2011 A's Retrospective #27: Daric Barton

By Jason Wojciechowski on February 12, 2012 at 2:10 PM

Here's what Daric Barton has done with the A's since coming over in the Mark Mulder trade ahead of the 2005 season:

  • Become a full-time first baseman
  • Never hit for the kind of power he did as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League
  • Bang his head on the bottom of a swimming pool, causing a laceration and a neck strain
  • Have a breakout 2010 when, despite a total lack of power (.405 SLG), a .393 OBP plus solid-to-good defense carries him to a four-WARP season
  • Tear his labrum at some point in 2011 as part of a nightmare season that saw him not hit, make multiple errors in the field, and generally spoil any of the goodwill he might have earned in 2010

After all of that, Barton will still not turn 27 until August of this year, which means that by the typical math, this year will be considered his age-26 season. Being drafted at 17 will do that. He's already into his arbitration years, but will make just over a million bucks this season after his horrendous 20101 [edited after comment below] failed to give him any sort of platform to ask for more. And however terrible his 2010 was on offense, he did retain his eye at the plate, walking 39 times in 280 trips (to 47 strikeouts) to boost his OBP to .325 despite just a .212 batting average. Also, he stopped laying down those ridiculous sacrifice bunts.

There's hope for 2012, especially given the relatively weakness of the competition (Brandon Allen and Chris Carter can't make contact, and neither they nor Kila Ka'aihue brings Barton's defensive chops, modest though they may be (UZR's likely inflated opinion of his 2010 season aside)). However, Barton will apparently come to camp limited by his shoulder to DH duties. If he can't get up to speed fast enough in the field, that could open the door to Allen or Carter to seize the position with a strong spring and leave Barton languishing in Sacramento for a while, especially if Oakland does something silly like sign Magglio Ordonez or Johnny Damon to DH.

Hopefully his shoulder will be at full strength soon, though, and he can get back to hitting enough singles and gap-doubles to make his batting average playable as a big-league starter. PECOTA doesn't see another near-.300 TAv this year, and the .271 mark that represents his weighted mean projection is both behind Chris Carter and well below the 2011 league average for first basemen. Ascribing Barton's performance to his shoulder injury might be wishful thinking, but we're A's fans: that's about all we have right now.