Park, both of which give a big boost to right-handed pull hitters. Both Coors and Minute Maid increase home runs by 17 percent for righty hitters and bolster extra-base hits overall, according to StatCorner. And nearly all of Barmes' power comes to the pull side:
Since '09, Barmes has a .722 slugging percentage on balls put in play to the pull side. He has slugged just .339 to the middle of the field, and .273 on the rare occasions that he goes the other way.
That pull-heavy approach produced passable offensive lines at Coors and Minute Maid, but PNC Park isn't nearly as cozy. With a near-390 foot left field fence and a 410 foot notch in left-center, PNC decreases home runs for righties by 27 percent. It's a miserable environment for righty power.
Once you make park adjustments to Barmes' offense, his bat has been 22 percent below average (78 wRC+). Only notorious out-makers Orlando Cabrera and Yuniesky Betancourt have worse adjusted lines among qualified shortstops over that period. As with the signing of catcher Rod Barajas, the Pirates added a hitter whose main offensive attribute -- pull power -- is mitigated by their home park. Cedeno is an out-maker of the highest degree, but the difference between him and Barmes might not be as big as you think.