A Reason for Darwin Barney Optimism and Other Bullets

Anyone think Tim Tebow can play a corner outfield spot?

  • Darwin Barney, who’ll open the year as the Cubs’ starting second baseman, says his side strain is feeling fine now, and an MRI showed nothing. In his return to the lineup yesterday, he hit safely yet again (something he’s done in every Spring game in which he’s appeared). While I don’t have particularly high hopes that his offense will improve up to a league average level at second base (which would require him hitting better in the bigs than he ever did in the minors), I am hopeful that his defense at second base will continue to improve, perhaps even to an elite level. If that happens, Barney could overall become a quality starter at second base. Although defense tends to peak in a player’s mid-20s (Barney is 26), given that Barney is a career shortstop (a very good one) switching to second base, we really could see dramatic improvement in this, his second full year at the position.
  • Randy Wells pitched in a “B” game yesterday morning (doesn’t count in the standings) against the Indians, and threw three innings, allowing three hits, three walks, two runs, and striking out two. Dale Sveum wasn’t overly complimentary when discussing Wells’ outing. “You try not to put too much on it, because the conditions aren’t that well,” Sveum said. “On the other hand, you have to pitch in those same conditions in Chicago, if not worse. Wells actually was fairly sharp down in the zone. He got the outs when he needed to. [Cristian] Guzman, trying to get the guy over, hooked the ball out of the park on him. Other than that, he didn’t give up any runs. He got out of some big jams with bases-loaded ground-ball double plays. It wasn’t bad by no means.” My Volstad-beating-Wells prediction remains unchanged.
  • On Travis Wood, who was terrible yet again yesterday, Sveum was even more dour. “It looked like it was coming out of his hand better,” Sveum said. “But still, it’s not the full package, to be able to get through big league hitters using the changeup and throwing it for strikes and a breaking ball. I still don’t think his cutter is where it needs to be and where I’ve seen it before. But I thought the life was there on some pitches. Just another unfortunate outing.” When discussing the plan for Wood, Sveum said he’ll have to keep plugging away, “whether it’s a game or a Minor League game.” I think we all know what that means.
  • The back-up catcher battle is still murky, solely because of how good both Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger have looked. Sveum says both guys could be starters – not just back-ups – at the big league level. If that proves to be true in the early season, you can be sure you’ll hear a whole lot about Geovany Soto on the trade block.
  • Fluff on Steve Clevenger switching to catcher back in late 2007/early 2008.
  • Everything you ever wanted to know (and I mean *everything*) about the state of the players on the Cubs’ 40-man roster (options, service time, contract status, etc.), and the myriad MLB transactions, thanks to TCR. Seriously, this is everything, and it’s more than you ever thought was going on behind the scenes.
  • Why the 2012 Houston Astros Will Suck. We did it before with the Cincinnati Reds, and the results were awesome, so let’s do it again with the Astros. It should be easier, if nothing else. Join in.
  • The Opening Day contest ends tomorrow evening. Don’t miss your chance to (1) proclaim victory over your BN chums, and (2) win $75 to SportsWorldChicago.com (Cubs swag). Here are the details of the contest, but the gist is this: go to the BN Facebook page and “like” it; then go to this post on the BN Facebook Wall, and guess the Cubs’ Opening Day lineup (batting order and defensive positions) and rotation as of Opening Day. That’s it. The winner will be selected at random from the correct guesses.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

49 responses to “A Reason for Darwin Barney Optimism and Other Bullets”

  1. The Dude Abides

    Over or under on Barney – .267 avg/ 5 HR’s/ 12 SB’s/ 450 AB’s??

    1. SirCub

      Over, under, under, over. I could see Barney hitting around .280-.290 this year. And I could also see it not improving his overall value at all.

    2. Luke

      Sveum seems to want the Cubs to be more aggressive on the base paths, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Barney reach 15-20 steals.

      I’m not sure of the 450 ABs, either.

       

  2. SirCub

    Those two pictures together are hilarious.

    1. ShannyCub

      I definitely laughed out loud. Knew what the article was about before reading the headline.

  3. daveyrosello

    What teams other than the Royals need a catcher and might be interested in trading for Soto? (Royals: Sal Perez wrenched his knee, out 2 months minimum).

    I recall reading somewhere that the Rays are unhappy with Jose Molina. Any others?

  4. DocWimsey

    Hmmm, couldn’t you have used Buddy from Dinosaur Train instead?

