Washington Nationals: Kyle Barraclough has a perfect situation to rebound
By Blake Finney
The first move of a jam-packed winter for the Washington Nationals was the acquisition of reliever Kyle Barraclough. He should be in line for a rebound.
The Washington Nationals have arguably been the busiest team in all of baseball this offseason. Their first addition was that of relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough, and after a down-season in 2018, he’s set for a bounce-back year in 2019.
The trade was an incredibly opportunistic move for the Nationals as the Miami Marlins were in hot pursuit of Victor Victor Mesa. The Nats were able to acquire Barraclough for only $1 million worth of international bonus pool money as the fish were desperate for Mesa.
Barraclough was also coming off of a down season in which he posted a 4.20 ERA with seven blown saves in 17 save opportunities. The right-hander’s home run rate spiked from 0.4 HR/9 in his previous three seasons all the way up to 1.3 HR/9 last year which caused the struggles.
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At first, it may seem like the spike in his fly ball rate stemmed from a dip in velocity of his fastball. In his first three seasons, Barraclough’s fastball averaged over 95 mph, but last year is averaged just 93.6 mph with no simple reason why.
However, Barraclough was his usual dominant self early on in the season. Between March and June, the righty posted a 0.99 ERA and much more normal 0.50 HR/9. However, between July and September, his ERA went all the way up to 10.24 with a completely unsustainable 2.79 HR/9 and .400 BABIP.
It may be no coincidence that this regression came not long after he assumed the closer’s role in Miami as hitters seemingly tried to lock in on him in the ninth inning. Even though he was statistically throwing the ball in the zone the same amount, hitters’ swing percentage dropped from 41.9 percent to 37.9 and the percent they swung outside the zone dipped from 26.7 percent to 18.7 percent.
Thankfully, with the Nationals, the pressure will be off of Barraclough. After the addition of Trevor Rosenthal to compliment dominant closer, Sean Doolittle, the former Marlin is likely the team’s third-best option in the bullpen. That’s just how he likes it.
During Barraclough’s career, he possesses a 2.76 ERA in innings before the ninth inning as he had built up a reputation as one of the better setup men in baseball. Meanwhile, he also has 5.11 ERA in the ninth inning of games as, on the whole, he’s struggled to close the door.
Doolittle will obviously take care of the closing duties for the Nationals, while Barraclough seems set to flourish once again as a setup man.
Mike Rizzo made one of the most opportunistic moves in his entire time with the Washington Nationals when he acquired Kyle Barraclough. Now, if he can rebound in 2019, then it could turn out to be an incredibly shrewd piece of business.