Get to Know Tony Barnette

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On Thursday December 10th, at the finale of the Winter Meetings, the Rangers made a small splash, reaching agreement with right handed reliever Tony Barnette. The deal became official a week later. But other than that, little do we know about the right-hander.

Born in Anchorage, Barnette was elected out of Arizona State University by the Diamondbacks in the tenth round of the 2006 Draft, one spot before former Ranger Craig Gentry. In his first go-around in stateside ball, he only topped out at AAA, where he struggled to a sub-optimal 5.79 ERA, striking out 121 while walking 62 in 164.2 innings in 2009 before signing with the Yakult Swallows in Japan.

His misfortune would continue as his first campaign as a Swallow was even worse than AAA – getting lit up to a 5.99 ERA in 79.2 innings that spanned over sixteen games, fifteen of which were as a starter.

His career turned a corner when he was converted to a reliever in 2011, as he posted a respectable 2.68 ERA, punched out fifty-four while issuing a mere thirteen free passes. Though the league as a whole scored just 3.15 runs that season, thanks to the newly introduced dead ball that contributed to the plummeted offense.

From that point on, the resurrected Barnette started performing well, striking out 27.5%, walking 7.6% of the 966 batters he faced while racking up ninety-seven saves in five years as the Swallows closer. He did have one disastrous campaign in 2013, where he got torched up to a 6.02 ERA. But even that season, he struck out a staggering 13.8 per nine innings. In fact, his FIP in 2013 was a solid 2.45, more than 350 points lower than his ERA. What caused it was tough luck, as you can see in his stratospheric .372 BABIP.

Now take a look at his splits. In his five years in the bullpen, Barnette recorded a 32.3 K% and 7.5 BB% in 492 plate appearances against right-handed batsmen. Those figures are a bit worse against lefties, 22.6% and 7.6% in 474 plate appearances, respectively. Although he surrendered just two long balls to lefties, as opposed to thirteen to their right-handed counterparts.

One can only learn so much from inspecting numbers. So let’s put the thirty-two-year old’s stuff under the microscope. Here’s a footage from a game this past October, in which the Swallows clinched their first Japan Series berth in fourteen years. Barnette’s outing starts around 2:15 mark and concludes around 9:40, but stay tuned for the awesome Japanese-style celebration if you want to.

And here’s a behind-the-plate footage. Note that the first hitter Barnette faces in this video is former Ranger (well, sort of) Nate Schierholtz.

As you can see in the videos, he has quite a few pitches. According to this website, Barnette showed a four-seam fastball, which he threw 32.2% of the time, two-seamer/shuuto (13.6%), sinker (9.1%), cutter (28.2%), slider (11.5%), and curve (5.3%) in 2015.

The four-seamer sits in low-nineties and tops out at ninety-seven miles-per-hour. He misses bats at a fair-to-above-average rate with each of his pitches, ranging from 9.1% (four-seamer) to 22.6% (sinker and slider each).

His biggest problem appears to be maintaining health, as he had been sidelined for some amount of time over the course of his NPB career due to various injuries. None of them however were related to the elbow or shoulder.

If Barnette manages to stay healthy, he should at least be capable of filling the vacant long man role that Anthony Bass left behind.

Moreover, he seems to be a very passionate guy, assuming from his post-win body language. He might bring the enthusiasm the Rangers have lacked since Koji Uehara‘s departure.

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Kazuto Yamazaki
Grew up in Tokyo, Kaz fell in love with the 2004 Rangers that featured Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira, and has been a fan since then. Other than doing baseball-related activity, which consumes most of his time, he enjoys singing and playing the guitar. He also writes for The Dynasty Guru and The Scoop Sports. You can follow Kaz on Twitter @Kazuto_Yamazaki and reach him via email kazuto.yamazaki@shutdowninning.com.

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