    As for his over & under, his career minor league numbers were .287/.335/.376. So, 0.267 seems about right. HR & SB will depend heavily on the ABs (or PAs, which will be altogether too close from Barney). If he gets 450 ABs, then he might just get 5 HR, especially if it is warm this summer. (This winter certainly has been!)

    As for the stolen bases, shouldn’t we worry about net steals? I mean, for Barney to get 12 SB, he’ll probably get 6-8 CS. I’m betting on a net loss on SB from him, at any rate (i.e., worse than a 2:1 success ratio).

  5. Coldneck

    Ace, what do you think we could get in return for Soto?

  6. baseballet

    Fangraphs says that Barney ranked 8th in WAR last season for NL second basemen. If DB can improve a little bit he should be a decent starting second baseman for a couple years. With the muscle he added in the offseason and continued improvement on defense (at a new position), I don’t think DB will be high on the Cubs’ list of problems for the next few seasons.

  7. Edwin

    Right now, Barney doesn’t need to be a good NL second baseman to be valuable to the Cubs. All he has to do is produce enough excess value in comparison to what they are paying him. That is the most valuable thing about him.

    Getting excess value is an important thing. Even if Barney is below average, as long as the Cubs can save money on him, they can spend that money elsewhere. That is why a player like Travis Wood is valuable as well. The Cubs didn’t trade for Travis Wood because they thought he would be a good pitcher. He won’t be. But if he can outproduce what they are paying him, they can use that money to help sign a better player over the next several offseasons.

  8. Kyle

    I look forward to the day when a player with Barney’s 2011 production is the weakest link in the everyday lineup.

  9. BeyondFukudome

    Brett:

    I don’t think Darwin Barney has done anything bad enough to deserve being associated with that purple dinosaur. Besides, I hear the dinosaur’s owner is litigious. How about a nice picture of Barney Rubble instead?

  10. Kevin

    Why should the Cubs trade Soto? If the current roster all have career years then we’re in the playoffs

  11. Dick

    The Cubs last year played 0.500 ball with Koyie Hill starting last year and ~0.360 ball with Soto starting. The Cubs have had a worse record with Soto starting every year since his rookie year, although last year was the widest variation. They have two good replacements in Clevenger and Castillo, and Soto has value to teams that don’t look at his statistics. Simple….Soto should have been the first guy out the door this winter.

    I don’t understand all the Barney bashing. He is a competent player, who is likely to get better this year. His stats get knocked down by doing things like advancing runners to 3rd with no outs, etc. He had a bad streak in the 2nd half of the year which is unlikely to reoccur. Lighten up, guys!

    1. DocWimsey

      Last year’s winning pcts. by catcher are indistinguishable from the Cubs overall winning percentage: it’s just sample size.

      As for Barney, it’s the other way around: he had a “lucky” 6 weeks to start the season that basically matched what we expect one of his batch of 6 weeks to be. And, again, this is something that people have to understand: grounding out to advance runners to 3rd base is BAD BASEBALL. It doesn’t just hurt Barney’s stats: it decreases run-scoring. You never see hi-5′s in the Boston dugout when a guy does this: hopefully, it will stop in the Cubs’ dugout, too.

  12. Cubbies4Life

    Okay, has everyone forgotten about Barney Fife? That upstanding defender of the Mayberry Way? If he were here, I’d ask him to put his single bullet in his gun and shoot a Darwin basher in the foot! (He can’t shoot every one of you because…well… just the one bullet). I’m with Dick (oooh, THAT sounds intriguing!) – give DB some slack! And I don’t want to see Soto traded – my jersey would become moot!

  13. rbreeze

    We have bigger problems then Barney at second. We need production from the corners in the infield and outfield. Barney will get his chance this season to prove to Dale and Theo and Jed whether he belongs as a starter or not.  If we get production from the corners, then we can carry a Barney that hits .270-.275 ish.

  14. rocky8263

    I’m sure Theo and Jed are running the show but T.R. loves Barney. In two conversations I had with Tom at K Woods events He brought up Darwin and said his style of play will make the Cubs a winner. Teachers pet? Maybe, probably. My guess is as long as he bats his weight he’s a keeper. Or maybe he was just messing with me.

  15. rbreeze

    If we can find the next Ryne Sandberg to play second then I’m all for it.  I’m sure Theo and the boys are looking to improve at every position with every move they make.  But for now it looks like Barney is it.