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A vote for Darwin Barney to win NL Gold Glove at second base

Chicago Cubs v Colorado Rockies

Chicago Cubs v Colorado Rockies

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Updated: November 3, 2012 6:18AM

While second baseman Darwin Barney’s streak of errorless games is over at 141, three shy of Placido Polanco’s major-league
record, he remains the holder of a National League record that has Cubs
gloveprints all over it.

Since Rawlings started handing out Gold Glove awards in 1957, the streak record has changed hands four times. The first came in 1962, when the Cubs’ Kenny Hubbs went 78 games without an error to break the major-league mark of 73 set by the Red Sox’ Bobby Doerr in 1948, nearly a decade before players and managers started voting to honor the top defenders in baseball.

The Reds’ Joe Morgan broke Hubbs’ record by going 91 games without an error before his streak ended in April 1979. In 1990, Ryne Sandberg brought the record back to Wrigley Field with a 123-game streak. And now Barney has topped Ryno.

All of the record-holders won Gold Gloves. Now the debate is on about whether Barney will unseat the Reds’ Brandon Phillips, the NL Gold Glove winner at second the last two seasons.

By the numbers, Barney deserves it. Using Baseball Info Solutions’ data, which tracks where and how hard every ball is hit and factors in a fielder’s range, good plays and bad plays, Barney’s 27 runs saved leads major-league second basemen. That translates to 2.7 wins better than an average fielder or 3.5 defensive Wins Above Replacement.

Phillips also has been more than solid in the field, but his nine runs saved and 1.4 dWAR don’t measure up to Barney’s numbers.

Barney is a rarity among the record-holders. Hubbs, Morgan and Sandberg all won Gold Gloves in their streak years, but advanced defensive metrics don’t confirm them as the best in their leagues.

For the 1962 season, Hubbs actually committed one more error (15) than Pirates defensive whiz Bill Mazeroski, and Maz had more range. Mazeroski had 53 more putouts and 20 more assists and turned 35 more double plays than Hubbs. Defensive WAR, based on Sean Smith’s Total Zone Rating in the era before John Dewan’s runs saved, puts Mazeroski at 1.3 and Hubbs at 0.1.

Most of Morgan’s streak came in 1977, when he won the last of his five Gold Gloves. There were several second basemen in the NL with better fielding numbers. His 359 assists in 151 games were 108 fewer than the Cubs’ Manny Trillo had in two fewer games. Morgan was sixth in assists and fourth in total chances and fell into negative territory with a minus-0.5 dWAR. The best in the league was the Cardinals’ Mike Tyson at plus-2.4.

Sandberg had many seasons as a great defender, with good range to go with his steady hands. By 1990, though, the Pirates’ Jose Lind was covering more ground. Lind led the league in total chances with 786 to Sandberg’s 755, committed one fewer error than Sandberg’s eight and had a 1.2 dWAR that was double Ryno’s 0.6.

Of the NL record-holders, Sandberg was the top defender. Barney is just getting started, and Hubbs had only two full seasons in the majors before he was killed in a plane crash in February 1964. lists Ryno with a career dWAR of 12.8; Morgan is at 3.3.

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