Miami Marlins

Kyle Barraclough on course to make baseball history

Miami Marlins rookie pitcher Kyle Barraclough leads the National League in walks and strikeouts per nine innings.
Miami Marlins rookie pitcher Kyle Barraclough leads the National League in walks and strikeouts per nine innings. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

Kyle Barraclough takes the good with the bad.

For Barraclough, there’s plenty of both.

Among pitchers who have thrown at least 25 innings this season, the hard-throwing rookie reliever for the Marlins leads the National League with a strikeout rate of 16.9 whiffs per nine innings.

“That’s good news,” Barraclough said.

But he also leads the league with a walk rate of 7.2 per nine innings.

“And that’s bad news,” Barraclough said.

The late-inning reliever is on course to accomplish something that has been achieved only once before in major-league history: leading the league in both categories.

Carlos Marmol of the 2010 Chicago Cubs also led the National League in both departments.

“It’s not something I want,” Barraclough said of his high walk rate. “I want to cut it way down, obviously.”

Barraclough has walked at least one batter in 16 of his past 18 games.

But Tuesday’s relief outing at Petco Park was typical. After Barraclough walked the first batter, he struck out the next two before recording a fly-ball out to end the inning.

Five times this season, Barraclough has walked one batter in an inning in which he has also struck out the side. And Barraclough has recorded at least one whiff in all but two of his 28 relief appearances.

“The two kind of counteract each other,” Barraclough said of his strikeouts and walks. “Sometimes I think it throws hitters off. I might go up there and spray two fastballs. One’s up in the zone. One’s way outside. And they’re kind like, ‘Well, what’s he going to throw now?’ And then I drop in a slider.”

For the strikeout.

“I haven’t hit in a long time,” Barraclough said. “But I know that if you’re in the box and a guy doesn’t have a very good idea where the ball’s going, it’s not comfortable. It creates uncomfortableness, and obviously that’s the good thing about it.”

To put Barraclough’s numbers in perspective, consider:

▪ His strikeout rate of 16.92/9 is higher than Carter Capps’ was a season ago for the Marlins. Capps whiffed 16.8 batters per nine innings.

▪ According to baseballreference.com, only 11 pitchers since 1901 have averaged at least five walks and 12 strikeouts per nine innings. They include Aroldis Chapman, John Rocker, Armando Benitez, Bryan Harvey and Matt Mantei.

Barraclough’s walk and strikeout rates are much higher.

▪ Only one other Marlins pitcher — A.J. Ramos in 2014 — averaged as many as six walks and more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings. But his rates (6.05 walks and 10.27 strikeouts) pale in comparison to Barraclough’s.

Barraclough said the walks used to bother him more than they do now.

“I think, for a little while, it was getting into my head that if I walk a guy, it’s the end of the world,” he said. “Now I’m kind of looking at it as, I need to move on and not take that in my head.”

Batters are hitting just .200 with one home run against Barraclough this season, so he has limited the damage his walks might have created.

“The leadoff walks are kind of the ones that irritate me,” he said. “Because then I have to kind of work really hard to hold that guy on first and work out of something.”

Barraclough said he has also changed his thought process on the mound, not thinking so much about striking out hitters as allowing them to make contact.

“I’ve been getting better at it lately of attacking the zone but not trying to strike guys out with a 0-0 count or a 1-0,” Barraclough said. “Now I’m just saying, ‘Hey, here’s my fastball. If you’re going to put it in play the first couple of pitches, then go ahead.’ 

But given his walk and strikeout totals, not many hitters are making contact with Barraclough’s pitches.

They’re usually either taking their base.

Or returning to the dugout with their heads lowered.

COMING UP

▪ Friday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (3-4, 4.13 ERA) vs. Colorado Rockies RHP Jon Gray (4-2, 4.70), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

▪ Saturday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (4-2, 4.68) vs. Rockies RHP Tyler Chatwood (8-4, 2.89), 4:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

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