Jun 3, 2011, 11:30 AM EST
Shorter version of Gordon Wittenmyer’s article on Cubs’ second baseman Darwin Barney today: “Look! A weighted random number generator just produced a new batch of numbers! Let’s use them to build narratives!*”
But as the Cubs open their toughest stretch of the season tonight in St. Louis, with temptation growing daily to wrap Albert Pujols in a $300 million bear hug, save the hugs for guys such as the rookie Barney. He’s this team’s future, with the Cubs expected to keep building from within even as tens of millions of dollars fall off the payroll books each of the next two years.
That could be a good thing if Barney keeps developing at this pace. He’s already showing leadership skills and is a stabilizing influence in the middle of the Cubs’ diamond, paired with sophomore hitting star Starlin Castro.
Barney is 25 years-old. In nearly 1700 minor league at bats, he has a line of .286/.334/.374, including ten home runs total. That he has an empty batting average so far in the bigs this season is not much of a surprise. But it’s only going to get emptier. Wittenmyer’s “developing at this pace” comment is most curious because there’s absolutely no evidence that he has “developed” at all. There is no suggestion in his professional career that what we’re seeing from him right now is anything other than a modest uptick in batting average, accompanied by little if anything useful in his peripherals.
Which isn’t to say that Barney is a bad player or that he can’t be useful. It simply means that the fact that he is currently, technically, a .300 hitter is misleading in the extreme. He has the kind of bat that would make him a decent utility infielder and a spot starter. A role player, not the kind of guy you build a team around. A fairly standard issue short white middle infielder who “plays the game the right way,” and “does the little things right.”
You know, the kind with whom sports writers just can’t seem to quit falling in love.
*No, I did not come up with that myself, but boy howdy it’s the best explanation of this business I’ve ever seen.
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