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2017 Marlins Season Review: Kyle Barraclough

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It took a couple years, but the Claw finally earned his first save for the Fish.

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins Photo by Rob Foldy/Miami Marlins via Getty Images

2017 Stats: 66.0 IP, 3.00 ERA/3.66 FIP, 1.38 WHIP, .215 BAA, 10.36 K/9, 0.6 fWAR


Kyle Barraclough, in his first full season, became one of the most dominant set-up men in the game in 2016, putting up a very impressive 14.00 K/9 rate and a 2.85 ERA/2.11 FIP (good for 2.1 fWAR) in 72.2 strong innings.

He managed to strike out 113 batters, which, if you’re a reliever striking out over a hundred batters, you’ve got to be doing something right.

2017 saw some all around regression in the numbers, as his innings-pitched reduced, his ERA/FIP rose, his K/9 rate fell and he allowed more walks per appearance. He gave up only one home run in all of 2016, but coughed up five long balls in 2017. Concurrently, his fly ball percentage rose 6.8% from the previous season and he was less effective at inducing grounders with the ground ball percentage falling 9.1% from 2016 to 2017.

There was a slight drop in average velocity, from 96.6 mph in 2016 to 95.2 mph in 2017, but much of what we saw can be contributed to the league making adjustments in what was essentially Barraclough’s second full season. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Barraclough came straight out of Double A ball to almost immediately be inserted directly into the Marlins’ bullpen and high-leverage situations, and for the most part, that has worked out.

Walks remain the primary issue for Barraclough as his 13.3% walk rate was the sixth highest in baseball among qualified relievers. Barraclough also has the dubious distinction of having the highest walk rate (14.4%) among relievers since his debut back in 2015. Second highest, by the way? Brian Ellington at 13.7%. Hooray!

At least partly to blame is Barraclough’s approach. The Claw attacks hitters with a devastating power fastball/wipe out slider combo. He is aggressive; he is looking for the strikeout every time. Sometimes that means the movement associated with his pitches will take the balls out of the strike zone and the patient among batters can take advantage. The trick for Barraclough is making sure those that do reach base go no further — and he has the stuff to ensure that they don’t

Barraclough has registered 57 holds (22 this past season) since his debut in 2015; that puts him at 15th in the game among relievers in that span. He was also the only one in that grouping without a career save to his name — until September 25th, 2017, when he finally notched one against the Colorado Rockies.

One has to believe that save is a portent of things to come. It remains to be seen if the traditional closer role will fall to Barraclough or wily veteran Brad Ziegler. If I had my druthers, I would keep Ziegler in the closer spot with the idea of boosting his trade value and hand the reigns over to Barraclough once said theoretical trade is conducted. Of course, given the trajectory of the Marlins as a whole, it’s no guarantee that Barraclough will even be a Marlin to begin the season.

If he is, though, I for one look forward to his erratic dominance and the chance of seeing him become one of the game’s great closers.