Darwin Barney Had a Great Night at the Plate … And He’s Quietly Having a Good Season There, Too

darwin barney smileDarwin Barney had a good night last night.

How good? His 4-4 with a triple raised his batting average 31 points, from .192 to .223. His OPS climbed a full 70 points to .695, and his OPS+ went from 71 to 90. It’s amazing the difference one night can make, and it’s a reminder of the nature of sample sizes.

It’s also amazing how a single game can recontextualize how we view a player’s value. A 71 OPS+ Darwin Barney is really questionable as a starter, even considering the Gold Glove defense at second base. A 90 OPS+ Darwin Barney, on the other hand, is an above-average overall starter, and a guy whom you’d love to have starting for your team (especially considering his pre-arbitration status).

Best of all, there are reasons to suspect it’s only going to get better for Barney at the plate.

For all the early-season worries about his bat, the peripherals say Barney is developing nicely. His walk rate (10.2%) is excellent, and is the highest its ever been in his career by leaps and bounds (aided, yes, by four IBB). His strikeout rate (9.3%) is at a career low. His IsoP (.155) is at a career high. His BABIP is just .233, far below his career average, which is usually around .300. Take all of that together, and you’ve got a guy who might be on the verge of a (relative) offensive breakout.

Imagine the value that someone like Barney could offer the Cubs if he hit something in the range of .270/.350/.425. That’s an All-Star caliber player in this offensive environment, particularly when you consider that the player is among the best defenders at any position in the game. If that line seems like a stretch to you, it shouldn’t. That’s the line his peripherals say he should approximately have this year, if his BABIP were closer to his career average.

Barney is eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2014, and the Cubs have him under control through 2016. If the offense comes along, they’ve suddenly got an extremely valuable piece – whether he stays on as the starting second baseman, or is shopped in the near future. Of course, if the Cubs believe in this year’s peripherals, I’d hope they hang onto Barney as tightly as they can.

Who knows? Maybe last night is simply the beginning of an extended breakout. Maybe it’s already started: over his last ten games, Barney is hitting .371/.405/.629.

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

47 responses to “Darwin Barney Had a Great Night at the Plate … And He’s Quietly Having a Good Season There, Too”

  1. DarthHater

    Good news. Maybe having Barney’s bat in the lineup can compensate for Castro’s. :-P

  2. SenorGato

    Barney is a real, quality major league starter ESPECIALLY for the money. I get a chuckle everytime I read that he should be traded basically to make way for Logan Watkins or someone of similar ilk.

    In the preseason I said I expected a ~.700 OPS from him this year as he entered the meat of his prime, and I can’t say I lost confidence. Even when he “sucked” early on his Isos were are career highs. He’s a fine bridge to Baez at 2B for me.

  3. Rich H

    If Barney morphs into a .270 hitter then I am going to begin to say we should keep him. I have been one of loudest critics because I just do not see that kind of growth from his offense but it would be a pleasant surprise.

  4. a_mazz_ing

    If Barney could hit .270/.350/.425 you could even move him up to leadoff when DDJ is gone. A .350 OBP in the 1 spot would be nice.

    1. Drew7

      After 1362 PA’s at age-27, Barney sits at .260/.306/.352.

      After last night’s 4, we think he can suddenly add 150-points to his OPS?

      1. Drew7

        *125-points

  5. jt

    not buyin’ it!
    2011 start of season through Aug 25 Barney’s BAbip was 0.327.
    2011 Aug 26 through season end the BAbip was 0.256
    2012 entire year his BAbip was 0.273
    That is a continuous season and a month that indicates the lg figured out how to get him out.
    The 8th hitter is sometimes pitched around to get to the pitcher. Does that happen if he hits lower in the order?
    Maybe he has learned to smack the ball into the gaps. I’m not counting on it though.

    1. Ash

      Methinks you might be on to something with the increased BB% @ the 8 spot. Perhaps the plan is to keep him there, and “dress the bride” a bit as far as his offensive stats look and see what possible returns are for a trade around July?

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        Last I checked, Barney’s BB numbers fit a single (low) rate model wherever he bats. His “swing” zone is pretty big and he’s good at making bad contact on non-strikes.

    2. BluBlud

      A smart manager will not pitch around Barney in the 8 spot if the team didn’t think he was a threat. Having that pitcher leading off the next inning is more valuable then having him end the current inning, and if Barney is not an offensive threat, it almost garauntees you’ll retire him anyway.

