Inspired by all this draft talk, I was about to write up a post that speculated on the Cubs' likely lineup for Opening Day 2012. At least in my eyes it got pretty interesting pretty quickly; I put Brett Jackson in the leadoff spot batting first, for example.
In the two-hole, I had Blake DeWitt, playing second base. (Kudos to Veteran Goat Rider and current Baseball Prospectus writer Colin Wyers, @cwyers, for convincing me to give Blake another look.)
This is potentially controversial for many reasons. First: why am I all of a sudden consulting the Dusty Baker Guidebook for Setting a Lineup, where the centerfielder leads off and the second baseman bats second, regardless of hitting ability? I don't know! I have been replaced with a cyborg that is sympathetic to the enemy! Please help me escape!
Second, and perhaps more obviously: haven't we all agreed that Darwin Barney is Totally The Cubs' Best Player Ever Right Now? He hits! He fields! He dives! He runs (although he doesn't steal any bases)! He is so great! Great great great! And he also plays second base so what's DeWitt doing there?
Fact: both Barney and DeWitt were born in late 1985 (DeWitt is a few months older). Both have minor league career batting averages around .280, and minor career OBPs around .335. But DeWitt's isolated slugging percentage (again, SLG minus AVG, which shows extra-base hit ability) is twice that of Barney's.
Put another way: DeWitt had nine more extra-base hits in his age 23 season than Barney did in his, and DeWitt did it in 100 fewer PAs, and against better pitching (Barney still spent time in AA at age 23).
A frequent complaint is that Darwin Barney doesn't walk enough to succeed in the major leagues. Let me ask you something: why should anyone walk him? Barney's isolated slugging percentage in 2011 is .073; only one player with an ISO that low has an above-average walk rate (Daric Barton, FYI), because why should a pitcher go out of the zone on a three-ball count if the worst the opposing batter can do is single? Mark Ellis, Orlando Cabrera, Chone Figgins, Miguel Tejada, Omar Infante, Alcides Escobar, and The Great Ryan Theriot are among the few players with a lower ISO than Barney, and all have similar walk rates.
DeWitt's only walked once in limited playing time so far this season, but his career walk rate is 9.2%. So there you go.
I guess the Cubs could move DeWitt back to third next year, and keep Barney at second? Depends on how LeMahieu ends the year, what happens in free agency, and whether Aramis gets invited back for another year or three. What would you like to see happen?