Once again, we come to the beginning of another week. This time, we've been disheartened by a disastrous trip to Boston that may have seen the team reach its early-season breaking point. What could we be talking about now?
As a quick recap, this is a series designed to give you a chance to have the kind of water cooler discussions you probably aren't having right now, because no one you work with is following the Astros or doesn't get the team on TV. Thus, we're you're water cooler.
Our new topic is simple but is bound to bring out the discussion. Should Brandon Barnes be playing every day?
This week, we've got a twist. I'll be taking one side of the argument, while Chris takes the other. Neither of us have the answer, though. That's up to you. Tweet us your answers, post them to Facebook or put them in the comments below. Every answer is a right answer.
Yes, he should be in there
CRPerry: It's so easy for those of us in the business or hobby of baseball blogging to overlook the working man. I want to write about Rick Ankiel's veteran-ness, or Fernando Martinez' prospect-hood...but Brandon Barnes has been quietly excellent and I'm happy to champion his bid for a starting role.
Jose Altuve leads all Astros position players in WAR with 0.8. Two players are tied for second: Marwin Gonzalez and Brandon Barnes, with 0.6. This, despite that Barnes has half as many plate appearances as MarGo and a third as may as Altuve. If Barnes had the same opportunities as the Astros' second baseman, Barnes' equivalent WAR would be 1.6!
It's easy (and certainly excusable!) to dismiss Barnes' performance as a sample-size mirage, but shouldn't one also consider momentum? Comparatively, each of the Astros' other five or so outfielders has performed worse than Barnes in almost every way. Rick Ankiel is striking out 63 percent of the time and has played poor defense, by the numbers. F-Mart is still rounding into shape after injury, and J.D. and Maxwell are down for the count.
Barnes is hitting .375/.474/.500 with a 13 percent walk rate and 18 percent strikeout rate. He has lapped all of the other Astros in defensive metrics. Sure, he's probably playing over his head, but even cutting 30 percent from those numbers leaves Barnes as the most successful Astros outfielder of 2013 so far. Who knows - maybe Barnes' success isn't a mirage...and maybe it is. There is only one way to find out, and if Bo Porter meant what he said about performance determining playing time, then Brandon Barnes has earned a starting gig. For now.
No, he shouldn't be starting
David: My anti-side is pretty simple. It's a very, very small sample size. Yes, Brandon Barnes has been one of the best hitters on the team through 16 games and 38 plate appearances, but that's nothing to tell us how he'll do in an every day role. Remember when Chris Shelton hit like 64 home runs in April a few years back? And then did nothing for the rest of his career?
Barnes has a history in the minors that tells us his performance here isn't sustainable. He's been a better hitter over the last three years than he was in the first of his minor league career, but he still hasn't been a GOOD hitter. Plus, he was old for his level in those last three years, so it's hard to tell how much was his improvement and how much was just him hanging around in the high minors.
That not even mentioning the defensive advantage Barnes gives Houston off the bench, even if it's slight. With guys like Fernando Martinez and Chris Carter in left, manager Bo Porter needs someone who can play well in the outfield to relieve those guys late in games. Who better to do that than Barnes?
What say ye, TCB jury? Is it time to give Barnes some burn in the outfield, either in center field or in right? Will he be able to sustain his early season performance or will he become the hitter he was in the minors?