  6. Norm

    I guess I disagree. His non-IBB rate is about 6.5% and his BABIP is low because his LD% is down to a measly 13% (if we can trust LD%, and I don’t think we can, but whatever).
    With the uptick in fly balls, I think we should expect his BABIP to be well below the norm.

    I don’t see much, if any, progress. Be nice if you are right though.

  7. cub2014

    If Barney gets up to .270 with .330 OB I say see what you can get for
    him. But he is under control until 2016 so the cubs would have some
    trade value there. Lots of options in the system to replace his hitting
    but his defense will be difficult to replace.

  8. SirCub

    Nice insight, Brett. Seems like the Darwin Barney we’ve seen so far this year is pretty similar to the one we’ve seen before, with a few small differences. His plate discipline numbers are pretty much in line with his career averages. Actually he’s been a bit more aggressive swinging at a slightly higher rate of pitches both in and out of the zone. What’s different is that he has been thrown a lot less strikes this year. This means more walks, even though he’s actually been more aggressive. His power’s up, which is nice, and amazingly, his contact skills have gotten even better. Marco Scutaro is a good comp, I think, for Barney’s upside.

  9. Patrick G

    I believe the Cubs should hang on to Barney. His offense is his weakest part of his game, but he plays tremendous defense and plays the game hard. If we have a good pitching staff and the bats in the minors move up and are the players they can be, Barney is a valuable piece. Look at the Giants, defense and pitching has won them 2 WS in 3 years.

  10. hansman1982

    “Barney is hitting .371/.405/.629.”

    And who dropped him from their fantasy team 14 days ago?

    THIS GUY!

  11. Jim

    Once Barney can follow up a 4 – 4 without a 0 – 4 or 0 – 16, I might become a believe in his offensive prowess. For now I’ll take his glove and hope he can out hit the Pitchers.

  12. SenorGato

    I think that .775 OPS thing is going to ruin any shot at appreciating what he’d actually doing. Even at his current line he’s probably above league average at 2B. I would be ecstatic with a .325-.335 OBP from the guy, let alone .350.

    1. Cubbie Blues

      His current line puts him at 17th in wRC+ (82) with a minimum of 110 PA (he currently has 118).

      1. Cubbie Blues

        That’s places him right behind Uggla and Walker (who we saw last night).

        *That list is only for 2-baggers, by the way.

  13. cub2014

    The Cubs are not that far away from being a power:
    *Starting pitching is as good as any in majors.
    *Relief crew (with adding Villanueva) is very
    good (Marmol starting to come around). Gregg,
    Russell,Villanueva,Marmol,Rondon,Fujikawa
    *Need to add second lefty in bullpen.
    *They need a top lead off hitter and 2 more run
    producers. (OF’er and 3B)

    1. Cubbie Blues

      I see you have been hanging around with:
      *TWC
      *in a van
      *down by the lake
      *after a stop to pick up some “medicals”

    2. hansman1982

      “*They need a top lead off hitter…”

      I have seen this enough to make me wonder what people are looking for in a leadoff hitter?

      1. SirCub

        Skinny and left-handed, I’m pretty sure.

        1. Jp3

          And can’t make contact most of The time? ☺

          1. hansman1982

            and when he does it barely makes it past the pitcher’s mound?

            1. Cubbie Blues

              Sounds like Campana now.

              1. hansman1982

                Wha? Really, I certainly never intended for that. I guess if he fits the criteria for what I’m looking for in a leadoff guy, then I guess we will have to sign him…

                1. BluBlud

                  Hansman, we already crossed this bridge. There is no way Arizona will trade the next Lou Brock back to us.

      2. DarthHater

        I would settle for Rickey Henderson. :-P

        1. hansman1982

          Eh…he, well, I’m sure he wasn’t good at something…

        2. BluBlud

          Compared to Tony Campana, Ricky Henderson sucks. Why the hell would you want the fastest guy in the league, with a good bat, good power, great base running skills, with 3000 hits, 2100 BB’s, 1400 SB’s and 300 HRs, batting leadoff. So what if his OBP is .400 for his career and his OPS is over 800. That’s not the type of guy you want leading. His Belly fire wasn’t high enough.

