Results tagged ‘ Darwin Barney ’
In November, Vine Line pays tribute to the power of hard work.
It wasn’t like Cubs second baseman and November cover boy Darwin Barney was an unheralded player. The 2007 fourth-round draft pick won everywhere he ever played, and the Cubs always loved his intelligent approach to the game. But that wasn’t enough to guarantee the 5-foot-10, 185-pound minor league shortstop a roster spot. After Starlin Castro made it clear he was the team’s shortstop of the future, Barney had to find another route to The Show.
When he won the Cubs’ starting second base job out of Spring Training in 2011, the position was mostly new to him. So he spent countless hours working with former third base and infield coach Pat Listach and the other Cubs coaches to hone his technique.
“We have a routine we do every day, and he’s religious about it,” Listach said. “Even on days we don’t take batting practice, he’ll come to me and say, ‘Hey, can we get on the ﬁeld and get a few ground balls?’ He just doesn’t like to miss a day.”
What was most interesting about reporting this story was how willing people were to compliment the soon-to-be 27-year-old Gold Glove finalist (winners will be announced tonight at 8:30 p.m. Central on ESPN2). His work ethic is legendary among coaches and players. Castro even credits the former shortstop for helping improve his play at the position. Everyone we talked to was quick to sing his praises.
“Work ethic and the way he goes about it every day, Darwin Barney has been probably the most impressive guy I’ve come across,” said hitting coach James Rowson. “I’ve been around quite awhile now, and you will not ﬁnd a harder worker than him.”
Two years and a 141-game errorless streak later, it’s safe to say the second base job is Barney’s for the foreseeable future.
In the November issue of Vine Line, we also look at the hard work of some of the players’ better halves. For years, the Cubs wives have donated their time and resources to the team’s communities in Mesa, Ariz., and Chicago. We talk to many of them about why they feel the need to give back and what it’s like to be the spouse of a major leaguer.
Finally, we talk to veteran coach McKay about the work he’s been doing to bring a winning mentality to this young Cubs team. And if there’s anyone who knows winning, it’s McKay, who spent more than 25 years with Tony La Russa and has three World Series rings.
For these stories and more, subscribe to Vine Line or pick up an issue at select Chicago-area retailers. We’ve also launched a Vine Line Twitter account at @cubsvineline to keep you posted on Cubs happenings up to the minute.
Every month in Vine Line, Emerald Gao and Sean Ahmed take an analytical and visual look at the Chicago Cubs in Cubsgrafs. In this bonus online edition, we break down the 137 home runs hit by the 2012 squad.
The top graph looks at the five home runs that swung the game’s fate most toward the Cubs. It uses Win Probability Added (WPA), which gives the average probability that a team will win the game based on the inning, score and base/out situation. No surprise that Bryan LaHair and Alfonso Soriano hit some vital long balls—but it looks like Darwin Barney also made the most of his handful of homers this year.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Darwin Barney’s defense has been the talk of the team this season for the Cubs. As his consecutive games without an error streak has continued to grow, defensive records at second base have fallen at an equally quick pace, all the hands—and glove—of the 26-year-old. Franchise records were topped first, followed shortly by National League marks. But on Friday, it will be Placido Polanco’s MLB single-season mark of 141 games without an error for a second baseman with the target on its back. Barney tied the total on Thursday and will likely be in the lineup to set the new milestone.
Vine Line took a look at some of the records at the other positions around the diamond. Below is a chart mapping both consecutive errorless games in a career and in a season, according to Baseball-Almanac.com.
(Photos by Stephen Green)
Spoiler alert: Trailing the rival Cardinals 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Darwin Barney’s clutch two-out, two-strike, two-run home run into the left-field bleachers tied the game 4-4. David DeJesus, who went 4-for-6 on the day, hit a single to drive in Brett Jackson in the 11th and propel the Cubs to a dramatic 5-4 victory.
