Milwaukee Brewers: What to make of Jacob Barnes inconsistent 2017

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 30: Jacob Barnes
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 30: Jacob Barnes /

How do we analyze Milwaukee Brewers reliever Jacob Barnes’s sporadic 2017 season? With a wide open spot for a setup man, does Barnes have what it takes to set up behind Corey Knebel in 2018?

There were no pitchers on the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers that were more sporadic than Barnes. A stocky 225, 6’2 right hander, Barnes always had the stuff of being an extremely solid setup man. It looked that way after Feliz got released, but after a bang to the season, Barnes’s control started to become a liability.

A substandard 4.13 walks per 9 innings was the main issue certainly didn’t help. This will probably get better in the future, but the main issue was that when he was off with his command he was way off.

He had frequent stretches where he looked very hittable, and command was a huge factor. Overall, Barnes had a very disappointing 2017 season. He went from having a setup role behind Corey Knebel, to a man left on the street when the Brewers picked up Anthony Swarzak as a midseason acquisition. Now can Jacob Barnes step up and make a big impact in his 2018 season?

How did Jacob Barnes’s 2017 season go?

In a baffling April for Brewers relievers, Jacob Barnes had a breakout April that seemed to solidify his setup role after Feliz got released. He threw 12.2 innings with 15 strikeouts, 7 hits, 0 home runs and an astounding .223 wOBA. 

A converted starter from Florida Gulf Coast University, Barnes relies on a hard upper nineties fastball. He adds in a fall on your face cutter. As the months went on, however, Jacob Barnes’s control became such a bugaboo that he was never to be trusted in high leverage situations again. While he showed many true fashions of brilliance, he had many outings where he couldn’t buy an out, and it seemed like when we needed him most he always seemed to wilt.

Crunching the Numbers

With a 4.13 walks per 9 innings, Jacob Barnes was 33rd on the list with relievers with the most amount of walks per 9 innings. While that isn’t terrible, that’s just the start of the problem. For example look at Barnes splits against righties and lefties.

He has thrown 31.2 innings against lefties and 40.1 against righties. While this isn’t equal, as a right handed thrower this is a good proportion. With 28 and 29 hits respectively the number seem relatively equal. But they aren’t.

For example, Barnes has gives up 7 of his 8 home runs against right handed hitting, which is quite staggering. However, his BABIP against left handed hitting is a whopping .342. Against righties it is a measly .218. But then again, if you look at FIP it tells you a different story.

Barnes’ splits show a 3.09 FIP against lefties and an absurd 4.50 against right handed pitching. FIP is considered a better replacement of ERA, that takes a pitcher’s raw numbers without fielding. As I explained, these numbers offer no consistency, so you can’t use number to explain Jacob Barnes’s 2017 roller coaster of a season. Here I’ll take two instances of good Jacob Barnes and head scratching Jacob Barnes.

A good Jacob Barnes and a bad Jacob Barnes

Here is an instance of Jacob Barnes pitching two fantastic innings against a very good Nationals team. In these 2 superb innings, Barnes tops out with a 97 mph fastball that hits the edges with ease. He showcases a premier cutter that he gets multiple strikeouts with. His spot on command gave little chance to the Nationals hitters and in this bullpen day he and other Brewers relievers shined.

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Now two days later, it’s a different story with Jacob Barnes.

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As you can see immediately, his off speed pitches aren’t staying down. He loses command of his fastball, throws a couple wild pitches and gets yanked after giving up two runs. Not to mention essentially blowing the game.

Now this could be because of fatigue, but after being so dominating two days ago, Jacob Barnes looked like a completely different pitcher. Sadly these two outings were a microcosm of Jacob Barnes rocky 2017 season. Now what can we expect from in 2018?

What will Jacob Barnes’s role be in 2018?

Anthony Swarzak got a deal from the Mets. That means the setup role behind Corey Knebel is up for grabs. The Milwaukee Brewers might make a trade or a free agent transaction to bring a reliever. If that doesn’t happen however, it will be between Jacob Barnes and Jeremy Jeffress for the setup role.

Jeremy Jeffress, a mid season acquisition, impressed in a reunion with the Brewers throwing for 24.2 innings with a 3.65 ERA and 22 strikeouts. 27, Jacob Barnes should get many chances to prove himself next season. With a team friendly contract and not reaching arbitration until 2022, this will be a vital year for Barnes, and if he plans to stick with the Brewers for the long time future or not.

Next: Why Jhoulys Chacin is a Bad Idea

The only spot clear in our bullpen is lights out closer Corey Knebel, after that it’s all question marks. Even though a second basemen and more starting pitching is higher on our wishlist, our bullpen is still going to need help. We all saw those collapses in the first half, and the only reason those became less frequent was because of Swarzak (deal with the Mets) and Josh Hader, who’s role has not been decided yet. This will be a pivotal year for Jacob Barnes, who has the chance to be the setup man for years to come, or fall succumb  o Jeremy Jeffress or another reliever. It is his for the taking.