The Chicago Cubs have emphasized pitching and defense during the inaugural year of their rebuilding phase. The Cubs should be ecstatic with Darwin Barney and his progression as an elite defensive second baseman. However, the biggest surprise is the Gold Glove-caliber defense that Alfonso Soriano has played in 2012. The $136-million outfielder has always been chastised for his below-average defense.
Not this year. Barney and Soriano have both been nearly flawless on defense. Here's a brief look at why each player should be considered for a 2012 Gold Glove award.
As of August 2, Barney has committed one error in 464 chances. Barney leads second basemen (qualified) with a .998 fielding percentage. He leads second baseman with 196 putouts. His 5.20 range factor is only bested by Marco Scutaro (5.37). However, Scutaro was involved in 114 fewer chances. Barney also has a "Defensive Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 3.3. New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano comes in second place at 1.5.
As of August 2, Soriano hasn't committed an error in 170 chances. Tampa Bay Rays' Desmond Jennings is the only left fielder who has a 1.000 field percentage with more than 100 chances. Soriano has 165 putouts and five assists. His 2.07 range factor is fourth amongst qualified outfielders. Soriano also has two double plays.
Soriano has acknowledged that the Cubs nearly completed a trade that would've sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs could still move him through the waiver process during August. Any team who trades for Soriano would need to acquire him by August 31 if they were going to have him for postseason play. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer hasn't dismissed this possibility.
Soriano's chance to win his first Gold Glove might be damaged if he were traded to an American League team who used him as a designated hitter (DH).
Giving Props To Alfonso Soriano
Soriano has enjoyed a solid season after he had a 2011 season that featured a .289 on-base percentage (OBP). Soriano is on pace to finish 2012 with a .273 batting average, 30 home runs and 96 RBIs. Those numbers could be higher when one considers that he normally heats up toward the end of the season. That doesn't include his improved defense.
I appreciate that Soriano hasn't quit on this team. He could've handled this situation much differently. Just imagine if Milton Bradley were the one who had the $136-million contract. If for nothing else, I hope this has a positive impact on the younger players when this team is more competitive within the next few seasons.
Joshua Huffman grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula as a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs enthusiast. He immediately gained an admiration for Cubs fans after watching numerous games on WGN during the mid-90s. His favorite Cubs moment was Kerry Wood's(notes) 1-hitter, 20K extravaganza that was only denied of a no-hitter by Kevin Orie's defensive blunder. As a Packers and Cubs fan, he suffered through Steve Bartman and "4th & 26" in a span of three months. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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