The Chicago Cubs received their first positive news of the offseason on Oct. 30, as Major League Baseball announced that Darwin Barney had received the 2012 National League Gold Glove Award for his exceptional defensive play at second base this year.
While it’s true that many Cubs fans – myself included – are not sold on the usefulness or effectiveness of his bat, he proved beyond any shadow of a doubt this year that he had the ability to be a legitimate difference-maker on the defensive side of the ball, coming only one game shy of the MLB record for consecutive errorless games.
Admittedly, errors are a pretty terrible way to measure defense; but it’s worth noting that Barney committed only two of them this year, one of which came while playing shortstop. Bad statistic or not, two errors in an entire season is nothing to scoff at.
Looking at some of the more advanced defensive statistics, such as defensive wins above replacement (dWAR), only further clarifies the picture. Barney’s 3.6 dWAR was the best among ALL defenders in the National League, and was tied for the MLB lead with Seattle’s Brendan Ryan.
To put that into perspective, that means Barney saved somewhere in the neighborhood of 36 runs with his glove this season.
Making Barney’s stellar play even more impressive is the fact that only one other major league second baseman (Aaron Hill – 534) fielded more balls than Barney (517), meaning he had more than his fair share of opportunities to boot a ball or make a poor throw.
Going forward, it’s pretty clear that Barney has forced himself into the conversation for the long-term second base job. Not necessarily because of the award, but the gold glove does a pretty good job of illustrating the reasoning.
I know there are a lot of Cubs fans out there who have already long had him slated as the long-term starter, but it’s not often that a player can be so proficient on defense that it actually makes up for their utter lack of offensive execution. We hear about the theory all the time – especially with catchers and light-hitting short stops.
We’re told that many of these players are “here for their defense,” and “any offense they can provide is just gravy.” But, in reality, their defensive exploits rarely match up to their below-average skills with the stick. But Barney, based on what we’ve seen out of him this season, may actually be one of those players.
In fact, when you combine Barney’s offensive and defensive wins above replacement, you get a cumulative season WAR of 4.6 – good for the 25th highest in all of baseball.
I think that deserves to be restated.
Darwin Barney, based largely on the strength of his defense, was the 25th most valuable player in Major League Baseball according to WAR.
That’s pretty impressive.
Follow me on Twitter @MidwayJME