2012 Positions Played: 2B (99%), SS (1%)
2012 Batting (AVG/OBP/SLG): .263/.310/.369 in 528 PA
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 2.7
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Pre-Arbitration)
Recent Time to First: 4.2s on Aug. 30 (~50, or “average,” on 20-80 scale)
Can we measure defensive value? In the case of Darwin Barney, it may be worth a try. The second baseman has been rock-solid for the Cubs and carries an NL single-season record 131-game errorless streak into tonight’s matchup versus the Pirates. Let’s survey the numbers.
Mitchel Lichtman’s Ultimate Zone Rating—which uses detailed batted-ball data to estimate how many runs a player has “saved” versus an average player at his position—ranks Barney as MLB’s clear best at 11.8 runs. John Dewan’s Defensive Runs Saved has him at 27 with a few weeks to go. At the usual exchange rate of 10 runs to a win, these metrics suggest Barney has contributed between one and three wins above a “replacement player” with his glove this season. That’s outstanding.
We have to take those numbers with a grain of salt: Defensive metrics don’t really stabilize without larger sample sizes, and they make assumptions about positioning. Cubs fans who have been following the team know Manager Dale Sveum’s staff has revamped the team’s defensive alignments to maximize infield coverage, and Barney has been a big beneficiary.
Still, Barney passes the sight test—just this weekend, the Pirates watched him dive, slide and make a stunning over-the-shoulder catch (video below) to save hit after hit. Whatever Barney lacks in outright tools, he makes up for with intelligent positioning, solid range, good hands and a plus arm on the right side of the infield.
Barney’s weak point is offense, where he has been below average overall and at his position in each of his two full seasons. The gains in power this year have been offset by a lower batting average such that any difference in value has been a wash. He puts the ball in play frequently—he has low strikeout and high walk rates—and performs roughly the same versus right- and left-handed pitchers. His best numbers have come at the bottom of the lineup this year, with Sveum now deploying him mostly in the seventh and eighth slots.
He’s under team control through the 2016 season and is not arbitration eligible until 2014. In the meantime, Barney’s glove should continue to contribute to an increasingly excellent right side of the Cubs infield.
Santo’s induction? Rizzo’s walk-off? Kerry’s farewell? Even though this season has been a struggle in the standings, there’s been no shortage of memorable Cubs highlights. Which events from the 2012 season made you stand up and take notice? This month, Vine Line is letting you decide on the best of 2012. Cast your vote and see the results in the October issue.
Though the season hasn’t been as bright as many hoped, Cubs fans do have a few things to hang their hats on from the 2012 season. Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood both look like reliable arms for the future, Anthony Rizzo is playing as well as anybody could have asked, and some young players are getting valuable experience at the big league level.
But one of the quieter stories from this season has been the exceptional defensive play of second baseman Darwin Barney. The infielder has committed just one error in 2012 and should get consideration for a Gold Glove. Below is how he stacks up with some of the other elite second basemen in the NL.
The Cubs got the season’s second crosstown series off to a lopsided start, hammering 15 hits and tallying 12 runs, in a 12-3 victory. Yesterday we broke down the pitching matchups for the Cubs’ series with the South Side Sox. Today we examine the infielders.
Geovany Soto (.173/.257/.337, 4 HR, 21% CS) vs. A.J. Pierzynski (.286/.329/.512, 12 HR, 29% CS)
Geovany Soto is off the DL and looks to have retained his regular catching duties, despite a .173 batting average. Backup catcher Steve Clevenger (.284/.303/.392, 8 doubles, 76 PA), who played first base yesterday, looked good in Soto’s absence. Soto, a former NL All-Star and Rookie of the Year, will need to bolster his stats a bit to keep his everyday job.
A.J. Pierzynski continues to up his game, even at 35 years old. His .286 average is second-highest among AL catchers, and he leads that group in slugging percentage. He should get serious All-Star consideration.
Bryan LaHair (.299/.380/.572, 13 HR, 28 RBI) vs. Paul Konerko (.359/.434/.600, 13 HR, 38 RBI)
Despite not being in the lineup against lefties, Bryan LaHair’s numbers are some of the best among National League first basemen. So far this season, he has been one of the better feel-good stories in baseball. With the Cubs facing three righties this series, expect to see the 29-year-old slugger’s name penciled into the lineup all three games—even if it’s in the outfield, where he started the first game of the series. That could be a signal the team is readying for first base uber-prospect Anthony Rizzo.
