Doug Padilla reviews the Cubs by position this week. Today he focuses on second base.
Barney didn't just improve his defense this past season, he became one of the top defensive second basemen in baseball.
He tied the major league record for consecutive errorless games at second at 141 and made just two miscues at the position all season.
Yet it still might not be enough to unseat two-time defending Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds. Phillips has not only won the last two awards, he has won three times in the last for years.
Whether managers and coaches bestow gold upon Barney, it won't change the fact that his glove work will end up being a boon for Cubs pitchers. In fact, when teamed up with first baseman Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs are poised to have one of the best right sides of the infield in the game.
Despite all of his growth, the end of the season was still hard on Barney. His errorless streak ended with just six games remaining, and he was just one more inning away from holding the record all to his own when he made his error at Arizona.
Adding to his pain was the news on the final day of the season that third-base and infield coach Pat Listach would not be back next season. Listach was instrumental in turning Barney into one of the better defensive infielders in baseball.
“It's hard to see him go,” Barney said. “We spent a lot of time together preparing for these games and putting together the season I had defensively. Whenever I try to give him credit he says 'It was all you.' The reality of it was that he did (get the credit). He turned me onto a lot of different ideas, and he's going to be missed.”
The key for Barney now will be to improve his offensive output. He batted .254 this season with 73 runs scored, numbers that will have to increase if he wants to hold down a spot higher in the order. His lofty goal isn't necessarily to turn into a .300 hitter but a productive one.
“I believe it's in there,” Barney said. “I think I have that in me. I think obviously if somebody hits .300 they will look at their season and still feel like they can be better. Obviously from my viewpoint I feel like I can contribute a lot more and be more productive. It's not about hitting .300, it's about getting it done in situations when you need to get it done.”
The hope this season was that he could lock down the No. 2 spot in the order, but he had just 48 games in that spot. Instead, he spent 52 games in the No. 7 spot and 41 games batting eighth.
He was able to flash a little more power this season, hitting seven home runs with 26 doubles, both career highs.
Helping his extra-base hit numbers was an expanded fitness and nutrition program that helped him to avoid the physical drain that plagued him in previous seasons. This season he was able to avoid the considerable weight loss that had been an issue in the past. Last season alone he lost at least 15 pounds during the course of the summer.
“I think you learn a lot about yourself during a year like this,” Barney said. “I'm happy with the way I established myself defensively and what I proved there. Offensively, there are some strides. I learned a lot about myself so we'll take that into the offseason and try to prepare for next year.”
MONDAY: Third base