There’s a lot of evidence to support the claim Cubs’ second baseman Darwin Barney will win his second consecutive Gold Glove this season.
There’s also a lot of proof that Barney has had himself one dismal year at the dish. In comes the question on the minds of pretty much everyone that follows the Cubs: where do we go from here with our young second baseman?
The Mendoza Line continues to loom on the horizon for the 27-year old Barney, who is hitting just .215 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs in 127 games this season. His on-base percentage is noticeably lower this season, as well, sitting at .273 entering play on Thursday. His .591 OPS is his lowest such mark since his rookie season, when he came in at .580.
His fielding, on the other hand. Well, wow. Let’s just leave it at that.
The right-half of Chicago’s double play combo has amassed a .993 fielding percentage this season, tops in the National League, and third in all of Major League Baseball – trailing only Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox and Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins – both of whom come in just one point higher at .994. Last year, Barney finished the season with a sterling .997 fielding percentage, good enough to become the first Cubs’ second baseman to win a Gold Glove since Ryne Sandberg, who won nine straight from 1983 to 1991.
So what do we do? Is Gold Glove caliber defense a viable excuse for a .215 batting average?
Yes. Yes. Most definitely yes.
Successful clubs are built by assembling a squad of players who all understand their respective roles. Some are on the roster for speed, others for the ability to hit awe-inspiring home runs. Pitchers come in all shapes and sizes, as well. Some specialize against left-handed hitters, while others could toss nine innings each time they toe the rubber.
Barney plays his role in this Cubs team – defense.
According to FanGraphs, Barney has saved ten runs this season, based solely on his defensive production, which is nine runs above the league average. It’s not quite as impressive as his 28 runs saved last year at second base, en route to his National League Gold Glove award, but it’s still important to take note of this.
In other words, in over 1,100 innings of baseball this year, Darwin Barney has made four errors. That comes out to be one error every 32 games, give or take. That type of fielding is hard to come by in the age of today’s game, where fans are still in awe over the Steroid Era, which led to mammoth shots and high-scoring affairs, and fielding has taken a back seat to the rest of the game.
Things get more complicated when you look at the plethora of young talent making its way through the Cubs’ system as we speak. But that’s another story for another time. We’ll delve into the future of second base this weekend in a Cubbies Crib exclusive.