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Wednesday

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March 2012

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COMMENTS

Season Player Preview: Darwin Barney

Written by , Posted in General

On May 1, 2011, a lot of Cub fans thought Darwin Barney might be the Cubs’ second baseman of the future.  In his first 89 plate appearances, Barney put up a .326/.351/.449 triple slash.  Barney failed to put up a batting average above .296 (May), an on base percentage above .323 (July) and a slugging percentage above .391 (July) in any other month of the season.  He finished the season with an underwhelming .276/.313/.353 line.

The good news about Barney is that he is a very strong defensive player.  In his first year playing second base full time after playing shortstop in the minors, both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus rate Barney as a well above average defender.  FanGraphs said that Barney posted a 5.8 UZR/150, while Baseball Prospectus found that his defense was worth 7.8 runs above average.  It would not be a surprise to see him only get better defensively.

You can see the bad news in the first paragraph, though.  Not only does Barney not walk (3.9% in 2011), but he also hits for absolutely no power (.078) ISO.  Considering he is 26, the odds of Barney adding any significant power are slim.  And, as his heat maps show, Barney is able to hit with power in very little of the zone.  This is the league average isolated power (ISO) map for all players in the National League last season.  The redder the area, the more power is represented.

And this is Darwin Barney’s ISO heat map:

As you can see, Barney hits for any power in a very small part of the zone, middle in just below the waist.  It is just really unlikely that he will be able to improve this significantly at his age.

But can Barney start walking more?  Or do pitchers just pound the zone against Barney, knowing he is unlikely to punish them?  This is the league average heat map for swing rates from 2011:

And this is Darwin Barney’s swing rate heat map from last season:

Barney swings outside the strike zone at a near or above a fifty percent rate two places where he hits for no power: pitches that are low beneath the zone, and pitches off the plate inside.  Walking more is in Barney’s control.  It is not a matter of pitchers only throwing strikes to him.  The problem is that no one has figured out how to actively teach players to be more patient at the plate.

ZiPS projects Barney to post a .273/.311/.352 triple slash in 2012.  Unless Barney can figure out how to draw more walks, this is probably about right.  The good news for Barney is that his defense will almost certainly give him the majority of the starts at second base this year.  The three Cub pitchers who are guaranteed to be in the rotation this year, Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm, all rely on inducing ground balls for success (at least if you believe Garza’s ground ball rate from 2011 was intentional).  Randy Wells and Chris Volstad also need to induce ground balls to be successful.  Considering the defensive deficiencies of Jeff Baker, Blake DeWitt and Adrian Cardenas, the Cubs will need Barney’s glove and can live with him batting eighth in a year where competing in the division is little more than a wish upon a shooting star.

The question for Barney is long term, though.  If he can get on base more often, he can be a long term starter in the middle infield in the Majors for a long time.  If he cannot, his longterm outlook is as a bench player.

  • BLPCB

    If Jheo didn’t feel he could be a contributed long-term, I think he would have traded Barney this winter. Why else did they trade Colvin and Cashner?

    • Norm

       Because they have an abundance of OF and RP’s and very few options at SS and 2B.
      Barney is a valuable player to have until he hits arbitration.

    • Joe Aiello

      Not every player on the roster is capable of starting. You have to have your Seymours and Rakers to make up a winning team.

      • Seymour Butts

        I”m not sure if I was just insulted. I did hit .614 at fantasy camp this year you know.
        I’m guessing your point was that some folks don’t post, but comment vociferously (look it up Raker), thus enhancing ( or obfuscating) the experience.

      • Joe Aiello

        Nope, I was just trying for a Lizzie

      • Seymour Butts

        In that case, I endorse your candidacy.

    • Buddy

      I can’t imagine there was any trade market for Darwin Barney. The minors are full of no-hit good-glove infielders. 

    • BLPCB

      Something else I wanted to write in regards to the post, but my stupid iPod didn’t post yesterday, is this shooting star you are wishing an airplane in the night sky that you are pretending is a shooting star? Because we cannot pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars. What is that going to accomplish? It would be like me pretending my shorts are chicken wings because I’m really hungry. Is that going to take care of my hunger? NO! Eating chicken wings will take care of my hunger.

