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Darwin Barney is not the Cubs’ savior

Jun 3, 2011, 11:30 AM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs Getty Images

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.

  1. Manni Stats - Jun 3, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    Wow, that article is terrible (no surprise). Maybe Chicago writers and fans need a reality check here, because while Barney’s been nice, let’s not romanticize his rather pedestrian production like what happened with Theriot. Darwin might have a .303 BA, but that’s on the back of 32.3% of his balls in play falling for hits; league average is closer to 30% (Barney’s projected around 31%). His very-not-good 3.3 BB% means his OBP is only .325 despite his BA, and he’s only slugging .383. All in all his overall offensive production is 13% below league average. And right now, both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating has his defense pegged as slightly below average (though we need about 3 years of data before we have a significant sample for defense).

    That’s just his production. Gordo’s claim that he’s been the best player is demonstrably false; the following players have a higher WAR, or contributed more value so far: Marlon Byrd, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, Matt Garza and Carlos Zambrano. As for Barney making the All Star game…no. Brandon Phillips, Rickie Weeks, Danny Espinosa and Neil Walker have been significantly better at the keystone.

    Barney’s a nice player making the league minimum, so he has value. But he’s not much more than an average player at his very best, so saying “this is what the future looks like” is not very encouraging for Cubs fans.

    • wonkypenguin - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:11 PM

      I think the question is: Who is the Cubs’ representative at the ASG this year? I mean, Barney is in that race (particularly with injuries) though Castro would make more sense if MLB is trying to brand him as the Chicago Jeter. And you can take Zambrano or Garza but still. Yuck.

      Also: Yes, Chicago tends to fall very much in love with their scrappy intangible-laden middle infielders. But they also don’t need to fall in love with $300 million for a fairly old first baseman would be 42 by the time the contract was done. They just did that with an outfielder and, while the first two years were fun, these back five have been and will be quite painful.

      • Manni Stats - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:18 PM

        Marmol or Castro. Marmol’s a pretty safe bet; Castro hasn’t been as productive as Drew, Tulo or Reyes but I can see him getting the nod somehow.

  2. asharak - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Love the XKCD reference.

  3. seeyouinhelljohnny - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Theriot, Fontenot, Cedeno.., Barney.

  4. normb11 - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Wait, that article was serious?!? I thought that was just a clever way of Wittenmeyer taking a shot at Cubs management. You know, in full sarcasm, “Watch Darwin Barney, the Cubs future (rolls eyes)”…

    he was serious?!? for reals?

  5. CJ - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Darwin Barney…the man with the second most oximoronic name in all of baseball, 2nd only to Angel Pagan.

  6. cubsessed - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    FYI, Barney: not white.

    Other than that, I’m pretty much with you on this. Love the guy, but he’s not our “future.”

    • CJ - Jun 3, 2011 at 1:17 PM

      wha????? who said he was? the guy said he was in the race to be in the ASG. not that he was white.


      • CJ - Jun 3, 2011 at 1:18 PM

        oh! the pic. don’t mind me…I’ll sit down now :)

      • jon kk - Jun 3, 2011 at 2:17 PM

        Craig wrote it: A fairly standard issue short white middle infielder who “plays the game the right way,” and “does the little things right.”

      • cubsessed - Jun 3, 2011 at 6:31 PM

        Calcaterra wrote: “A fairly standard issue short white middle infielder who ‘plays the game the right way,’ and ‘does the little things right.'”

        The pic is of Darwin Barney, but he’s not white. He’s Asian – specifically, Japanese and Korean.

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