Are you kidding me? We have to have this fight again?
Not yet ten months after the Chicago Cubs traded Ryan Theriot to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the ghost of Theriot has come back to haunt second base and the top of the Cubs’ lineup, in the person of non-prospect Darwin Barney.
Mike Quade has installed Barney as the quasi-permanent second baseman and second hitter in the batting order behind Starlin Castro. He still gives the nod to Jeff Baker against left-handed pitching, but if his infatuation with Barney goes much further that may not hold up.
I have no problem with playing Barney: Lord knows he is more a part of this organization’s future than Baker or Blake DeWitt, if only because neither of those men is any part of the organization’s future. Barney has two skills: He rarely swings and misses, and he plays a very good middle infield defensively. He provides insurance and the opportunity to give Castro occasional days off, because he can play either spot up the middle. He’s a fine fifth or sixth infielder.
Unfortunately, DeWitt had a bad srping, and that led to Barney getting a lot of early-0season playing time, and now that he has hit well for about a week and a half Quade (not to mention too many media types, like Cubs.com beat writer and resident idiot Carrie Muskat, who said recently she would not trade Barney straight up for Aaron Hill) has just lost his head over this scrappy middle infielder with no offensive skills. He bats him second because everyone likes him and they used to REALLY like Ryan Theriot and Theriot batted second a lot.
In Theriot’s case, at least, there was an argument to be made that he belonged near the top of the order. For one season, in 2008, he had a .387 OBP, and it’s hard to fault Lou Piniella for having batted Theriot high in the order thereafter and taking a chance. But Darwin Barney, who by the way is already 25, has a career .334 OBP–in the Minor Leagues!
Barney simply is not a viable everyday big-league hitter, and if the team insists on finding that out by starting him 100-plus times, they need to wise up and slot him into the eighth spot in the batting order. I’m not being a stat geek here, though I’ll pause to say that his success this season is in a tiny sample size. Indeed, my primary evidence for Barney’s incompetence at the palte is visual: Look at him swing the bat some time. It’s slow, it’s loopy, it’s the kind of swing good hitters make when they’re badly fooled and bad hitters make when they want to poke a ground ball into right field.
That is who Darwin Barney is. There is nothing wrong with it; he’s good at that particular style of hitting. But he belongs at the bottom of your batting order, and he really belongs in the game only as a defensive replacement or pinch runner.