      I think we should give Barney a couple years, let him see what he can do. If he is the next coming of Neifi, then get rid of him.

  • AC0000000

    If Jheo didn’t feel he could be a contributed long-term, I think he would have traded Barney this winter. Why else did they trade Colvin and Cashner?

    • Joe Aiello

      Not every player on the roster is capable of starting. You have to have your Seymours and Rakers to make up a winning team.

      • Seymour Butts

        I”m not sure if I was just insulted. I did hit .614 at fantasy camp this year you know.
        I’m guessing your point was that some folks don’t post, but comment vociferously (look it up Raker), thus enhancing ( or obfuscating) the experience.

      • Joe Aiello

        Nope, I was just trying for a Lizzie

      • Seymour Butts

        In that case, I endorse your candidacy.

    • AC0000000

      Something else I wanted to write in regards to the post, but my stupid iPod didn’t post yesterday, is this shooting star you are wishing an airplane in the night sky that you are pretending is a shooting star? Because we cannot pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars. What is that going to accomplish? It would be like me pretending my shorts are chicken wings because I’m really hungry. Is that going to take care of my hunger? NO! Eating chicken wings will take care of my hunger.

      I think we should give Barney a couple years, let him see what he can do. If he is the next coming of Neifi, then get rid of him.

  • cap’n obvious

    the new Neifi.  Not good, and never will be.

    • Noah_I

      I was actually surprised by how potentially right on that comp could be.  Neifi was good with the glove (both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus rate him well above average most seasons).  But Neifi, like Barney, did not hit for power or walk. 

      But looking at Neifi’s numbers, I’m in a position where I feel similarly to him than I do about Darwin Barney.  For a lot of years, a team would have been fine having Neifi Perez as their shortstop if they just decided they were going to punt offense at the position.  It was never going to be an ideal situation, but you could win with it if the rest of the team was good enough.  Ideally, Perez would have been your defensive minded backup middle infielder.  The problem is that Dusty not only kept starting him, but batted him first or second.

      Barring significant improvement, I expect that Darwin Barney will either be on the bench or on another team as their backup middle infielder by the time the Cubs are honestly ready to compete.  But, for this year, he’s the only player with the glove to handle the position on a pitching staff that could be heavily geared to inducing ground balls.  You might as well make Paul Maholm and Chris Volstad pitch opposite handed if you’re going to make them play with Jeff Baker, Adrian Cardenas or Blake DeWitt at 2B, especially with Castro being a question mark defensively at shortstop.  Honestly, I’d be interested to see what happens if the Cubs are able to get Marwin Gonzalez (Rule 5 pick) back from the Astros.  Gonzalez isn’t ever going to be anything particularly special and he is not as good defensively as Barney, but he has more offensive promise and should still be an above average defensive 2B.

      • BLPCB

        Dusty should have been fired when he hit Neifi 1st and 2nd. Neifi should be hitting 9th. Neifi is not someone you play everyday. He is someone you use to give a guy a day off and late innings defense. I am meeting lots of Reds fans this week at Disney, a good amount of them like the Dust-Bag.

    • Although on initial viewing Neifi and Barney are turds of very similar color, Neifi never had any value because as a Cub he always earned more than league minimum. Barney = league minimum for now. As soon as he earns more than one penny over the league minimum he stops being valuable. He’s best served as a backup SS-2b getting about 150 plate appearances per year. The Cubs can only hope Barney gets hot at the right time and Allard Baird gets hired somewhere — then they can dump him for some prospects. Until then he’s as close as we’ll get to an actual, physical “replacement player”.

  • cap’n obvious

    the new Neifi.  Not good, and never will be.

    • Noah_I

      I was actually surprised by how potentially right on that comp could be.  Neifi was good with the glove (both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus rate him well above average most seasons).  But Neifi, like Barney, did not hit for power or walk. 

