Kyle Barraclough on Wipeout Sliders and Missing Bats

Kyle Barraclough has a record of 6-2 and a 2.88 ERA n 53 games out of the Miami Marlins bullpen this season. Those are his ho-hum numbers. The 26-year-old right-hander has 82 strikeouts, 34 walks, and has allowed 31 hits in 50 innings. Those are his holy-cow numbers.

Barraclough’s 14.75 strikeouts per nine innings is tops in the National League, and third highest in MLB behind Dellin Betances (15.86) and Andrew Miller (15.38). His 6.12 walks per nine innings is the most of any pitcher, in either league.

Obtained from the St. Louis Cardinals last July in exchange for Steve Cishek, Barraclough overpowers hitters with a mid- to high-90s fastball and a slider that averages a tick over 82 mph. The latter is his signature pitch. Barraclough throws it 40% of the time, and as Jeff Sullivan wrote in June, “It’s a phenomenal slider.”

Barraclough talked about his power arsenal, and how his ability to miss bats helps ameliorate his walk rate, prior to a recent game at Marlins Park.


Barraclough on limiting damage and missing bats: “The walks matter — you obviously want to limit them as much as you can — but my ability to get out of jams with strikeouts is what helps me the most. If you walk a guy, but don’t give up a lot of hits… I mean, if you take your walk rate, K rate and hit rate, and two of them are good, that’s going to translate to better statistics, to fewer earned runs. You want your WHIP to be close to 1.00, or under 1.00, and if you walk a guy but don’t give up any hits, it’s going to be hard for them to score.

“I’m absolutely trying to miss bats. It’s somewhat dependent on the situation, but if I get to two strikes, I’m pitching for the strikeout. Obviously, you can’t strike someone out before you get to two strikes. Earlier in the counts, I’m looking to attack, to get ahead and make them miss. At the same time, if someone puts the ball in play, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I need my strikeouts.’ I’m happy to take a two-pitch fly out or ground out.”

On speed differential and not throwing get-me-over sliders: “I’m not entirely sure, but I think my slider has always been 10-11 mph [slower] than my fastball. Sometimes it might be more, but I don’t really pay a lot of attention to that. I’m more focused on the movement, and how much it mirrors my fastball out of the hand. I’m not conscious of, ‘Oh, I need to make it slower,’ or ‘I need to make it harder.’

“I will change [the movement] depending on what I’m trying to do. If I’m throwing it off the plate, I might want to get it to sweep more horizontally, or if I’m facing a lefty, I might want it to drop more vertically and into the dirt. But if I’m trying to throw it for a strike, I don’t sit there thinking that I have to do one or the other. It’s predicated on the situation. I’m not a Brad Ziegler in terms of [varying the speeds]. I think they’re all between 81 and 84.

“For me, it’s location as opposed to, ‘Oh, I’m going to throw this one super slow to get it over, just kind of lollipop it in there.’ For the most part, I’m throwing the same slider regardless of whether I’m trying to throw it for a strike or miss the bat. If it’s in the zone, I’d still like them to swing and miss rather as opposed to putting it in play.”

On if it’s possible to throw too many sliders: “I’m sure it is. Last night was a good example. I threw Jedd Gyorko four sliders in a row, and even though it was a bad swing — he hit kind of a lofty little looper into left [for a single] — he kind of knew what to look for. I don’t think he was sitting on a slider, but these guys are big-league hitters. They’re going to get the barrel to it, and he got the barrel to it.

“I think there’s a fine line — a happy medium to find — because if you throw a pitch too much, it’s going to get exposed. You don’t want hitters up there thinking, ‘OK, I’m just going to wait.’ That said, if your slider is the pitch that’s going to beat the guy, you don’t want to be out there thinking, ‘I need to throw something else.’ Sometimes it’s better not to mess around. A hitter might know a slider is coming, but if it’s located well he’s not going to hit it, or at least not hit it hard.”

On his fastball and getting an opportunity in Miami: “My fastball isn’t any worse than my slider. I think they’re equally good pitches. I can beat guys with both, so it’s not a matter of, ‘My slider is my best pitch, so I have to throw it all the time.’ You want that steady mix of moving back and forth, keeping guys off balance, and I can definitely get swings and misses, and strikeouts, with my fastball.

“I just throw a four-seamer — I don’t throw a two — but sometimes my four cuts or runs. I’m not trying to get it to do that. Occasionally I might try to back-door cut it a little bit, but other than that it’s just a four-seam.

“I think [pitching in the big leagues] is just a matter of opportunity. I don’t think I was doing that badly in the minors; it was just a matter of getting up here and executing my pitches once I did. There are things I still need to improve on — the walks are one — but for the most part things have been going pretty well for me.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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7 years ago

Pretty sure Barraclough is Bartolo’s second favorite pitcher just behind Lance McCrullers.