          1. DarthHater

            Damn! I forgot about belly fire! ;-)

      3. Cubbie Blues

        Eddie+Gaedel+at+bat.jpg

    3. Voice of Reason

      Cubs 2014 typed:
      The Cubs are not that far away from being a power:
      *Starting pitching is as good as any in majors.
      *Relief crew (with adding Villanueva) is very
      good (Marmol starting to come around). Gregg,
      Russell,Villanueva,Marmol,Rondon,Fujikawa
      *Need to add second lefty in bullpen.
      *They need a top lead off hitter and 2 more run
      producers. (OF’er and 3B)

      In terms of the starting rotation: Feldman and Garza will be traded. That leaves the team with Shark, Wood and Jackson. While each are solid #3, #4 or #5 starters, there isn’t an ace there.

      The Cubs relievers are terrible! Other than the HOPE that Fujikawa will DEVELOP into a closer that is it for that brutal pen!

      Your point that this team needs two more run producers and a solid lead off hitter are right on, but it will be more than just two run producers. Soriano will be gone the next time this team is a power so you will have to replace his bat. Then you will need two other producers to go with Soriano. That makes three. You can’t just waive a magic wand and instantly have all three AND lead off hitter AND have a bullpen that is better than the crap they have now AND have four or five SOLID starters.

      To say that this team is not that far away from being a power is incorrect. It is VERY far away from being a power, unless your definition of power is a little below .500. That a little below .500 winning percentage COULD come next year, but I think they will still be bad next year and then hopefully explode to well above .500 for 2015. Then again, I’m a Cub fan and hope has gotten me no where like all other Cub fans!

  14. BluBlud

    Im huge Barney fan. I know people pick at this, but the guy is scrappy. He plays the game hard all the time. I can appreciate his skills. If his batting average is anywhere around 270 and his OBP is anywhere north of .325, I would keep him until someone like Baez or another prospect pushes him out, or until he gets too expensive.

    1. Cubbie Blues

      Hawk, is that you?

      I do agree with your last sentence.

  15. RWakild

    During Barney’s DL stint there were several times when a ball was hit to second and they didn’t get to it. Now that he is back you can count on anything hit in that area is an out. Nobody, and I mean nobody picks it even close to Barney.

    1. Dynastyin2017

      You know what else? You feel very confident with Barney making the pivot on the double play.

  16. Rudy

    I’ve never been a huge fan of Barney but he does provide good value at 2nd. That said, I would not hesistate to trade him either on his own or as part of a bigger package but it would have to be for good value(prospects, draft pick). I don’t think loss in defense would be that great. IMO, moving Valbuena to 2nd would not be a huge drop off defensively and his bat plays way better there and would make up for anything lost on D and then some. Couple that with (potentially) getting a real run producinhg 3rd baseman and that improves your team in the long run.

  17. Frank F

    While I’m more concerned by the lack of walks by Cubs hitters throughout the organization than this, I’m really baffled as to why Villanueva wast the guy called upon. 6th inning with a 3 run lead. You’d think that with 3 competent options in Russell, Fujikawa, and Gregg available for the end game, you’d go with a guy who can give you multiple strong innings if need arrises. There was no need to bring in the dregs at that point.

    To me, the bigger offense was Dale’s usage of Russell, as he often does. Rondon has the opportunity to load the bases. Camp gets the opportunity to implode all together. But Russell walks a guy an is treated like a LOOGY.

  18. dan

    Barney will be with the Cubs til Toreyes is ready

    1. ETS

      If Torreyes can out produce a GG second baseman then that marshall trade was amazing.

      1. Cyranojoe

        No kidding!

  19. itzscott

    I’m so confused now….

    Do they trade Barney and give a potentially better prospect a shot or do they keep Barney and trade the potentially better prospect?

    1. BluBlud

      I keep barney unless some teams blows you away with an offer. If Barney is not a starting 2B, he then becomes one of the best utility IF in the league, who could possibly play all over the diamond, possibly even some outfield. He is valuable either way. I like Theo’s approach on certain trades. It tells the other GM’s the we are not trying to trade Player A, you are trying to trade for him and if you want him, we need a top package.

      1. Bilbo161

        Agree we been a nice return if we are trading Barney. That goes for all our potential trade candidates. We have to keep them if we don’t get what we want in trade. If we want one of those CB picks we have precious little time but that doesn’t mean a fire sale.

  20. Bilbo161

    Need not been

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