Thursday, June 2, 2011

Is It Okay To Question Mike Quade Yet?

Last year, Cubs fans began meandering out of the woodworks bearing signs and slogans in support of manager Mike Quade. When Quade took the reigns after Lou Piniella's sudden retirement, the team was 51-74. The team then went 24-13 under Quade's leadership. But even during the hiring process, I and several others balked at the notion of Quade making a such a huge impact.

Well, now that the Quade honeymoon seems effectively over, I think it is time to start seriously questioning his process. Of note: Darwin Barney batting second. Look, I love Barney and hope he has a long and fruitful career. But, I think his defense is overrated (people who do not watch teams like the Rays play have no idea what legit defense looks like) and his hitting is atrocious.

For the season, Barney has defensively cost the team 1 run (per Ultimate Zone Rating) and 2 runs with his bat (and is 12% below average offensively, per weighted runs created). This is not the profile of a number two hitter; it is the stat line of a utility player or a bench-rider — or at best a filler who should bat 8th or 9th until some stud prospect takes his place (not to imply there is one; Marquez Smith maybe?). Look, Darwin's young and may come into his own eventually, but right now he's not at all spectacular, and is simply another black eye for this organization.

Somehow, UZR has Barney ranked worse defensively than Starlin Castro. Granted, the season's early and a lot can change. UZR requires three seasons of data before it shows a player's true talent level, so at this point it is merely a narrative of the season thus far. And frankly, the narrative matches what I've seen: Average range, acceptable-to-poor ball handling skills, and altogether nothing special. I'm hoping I'm wrong and that Barney has some awesome range yet-shown, but with each passing day, it seems less likely.

Anyway, the straight truth is this: Barney (12% below league average) should not be batting second or lead off, and Castro (8% above league average) should probably be batting lead off in his stead.

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