      But looking at Neifi’s numbers, I’m in a position where I feel similarly to him than I do about Darwin Barney.  For a lot of years, a team would have been fine having Neifi Perez as their shortstop if they just decided they were going to punt offense at the position.  It was never going to be an ideal situation, but you could win with it if the rest of the team was good enough.  Ideally, Perez would have been your defensive minded backup middle infielder.  The problem is that Dusty not only kept starting him, but batted him first or second.

      Barring significant improvement, I expect that Darwin Barney will either be on the bench or on another team as their backup middle infielder by the time the Cubs are honestly ready to compete.  But, for this year, he’s the only player with the glove to handle the position on a pitching staff that could be heavily geared to inducing ground balls.  You might as well make Paul Maholm and Chris Volstad pitch opposite handed if you’re going to make them play with Jeff Baker, Adrian Cardenas or Blake DeWitt at 2B, especially with Castro being a question mark defensively at shortstop.  Honestly, I’d be interested to see what happens if the Cubs are able to get Marwin Gonzalez (Rule 5 pick) back from the Astros.  Gonzalez isn’t ever going to be anything particularly special and he is not as good defensively as Barney, but he has more offensive promise and should still be an above average defensive 2B.

    • Although on initial viewing Neifi and Barney are turds of very similar color, Neifi never had any value because as a Cub he always earned more than league minimum. Barney = league minimum for now. As soon as he earns more than one penny over the league minimum he stops being valuable. He’s best served as a backup SS-2b getting about 150 plate appearances per year. The Cubs can only hope Barney gets hot at the right time and Allard Baird gets hired somewhere — then they can dump him for some prospects. Until then he’s as close as we’ll get to an actual, physical “replacement player”.

  • Norm Bothwell

    I’ll take the over on the projections, but not by much. He’ll still be well below a .700 OPS.

    • Buddy

      Yes. A truly awful hitter. Nice guy to have as a reserve, but he shouldn’t get more than 200 AB’s on a Major League team. 

  • Norm Bothwell

    I’ll take the over on the projections, but not by much. He’ll still be well below a .700 OPS.

  • Chuck

    You can live with a non-bat at the 2B position if he brings a good glove as long as you can make up for the lack of production elsewhere.  I view Barney as a mediocre player.  He does not stink and he is not a star.  He can be a multi-year stopgap until the “solution” is found or he gets too expensive. 
    The Cubs biggest problem right now is that 3/4 of the lineup fits that description.  You need stars to win.  Period.

    • Gymjok

      He may be mediocre now, but with a name like Darwin-
      he’s destined to evolve into something better.

      • Eddie Von White

         Theoretically speaking.

    • BLPCB

      Non-bat at 2B? That sounds like me! And I also played some outfield. The Cubs should sign me to be their 2B.

  • Chuck

    You can live with a non-bat at the 2B position if he brings a good glove as long as you can make up for the lack of production elsewhere.  I view Barney as a mediocre player.  He does not stink and he is not a star.  He can be a multi-year stopgap until the “solution” is found or he gets too expensive. 
    The Cubs biggest problem right now is that 3/4 of the lineup fits that description.  You need stars to win.  Period.

  • Chuck

    I think Castro eventually plays himself into the 2B position.  Too many errant throws to 1B.

  • Chuck

    I think Castro eventually plays himself into the 2B position.  Too many errant throws to 1B.

  • Norm Bothwell

    Agree with both comments Chuck…

    • Noah_I

      I think we’re one year too early on if Castro will play himself over to 2B or not.  I’m just entirely on the fence about the matter.  A part of this is that there is dissent on the issue.  While Baseball-Reference thinks Castro is absolutely awful defensively and FanGraphs thinks he’s pretty bad, Baseball Prospectus actually rates him as an above average shortstop last year.

      I do think the question will be if he can make adjustments this year.  I think he’ll get at least 2012 and 2013 to prove he can or can’t play the position, though.

  • Norm Bothwell

    Agree with both comments Chuck…

  • Gymjok

    I read where he put on 20 pounds of muscle this off-season.
    I wonder if that will improve his power.

    • Buddy

      He will just be a bigger crappy hitter. 

