“Defense wins championships”
It’s one of those clichés that people refer to after a star-filled lineup loses a postseason series to a team with great defense and pitching. Many fans used it after the San Francisco Giants won their second championship in three seasons. Although Buster Posey was their only player who hit more than 12 homers with them (he had 24), it didn’t stop them from sweeping Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series.
In 2012, Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney won a Gold Glove for his defensive mastery. Barney had a stretch where he didn’t commit an error for 141 games. He finished that season with a 4.7 WAR. He was one of the few bright spots on a team that lost 101 games.
The stat sheet shows another hidden element to his game. In 249 career MLB at-bats as a No. 8 hitter, Barney has a .301 batting average with a .351 on-base percentage (OBP) and a .784 on-base-plus slugging percentage (OPS). Those numbers are much better than his career OBP (.305).
That doesn’t mean that Barney is a great hitter. He has a much larger sample size as a No. 2 hitter. In 629 at-bats, Barney has a .253 batting average with a .290 OBP and .604 OPS. That’s not good enough when positioned ahead of the RBI-producers.
For Barney, 2013 is a huge season. With Junior Lake and Javier Baez waiting in the wings, Barney must prove that his Gold Glove was no fluke. He also needs to contribute more with his bat. Even if those contributions come toward the bottom-half of the lineup, a place where the Cubs got little production in 2012.
A good season could convince management that Barney is a permanent fixture in this rebuild. A decent season could mean that he’s trade bait. It could also force him back into a utility infielder role, especially if Lake and Baez both evolve into everyday players