Barmes' glove keeping him in lineup
Second baseman in slump, but playing solid defense
PHILADELPHIA -- If this were fantasy baseball, Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes would be living a nightmare on the bench.
In reality, though, he is considered a dream player by a manager who can look past his hitting slump.
There's no sugarcoating the numbers. Entering Wednesday's game against the Phillies, Barmes was in a 2-for-40 slump, with both hits being home runs. The slump started before then. Barmes went 2-for-3 in the game before the All-Star break to lift his batting average to .278. Since then, he is 8-for-63, with his overall average down to .249.
But Colorado manager Jim Tracy has talked about how pitching and defense win. It would be mere lip service if he were to bench Barmes because of his hitting woes. Instead, Tracy continues to show how important he feels defense is by keeping Barmes in the lineup.
Barmes' start Wednesday night marked his 58th in 61 possible games since Tracy replaced Clint Hurdle as manager on May 29. With the Rockies entering Wednesday 41-19 under Tracy, it's clear Barmes' defense is valued as a reason for winning.
"In the past, obviously, we weren't winning many games, so if somebody is not hitting they'll get somebody else in there that can play just as good defensively -- that's the way this game works," Barmes said. "Winning is what's kept me in there. If we were losing, it would be a whole different story. I'd find myself on the bench somewhere."
Tracy's record suggests he values contributions beyond batting average. An example is the 2003 Dodgers, who won 83 games and just missed out on the National League Wild Card. Just two regulars hit better than .251 for the season.
"I've prided myself as a manager," Tracy said. "I believe that pitching and defense are first and foremost. It's been that way since the game was invented. It'll be that way long after all of us are gone."
Tracy sees the runs Barmes prevents as at least equal in importance to the runs he produces.
"Let's take for example the game against the Mets where he hit the home run and saved a run," Tracy said. "That was the only good swing he took the whole night. He hit that ball up there off the restaurant windows at Citi Field. But in the first inning, Daniel Murphy hit the ball over there in the hole between first and second base, and he goes over and dives with a runner on second base, spears the ball to end the inning."
The issue that has dogged Barmes before, chasing pitches low and outside the strike zone -- especially with two strikes -- persists. That, he said, usually comes from falling behind by taking too many strikes early in counts. But he believes he's not as bad as the numbers.
"I've hit some balls hard lately, but the couple of balls hit for home runs seem to be the only ones where I have anything to show for it," Barmes said. "I feel comfortable. I feel confident.
"I'm going through a stage almost every hitter goes through at a certain point. Some guys might not have it as long as I've had it at this point. But I can't say there's anything I need to change mechanically."
Rockies No. 1 starter Aaron Cook observed a venerable baseball tradition by looking straight at the defense, rather than the stat sheet, when assessing Barmes' effectiveness.
"He takes pride in his glove," Cook said. "It's when he doesn't make a play that you're surprised. The way he covers ground over there, he gets to balls that some guys wouldn't even be diving for, and he's getting up on his feet and throwing to first."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.