  • Gymjok

    I read where he put on 20 pounds of muscle this off-season.
    I wonder if that will improve his power.

  • Gymjok

    He would definitely be a better player if we could find a shortstop named Fred.
    What a great combo that would make!

    • Seymour Butts

      Don’t forget to tip your waitress….

      • And what’s the deal with airline food?  Am I right?

    • BLPCB

      What if we had a SS named Moe? That would make a better combo

      • cap’n obvious

        I’d like a 2B named Cano or Pedroia.  Be thrilled with terrible sounding names like Zobrist or Uggla. I could give a crap if it sounds good.  Give me a major leaguer at second for ONCE since Sandberg retired.

      • BLPCB

        Frankly, I think we should have kept Hak Ju-Lee and paired him up the middle with Castro

      • AC0000000

        Frankly, I think we should have kept Hak Ju-Lee and paired him up the middle with Castro

  • Gymjok

    He would definitely be a better player if we could find a shortstop named Fred.
    What a great combo that would make!

    • Seymour Butts

      Don’t forget to tip your waitress….

  • Timo

    Nice article Noah, I could hardly agree more. 

    Barney will start most games because of defense for at least two years, but I think it is obvious that he never will hit for power. When I saw him last year I thought that he brings decent speed to the game, which might not be as noticeable now that our 3B men may actually try too reach 1b.

    But in the long term definitely a typical bench player, but a good one to have. I would like the Cubs to hang on to barney for some time, I think it is very well spend money.  

  • Timo

    Nice article Noah, I could hardly agree more. 

    Barney will start most games because of defense for at least two years, but I think it is obvious that he never will hit for power. When I saw him last year I thought that he brings decent speed to the game, which might not be as noticeable now that our 3B men may actually try too reach 1b.

    But in the long term definitely a typical bench player, but a good one to have. I would like the Cubs to hang on to barney for some time, I think it is very well spend money.  

  • Jedi

    I guess truly anything can be turned into how Castro’s defense is a problem.  (Barney can’t hit…but Castro can’t field!)

    • Seymour Butts

      And it’s all because your momma don’t dance and your Daddy can’t rock and roll…

      • Chuck

        I’m just saying that our long-term answer at 2B may be playing SS this year.  It would be ideal if Castro could grow into handling defense at SS, but I don’t remember too many players who got significantly better defensively after a few years in the bigs.

        Maybe they should switch…

      • Norm Bothwell

         uh oh

      • Jedi

        There once was a 3B who averaged 26 errors a year for his first three full years in the league.  Since then he’s averaged 13 errors a year.  Anyone care to guess who it is?

      • Chuck

        Jeter has a Gold Glove.  Care to argue that he was/is one of the best defenders in the game at his position?

      • Jedi

        Non sequitur, Chuck?  The answer: Aramis Ramirez is the 3B who cut his average error/year by half after 3 full seasons in the league.  So yes, SIGNIFICANT improvement does happen.  Ramirez was 25.  Castro will be 22.  (No idea where the Jeter/Gold Glove thing came from)

      • Norm Bothwell

        So you want to go with a reduction in # of errors equals improvement?

      • Jedi

        It can be one indication of improvement, yes.  Reminder, Castro’s haters seem intent on focusing on the number of errors that he commits – see above.


        Or perhaps I’m to understand that “Castro makes too many errors” is a legitimate gripe; but “Castro makes fewer errors in 2012” wouldn’t at all change the mind of those same people.

        I can’t wait until tomorrow the Carlos Marmol summary turns into the “Castro can’t play defense” summary – I’m riveted to see that turn.

      • Eddie Von White

        You have to want it. Castro will be as good a defensive player as he wants to be. IMHO he didn’t show a lot of defensive determination last year. If he stops that ridiculous double pump before he throws he will probably improve a ton.

