How about a hat-tip to Darwin Barney for breaking Ryne Sandberg’s NL record 123-consecutive games errorless streak Saturday night at Pittsburgh.
The new record came and went without much fanfare, but there’s nothing cheap about Barney’s streak. He’s been the best fielding second baseman in the NL this season while showing he’s not just Gold Glove worthy, but the clear-cut winner.
The streak is but one example of how far Barney has come as a defender since arriving with the Cubs in 2010. Having already matched his games played at second base from a season ago (135), Barney has 11 fewer errors, turned 17 more double plays and improved his Range Factor from 4.92 to 5.15.
He played another clean game on Sunday continuing his streak to 125-consecutive games without an error–a run which began in mid-April and has spanned more than 1,000 innings. And with 22-games remaining this season, it’s still possible Barney could surpass Placido Polanco’s major league record of 141-straight games without an error at second base.
The bat, of course, hasn’t been as consistent for Barney. But given his encouraging work ethic to improve his fielding, there’s hope he’ll eventually come around at the plate, too.
Not everyone agrees Darwin will remain a staple of the Cubs’ rebuild, and that might remain true. Team Theo, after all, did explore dealing him at the July 31 trade deadline.
But even if Barney only improves marginally on offense, it’s still hard to depart from a solid Gold Glove defender up the middle, especially considering the Cubs’ thin pitching staff heading into 2013.
Additionally, Barney turns 27 in November beginning his prime years as a ballplayer. He’s shown not only the ability to improve his game at the highest level, but has done so while maintaining his high-character and winning attitude on a dreadful team, no less.
There’s simply a lot to like about this kid. And while he may not have been the answer Cubs fans were looking for at second base this spring, there’s really no reason to think he won’t be the answer moving forward.