Posts Tagged ‘Darwin Barney’
If it is possible to “win” spring training, then Elliot Johnson has pulled it off this year. Johnson, who has built a career as a utility infielder, did what he needed to. He was .345/.387/.586 during the spring—numbers that would attract the attention of any manager. But Johnson has managed similar numbers in previous years in spring training—in 2008 and 2011—but his performance during the year has fallen far short. His best year in the majors was 2012, when he hit .242/.304/.350. Still, his performance has won him a spot in the opening day roster. Without doubt, he will be trying to do still better this year.
Johnson was particularly strong during the last week of spring training, when he led all the other Mormon players except the Rangers’ Adam Rosales. Rosales was 5 for 11 last week (.455) with a run scored. But Rosales hasn’t done nearly as well as Johnson, recording a weak .191 spring batting average. And also unlike Johnson, Rosales has been designated for assignment to AAA.
As pundits wondered whether the Cubs would keep Darwin Barney at second this year, because of his poor performance at the plate last year, Barney’s bat woke up in a big way, as he was 4 for 9 last week (.444) and raised his spring training average to .308. Of course, Barney will need to keep up a high level at the plate for the final weeks of spring training to show that last year’s average was an aberration. We’ll keep an eye on him.
As spring training progresses, many news websites and blogs are wondering whether or not Darwin Barney will continue starting at second base for the Chicago Cubs, and even whether or not he will remain with the team. The problem focuses on Barney’s poor performance at the plate last year, the worst of his major league career.
Barney’s strength has been his fielding, where he won a gold glove in 2012 and committed just 2 errors at 2nd that year. And he tied the major league record for the number of consecutive errorless games at second base: 141.
Its too early to read much into the first week’s performance in Spring Training games, but its hard not to notice that Darwin Barney has started hot. Barney went 3 for 5 in the first handful of games, with a home run, 2 RBIs and a run scored.
We are a week away from the first Spring Training baseball games, and most players have already reported. And as always happens during the off-season, many players have moved from one team to another as managers search for just the right combination of players, and players look for more money or better opportunities.
Of course, the Mormons in professional are no exception. Here is a rundown of the Mormons who played at least one game in the majors last year and where they are at the moment. Tomorrow I’ll give a rundown of those who only played in the minors last year.
The utility infielder has to be one of the more difficult positions on a team. You don’t now where you will play in the field on a given day, whether you will start or come in late in the game, whether or not you will even play on any given day. In a game where consistent performance is prized, such a position makes success difficult. So when Elliot Johnson manages to get his batting average up to .281, it is perhaps a bit more impressive.
This past week Elliot was particularly strong at the plate, going 5 for 15 (.333) with 2 stolen bases. His season batting average (.281) comes in just 64 at bats, about 1/3rd of what an every day player would have at this point. What remains to be seen is whether or not Johnson can keep up a .281 average, or whether or not he will slip back to last year’s .242 or the .194 of the previous year.
The Cubs have been patient with Darwin Barney. After spending the first two weeks of the season on the DL, he did not perform well at the plate, hitting just .154 in his first 78 at bats (23 games). But when the press asked if Barney would be demoted, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said the team would be patient with him.
Last week that patience paid off, as Barney went 7 for 21 (.333) with 2 rbis and a home run in games against the Rockies and Mets. Since he has hit above .250 in the past two seasons, it seems reasonable to expect that Barney will continue to hit better than he has so far this season.
Barney wasn’t the only one to do well at the plate last week. The A’s backup infielder Eric Sogard was 5 for 11 (.455), scoring three times and earning an rbi last week. Sogard and fellow A’s backup infielder Adam Rosales (also Mormon) essentially share the backup duties, and seem to be trading off who is hot at the moment.
With the first month of the season drawing to a close, many ballplayers seem to be settling into their habtis, performing at a normal level instead of unexpectedly high or low. Darwin Barney, two weeks back from the DL, might be an example. His first week back, Barney hit an anemic .059, but this past week he’s back closer to his career norm—.240 with a home run and just one strike out in 25 at bats.
Barney isn’t the only one. After causing a stir with his great start, Mets catcher John Buck had another off week last week, which brought his stats down to normal for his career (.250, 17 ks in 80 at bats). Still, the rbis he rang up in the first two weeks of the season have left him in 5th place in MLB (and far ahead of pace for his best season ever, 2010, when he had 66 rbis) and his 8 home runs put him tied for 4th.
Buck isn’t the only Mormon ballplayer among the leaders in the stats race. Jacoby Ellsbury’s 11 stolen bases leads the majors. And, of course, Bryce Harper is near the top in multiple categories. His 9 homers put him tied for 2nd; he is 5th in batting average, leading the majors in ops, 4th in obp, and tied for 2nd in slugging. And in Harper’s case its not hard to imagine him keeping up this level of performance.
If there is a Mormon “Cinderella” player this year, it sure looks like it is Shane Peterson. After starting last year in AA, working his way to AAA, Peterson was invited to spring training and promptly tore up the ball, hitting .408 over 39 at bats and making a big impression on the Athletics brass. He started the regular season with the AAA Sacramento River Cats, and by last week he was again beating up the white spheroid, going 14 for 27 (.519) and scoring 9 times. So when the As were hit with injuries at shortstop and left field, they called up the outfielder Peterson—and had him play first base yesterday! Huh?
Apparently its temporary. The As regular first baseman, Brandon Moss, is out on paternity leave, and since Peterson has experience at 1st (64 games in AA in 2011) and was hitting better than the backup first baseman, Nate Freiman (current batting average .176), he got the job. What will happen next? I assume it depends on how Peterson adjusts and performs. Yesterday he went o for 4 with a strike out, but the As won the game and Peterson performed well in the field, so he has at least a few games—till Moss returns—to prove himself.
While this past week Peterson outperformed any other Mormon in the minor leagues, he wasn’t the only player making a difference at the plate.
When the Yankees’ play-by-play radio announcer, John Sterling, says (as he does every game) “You just can’t predict baseball,” I can’t help laughing—because he says it so often. The thing is, though, he’s right.
And in the first week of baseball for 2013 I saw that he is right again. Who would have predicted, even given his strong performance in spring training, that the Mets’ John Buck would have the best batting average among the Mormons in professional baseball? Better than Bryce Harper? Better than Jacoby Ellsbury and Darwin Barney? But here we are, after a week of play, 20 at bats for Buck, he is hitting .400 with 9 rbis and 2 home runs.
Starting the season last week, I thought Harper was the one with the hot bat. He homered in each of his first two at bats for the season (what a hot dog!) and had to endear himself to fans when he checked with his team mates (because he didn’t want to seem cocky) after the second home run to see if it was all right to take a curtain call. Alright? Of course its alright! You just hit back-to-back home runs! when no one else on the team could hit Ricky Nolasco! Yes, Bryce, take the curtain call.