Goatriders of the Apocalypse

2010 Player Preview: Ryan Theriot

My new big boss was in my cube today, asking me about some of the stuff I have up on the wall.  He's not a Cub fan by any means, but he is a sports fan and recognized most of the faces on the buttons I have up there.  One he didn't recognize, and I mentioned it was Bobby Dernier, our leadoff hitter in 1984-5.  I described him as the last decent leadoff hitter we have had, which goes a lot to explain why our team has not won a pennant in 65 years.

With apologies to Kenny Lofton, my statement is pretty much fact.  Along with my evisceration of the pudgy Geo Soto last year, my constant droning about the lack of a leadoff hitter also put some of you off.  Too bad. 

Our current leadoff hitter and shortstop is Mr. Ryan Theriot, from LSU.  Anyone who tells me that he is a great leadoff hitter and shortstop instantly proves to me that they don't know dick about baseball.

Is he bad?  No, not at all.  After concerns about his durability in 2007 and 2008, I think he held up pretty well throughout the entire season last year.  He hits for a good average, has decent plate discipline, and most of the time has a plan when he walks up to the plate.  He is probably our best situational hitter, and honestly, of the people we have currently, he is the best one suited to hit leadoff.  His OBP is near the top on the team, save a monster year by DLee or a typical year by Fukudome.

And is he our best shortstop?  I would say so.  There really isn't much of a dropoff defensively between he and Andres Blanco, who is supposedly a glove guy.  I believe that The Riot is a bit underrated and Blanco a bit overrated when it comes to their defensive reputations.

If forced to make a prediction, I think he will hit around .280, get on base about .360, and make about 12 errors at short this year.  He will score over 90 runs.  He will be a steady clubhouse presence, and will extend his share of Cub rallies.  A decent year by any estimation.

Thus endeth my good words about The Riot.

Because really, calling him the best Cub shortstop or best Cub leadoff hitter is the supreme definition of damning with faint praise.  He is a miserable baserunner - I said he will score over 90 runs this year - with as many hits and walks as he gets, this number should be over 105.  He pisses away that many runs every year, thinking he is a speed merchant, when he is probably slower than his midget friend Font.  He gets caught stealing more than any Cub I have seen in perhaps my entire life.

I realize that few of our leadoff men could even manage to get on base often, and he at least can manage that.  But OBP is just the bare minimum requirements for a leadoff man.  A leadoff man gets on base, and causes havoc for the opposition.  They worry about stolen bases, hit-and-runs, bunts, and those thoughts just don't happen when The Riot is standing at first.  Usually the first baseman lets him take a lead, the shortstop and second baseman decide who gets to tag him. 

And in the field, he isn't miserable, he doesn't flub as many easy plays as, say, the Ramirez kid on the South Side.  But no matter who we play on a given day, Riot/Font, Riot/Baker, this is not a strong up-the-middle defense that is going to save runs that the offense deserves to have. In fact, we give up a few runs every year that the offense does NOT deserve to have.  His range is not great, his arm is average at best, and his shortstop instincts simply are not there.  The great ones can hold runners by executing fakes and by getting to the right spots on cutoff plays.  Shortstop is the position he has played in his professional career, but that is more due to the needs of the club, rather than his superior skills.

Ryan Theriot.  Won't cost you the pennant, but won't win you one, either.  The Kyle Orton of the Cubs.  The Prince of Meh.  Your leadoff hitter and shortstop. 

Get good deals on tickets to Cubs games through a nice Wrigley Field seating chart thanks to sponsor Coast to Coast Tickets!

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award