Darwin Barney has struggled at the plate for the better part of his major league career, and while many players improve statistically as their career progresses, Barney’s average has been on a steady decline since his 2011 season when he hit .276. While he has been struggling to stay in the .220’s during the 2013 season, Barney’s ability to foul off pitches has made an impression on a team that struggles to work the count.
Despite an On Base Percentage (OBP) at .266 through July 26th, ESPN batting stats states that Barney has seen an average of 3.66 pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) which ranks him 51st in the majors, and above noted on base gurus like Adrian Gonzalez and Carlos Beltran. While Barney doesn’t come close to the production of Gonzalez and Beltran, he has contributed in a way that cannot be seen in the box score. Many writers, notably Bruce Levine and Carrie Muskat, write that Barney is “a winning baseball player” and a player “who would be valuable on a better offensive club”.
Many fans were dumbfounded when Cub’s manager Dale Sveum experimented with batting Barney leadoff against lefties for most of July, and while I still do not agree with that decision this provides some explanation at the thought process Sveum may have had when making this decision.
Barney is back to the bottom of the batting order, and while many fans grow frustrated at Barney’s lack of production at the plate, this stat provides a silver lining for a player that will most likely spend his career batting seventh or eighth. This stat also reveals what scouts mean when they give Barney that vague title of “a baseball player”. He is a player who controls what he can…play consistent fundamental defense and simply try to make contact at the plate.