Revisiting Ryan Theriot
Just in case, you know, I haven’t said enough about him yet. On May 21st, Bruce Miles wrote:
The reporter wanted to ask Ryan Theriot about stats.
"Uh, oh," the Cubs shortstop said.
No, this time, the stats are on Theriot's side. Not only did Theriot bring an on-base percentage of .410 and a batting average of .333 into Tuesday night's game against the Astros, he was tied for the National League lead in multihit games (20) with Houston's Lance Berkman and Atlanta's Chipper Jones.
That's some heady company for any player, especially one who ran afoul of the stats-oriented crowd last year when his numbers dropped precipitously in September.
Theriot won the starting shortstop job early last season but finished with an OBP of .326 and a slugging percentage of .346 for an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of only .672. Entering Tuesday, Theriot's OPS was a nice .828.
Theriot made some changes to his swing over the winter and came to spring training in good shape, proving that perhaps you can work and "grit" your way to better numbers.
So, did he prove that? Let’s take a look at the game logs. Since Bruce wrote that article, Theriot has hit .288/.368/.308, or a .678 OPS, pretty much a dead ringer for his production last season. Well, except for the fact that his OBP is higher than his SLG. [I have to take this moment to say, I saw that one coming. Again – I’m still not sure that it’s meaningful, other than for its novelty value.]
So, which is the real Ryan Theriot – the .828 OPS guy that Miles wrote about, or the .678 OPS guy he’s been since? Or is it somewhere inbetween - the .755 OPS guy he’s been if you combine the two together?
The problem is in looking at selective endpoints – good hitters go through cold streaks, and poor hitters have hot streaks. You need to look at a large number of plate appearances to get a bead on a player’s true talent level.
We can looking at the preseason projections of Theriot’s talent level – according to Cubs fans, looking at the Bleed Cubbie Blue community projections, or cold, heartless machines, looking at ZiPS, the picture is basically the same. Theriot’s performance has dropped substantially since his hot start to the season, and I expect continued decline out of Theriot.
I am not a magician. I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do have a spreadsheet. It thinks that, based on his performance to date, Theriot is most likely to hit .281/.346/.356 the rest of the season, or a .702 OPS.
I guess we’ll find out.