      • Noah_I

        I’m not sure if Aramis Ramirez is the best example.  All three of BP, FanGraphs and B-R rate Ramirez for his career as a well below average fielder.  And this wasn’t just a late and early in his career thing.  FanGraphs found a positive UZR/150 in just one season.  BP had a positive FRAA in 3 seasons.  B-R has him with a positive dWAR in 3 seasons.  Ramirez might have cut down on his errors, but it appears to be as a result of not getting to balls better third basemen get to.  But, for a better example for your point, Adrian Beltre posted a bunch of errors his first two and a half seasons as well, averaging nearly 30 per 162 games in that span.  Since then, he’s been Adrian Beltre. 

        With that said, everyone is right here.  Most players do not show massive improvement in their overall defensive skills as they get older.  Of course, most players also don’t start in the majors when they’re 20.  And some players do show significant defensive improvement a few years in.  The question is going to be if Castro is going to get to less errors by making some of the plays he’s currently making a lot of errors on, or if his errors are going to get cut down because he just doesn’t get to as many balls.

        Upon picking up Baseball Prospectus’ 2012 handbook, though, I was a bit heartened regarding Castro’s defense.  They are significantly more bullish on his defense than, for example, Dave Cameron or Keith Law.

      • Jedi

        No one said that Aramis was even a good fielder…only that he got significantly better.  Which he did, for a time, and then he got old.

      • BLPCB

        Beat me to it, I was going to say Ramirez. And before anyone says it was because Lee saved him a lot of errors, in 2006 when he was out with a broken wrist, Ramirez only made 13 errors. I wish there was a breakdown of how many of those errors were fielding errors vs. throwing errors. I also remember how he was real good with the glove when he got here in 2003. When Bozo almost had a no-hitter vs. Arizona, Ramirez made several great plays to keep it alive.

      • Seymour Butts

        I’ll take the “no, he is not” position.

      • I think I just found my new canned response…

      • Seymour Butts

        I was in a band in college named “canned response”.

      • Buddy

         No way! I was too! Were you the drummer?

      • BLPCB

        Jeter’s low error total is because he sucks at getting to balls. It is also the reason he makes a lot of highlight reels.

    • Seymour Butts

      And it’s all because your momma don’t dance and your Daddy can’t rock and roll…

      • Chuck

        I’m just saying that our long-term answer at 2B may be playing SS this year.  It would be ideal if Castro could grow into handling defense at SS, but I don’t remember too many players who got significantly better defensively after a few years in the bigs.

        Maybe they should switch…

  • Joe Aiello

    Completely off-topic, but I’m enthralled by the live blogging going on for the announcement of iPad3

  • Joe Aiello

    Completely off-topic, but I’m enthralled by the live blogging going on for the announcement of iPad3

  • Cubs game on in the cubical…all is well. 

    • Seymour Butts

      I looked at the box score when I turned it on and found few familiar names. The “star” is the always hard playing Reed Johnson.
      Then I realized, that’s the way it’s going to be this year…sigh.

      • Shark sounded good.  I assume he didn’t look good.  

      • BLPCB

        As much as I hate Sasuckzidja, it would be nice if he could give Shark Week another meaning. I didn’t even know what Shark Week was until I started lifeguarding, and everyone I worked with posted it on their facebook.

  • Dusty Baylor

    RE:Jeter..Castro ..whatever.
    Let’s all take a moment to remember that Castro is only 21 years old…(22 soon)
    Jeter at age 21 was in AAA making 29 errors.  Castro needs to work on his focus, on not taking plays off.  He’s got the skills to be a solid, if not great defender.   Most 21 year olds need to work on thier focus..   I’m more concerned with the gaping hole in the lineup that Barney provides, especially since theCubs aren’t exactly sporting a power-laden lineup, especially RF, CF, and 2B.

  • Dusty Baylor

    RE:Jeter..Castro ..whatever.
    Let’s all take a moment to remember that Castro is only 21 years old…(22 soon)
    Jeter at age 21 was in AAA making 29 errors.  Castro needs to work on his focus, on not taking plays off.  He’s got the skills to be a solid, if not great defender.   Most 21 year olds need to work on thier focus..   I’m more concerned with the gaping hole in the lineup that Barney provides, especially since theCubs aren’t exactly sporting a power-laden lineup, especially RF, CF, and 2B.