But as good as LaHair has been, Paul Konerko has turned himself into a legitimate MVP candidate—an impressive feat for a 36-year-old many believed was past his prime. His .359 batting average is more than 40 points above his career high.
Darwin Barney (.272/.319/.392, 3 HR, 22 RBI) vs. Gordon Beckham (.236/.286/.372, 8 HR, 27 RBI)
Darwin Barney has been a big contributor for the Cubs all season long. While Manager Dale Sveum has platooned much of the starting lineup, Barney has been one of the few steady regulars, regardless of the matchup. His .272 average and .319 OBP are third-best among Cubs regulars, and he has come through in the clutch on several occasions.
Former first-round draft pick Gordon Beckham continues to struggle at the plate after a promising rookie season in ’08. The Sox were hoping Beckham could emerge as a top-of-the-order guy when the season started, but his .286 on-base percentage has kept him at the bottom of the high-powered lineup. However, he did hit the go-ahead home run in the first game at Wrigley earlier this year.
Starlin Castro (.303/.317/.448, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 16 SB) vs. Alexei Ramirez (.230/.255/.282, 1 HR, 29 RBI, 9 SB)
Starlin Castro is putting together another solid campaign and will likely represent the Cubs in July’s All-Star Game. While he’s walked just six times in 285 plate appearances, he’s still hovering around a .300 batting average. And, despite a few mental gaffes, his defense is improving. His UZR ranks him as one of the NL’s elite defensive shortstops. He’s also running more this season. His 16 stolen bases are already closing in on his career-high total (22) from last year.
Alexei Ramirez has been ice cold for the Sox all season, which may be a bigger surprise than Konerko’s torrid start. Last year, the 30-year-old Ramirez finished with a 4.9 WAR (wins above replacement), good for 17th in the AL. This year, he sits a -0.6, third-worst in the league.
Luis Valbuena (.294/.333/.647, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 12 AB) vs. Orlando Hudson (.176/.265/.297, 2 HR, 10 RBI)
The hot corner features a pair of newcomers to their respective teams. Luis Valbuena was signed by the Cubs a week before the season began and just started earning regular playing time after Ian Stewart went on the DL with wrist problems. Valbuena has produced offensively in the past, hitting .250 with 10 homers in 103 games for the Indians in 2009. In just five games this year, he’s already hit two home runs and driven in seven.
The Sox signed 34-year-old Orlando Hudson in May to take over for the slumping Brent Morel. The four-time Gold Glove winner and career second baseman has been moderately successful with the transition to third, committing three errors in 23 games, but he continues to struggle mightily at the dish.
Tomorrow, we focus on designated hitters and outfielders.
Matt Garza strikes again, following the Cubs’ dramatic 8-6 win over the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field Wednesday. The Cubs trailed 6-5 in the 8th inning, but some excellent base running from Tony Campana and Starlin Castro helped tie the game at six. Darwin Barney hit a two-out, two-run, walk-off home run to send the Cubs faithful home happy and seal the series sweep.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Last Friday, Manager Dale Sveum set his lineup against the Dodgers the same way he plans on setting it Thursday against the Washington Nationals on Opening Day at Wrigley Field.
1. David DeJesus – RF
2. Darwin Barney – 2B
3. Starlin Castro – SS
4. Bryan LaHair – 1B
5. Alfonso Soriano – LF
6. Ian Stewart – 3B
7. Marlon Byrd – CF
8. Geovany Soto – C
9. Ryan Dempster – P
Throughout the spring, there was speculation about the top of the order, mainly over where Castro would bat. Sveum even toyed with Soriano in the leadoff spot, but after a powerful preseason (.316, six homers, five doubles), Soriano landed in the middle of the order. Barney was rewarded for his .392 Cactus League average with the second slot, and, despite a slow first half of spring, LaHair turned it around enough to secure the cleanup spot.