As the Atlanta Braves are searching for bullpen help this Summer, it’s guys like this that they really need.
There’s a universal problem around baseball right now involving the evaluation of pitching… it’s not just a problem that the Atlanta Braves face.
The problem is whether pitcher numbers before June 23rd and those afterward reveal a difference in performance that could be attributable to something sticky.
This is exactly why Kansas City’s Scott Barlow might be attractive to possible trade-deadline buyers this Summer.
This 28-year-old right-hander has shown a remarkable consistency and durability over the past two seasons that’s quite noteworthy.
In 2020’s odd season, he led the majors in game appearances with 32, logging 30 innings overall with a 4.20 ERA.
This season, he’s gone one better: a 2.04 ERA in nearly 40 innings (38 games). His WHIP has stayed consistent at roughly 1.2 in both years. The 2.04 mark could be just a reliever’s aberration, an thus his career 3.60 mark may be more indicative of what to expect. That’s still useful.
What Barlow delivers, however, is “stuff”: well more than a strikeout per innings over his career. This season, that’s 58 K’s in the 40 innings.
He’ll walk a batter here and there, but his slider is a big “out” pitch with a 43% whiff rate… and he uses that 45% of the time.
Barlow will mix in a curve with the slider and his fastball, getting nearly 39% whiffs on the “other” breaking pitch.
We noted his work after June 23rd: his spin rate ranks are right in the middle of all pitchers, so he wasn’t reliant on that spin to get his outs. But since June 23rd, he’s made 4 appearances: 8 strikeouts in 3.2 innings, 2 hits allowed.
He does allow some base-runners: 20 times he’s allowed one or fewer during an appearance, and thus on 18 occasions he’s entertained 2+ runners at a time. But on 9 outings, Barlow has also been called upon to spend more than just one inning on the hill.
Barlow is another one of these pitchers in this series who is still arbitration-eligible, with team control through 2024. His role could be anything from ’emergency fireman’ to ‘7th-or-8th inning guy’.
Could the Atlanta Braves even make a deal with KC?
The Royals might be finicky when it comes to trades. They are rebuilding, but they also don’t think they are that far away from contending again, and thus they might consider Barlow as a possible key cog in that wheel.
That’s certainly not the case today as they’re in a battle with the Twins… for last place.
There’s a lot of folks who might hear “Braves make a trade with Royals” and instantly think “we got Whit Merrifield“. This season, he’s hitting well, but not really to the degree that the Braves might need him to do. Merrifield is also 32½ years old already.
No — his best years may have passed, but if there’s a trade to be made with KC, it might just have to involve Scott Barlow… first.