2008 Cubs Recap: Ryan Theriot
We meet again, Ryan Theriot!
So, how valuable was Theriot this year? Let's look at Justin Inaz's TotalValue stats, which are pretty close to how I would roll my own player value system if I wasn't so lazy... er, busy. I mean busy. We're not accounting for Theriot's baserunning value here (I'm still ironing out the kinks on my baserunner evaluation system, having only gotten the 2008 data late last night), but let me give you a preview: Theriot probably would have done better running station to station.
As a hitter, Theriot was modestly below average on the whole - if you glance above, he carried a .307 batting average throughout the season, and yet only put up a .745 OPS. Yikes. Now, OPS is going to tend to underrate OBP and walks - two of Theriot's primary skills a hitter - but Wrigley is going to inflate those numbers some as well. I think I recall saying in the last offseason that Theriot was going to have to hit .300 to be anything other than a liability with the bat; lo and behold, he hit .300 and wasn't a liability with the bat. Theriot 1, Colin 0.
I will go ahead and momentarily address Theriot's baserunning anyway. To sum up briefly:
- He cost the team runs by running the basepaths recklessly.
- Probably not a whole lot of runs.
- It was still utterly frustrating to watch.
So take that for what it's worth.
The question then rolls around to defensive value. Simply by standing at shortstop and being able to move you provide some level of defensive value in the abstract - because we normally measure defense relative to the average player at that position, we need to account for the added difficulty of playing shortstop in our rankings.
Now, relative to his peers at shortstop, Theriot was a below average fielder, according to the Total Value rankings. This is corroborated by what scouting data we have, such as Tom Tango's Fan Scouting Report. Of course, his peers at shortstop are all superior fielders - given that, we should think he was roughly an average fielder overall compared to the league as a whole.
So what it boils down to is this: Ryan Theriot, for 2008, was roughly a league average player. There are of course questions going forward:
- Will he continue to play this well in the future? (Doubtful; 2008 has the makings of a career year for Theriot, and at 29 next year he's past his peak years - speedy players tend to decline faster anyway.)
- Should he be moved to second base? (I don't know that it makes much difference - he'd go from being a below-average defender at his position to being an above-average defender at his position, but I don't think his overall defensive value would change much at all. You'd probably see a modest uptick in his defensive value by hiding his weak throwing arm better, but a very marginal change all-in-all.)
- Am I eating a lot of crow here? (Not really; I think preseason I handicapped Theriot's odds of a season similar to this at something like 20%. Now if all of my predictions were that bad that'd be a source of concern for me, but a two-out-of-ten chance coming true doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things; it's still a chance, in other words.)