Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Ryan Theriot

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Game Recap: Cubs 6, Padres 4, Theriot Unquieted

Cubs win
Unrelated note: Attached is the second new graphic of the day.  This one took a shockingly long period of time to make.  Again, about 97% of it is made from scratch, with a few things borrowed from an ESPN image.  Sometimes as a graphics guy I like to challenge myself to performing tasks without knowing if I can actually succeed.  In this case though it's mission accomplished.

The Offense
Speaking of mission accomplished, Ryan Theriot's got to be feeling like a billion bucks right now.  The guy hit a total of one - ONE!! - homerun last year and he's already five deep in the 2009 season.  And let's not forget that he began the year with something like 7 career homeruns and is now dangerously approaching the point where he doubles that number. 

Other offensive stars tonight include Alfonso Soriano - who hit homerun #11, by the way - and Geovany Soto.  Soto went 2 for 3 with his first homerun of the year and 3 RBI.  Derrek Lee meanwhile went 0 for 4 and maybe the Cubs would be better off DLing him after all and giving him some time to work on his swing in Iowa.

The Pitching
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly worked his wonders.  He threw into the 7th, surrendering 8 hits but walking 0 while striking out 7.  Granted, he surrendered not one but two homeruns to Adrian Gonzalez but it hardly mattered.

Oh and in the 8th Carlos Marmol stepped in, allowed a leadoff single which he turned into a double play ball and then walked Nick Hundley, advanced him to second with a wild pitch, walked Brian Giles and gave up an RBI single to Jody Gerut.  Not exactly his best night and half of his pitches were balls.

Conclusion

It's a series win for Chicago.  The Cubs are now 19-14, half a game out of a three team clusterbang for first place in the Central.  They'll be playing later today for a sweep and the chance to share the lead in the division.

Quick Links
Series Preview - Padres vs. Cubs
Game Recap - Cubs 6, Padres 2
GameCast: April 13th - Padres vs. Cubs

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Marlins 1

Ok, who is spiking the kool-aid with HGH? No really, because this is the craziest thing since Ryan Theriot hit two home runs in one game. Anybody remember that one? I didn't, but thanks to Baseball-Reference.com for the information. Actually the entire offense was pretty good today with every regular getting a hit except Kosuke Fukudome, who ended up walking twice.

Theriot's blast in first inning was all that Ted Lilly would need. Lilly threw a brillant 8 innings, while striking 10 on the way to his third win of the year. Lilly's only mistake came in the fifth inning to Cody Ross, or he might have tossed a complete game.
The best thing about Ted's preformance was he didn't walk a hitter. Maybe it will rub off on a few more of the Cub pitchers.

The Cubs got all of their six runs off Marlin stater Anibal Sanchez, including another RBI by Mike Fontenot in the first inning that scored Fukudome to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead.

Taking inspiration from Dan Haren, Lilly came up with a huge 2-out, 2-run double in the third to give the Cubs a 5-run lead, which was more than enough. Derrek Lee added a home run in the fourth for good measure, and possibly a little ray of light that he isn't totally done.

Micah Hoffpauir continued to prove that he belongs on a MLB roster with two more hits and a walk. Of course the walk ended up as a caught stealing after Joey Gathright did his best Ronnie Cedeno impression by oversliding the bag.

More importantly, the Cubs were able to win for the second day in the row, and the Deadbirds finally lost to the Nats. The Cubs find themselves four back with one last game against the Marlins tomorrow. The Cubs have a great chance to take three out of four tomorrow if Carlos Zambrano can pitch well. At least he should be ready to hit after his third straight day pinch hitting.

Enjoy the rest of the night, and go Cubs.

Is it time to give The Riot a pee test?

I mean, yeah, it was imperative for at least one of the big Cub power hitters to break out of their homer slump, and start making positive contributions over the wall.  But frankly, Mr. Theriot doesn't count. 

Two four-ply jacks in as many days?  That's like getting an extra 20 out of the ATM. 

It is impossible for me to sufficiently express my gratitude to him.  Any of you ever see the movie "Breaking Away", when Dennis Christopher falls off the bike during the Little 500 and bangs up his leg, and Dennis Quaid just stands there pouting because he didn't really expect to have to ride?  And Jackie Earle Haley jumps on the thing and starts weaving around the track, because the damn thing is about five inches too tall for him?  I guess that's how I feel about The Riot having to win two games in a row with homers.

It is good though to see Marshall pitch well on Thursday, then Lilly pitch a gem today.  Lost in the craptastic performances of Soto, Lee, Bradley and Miles was that our starting rotation, which was our big strength last year, hasn't been giving us the innings or the run prevention we need to succeed.  Except for one outing so far, Lilly has been our best pitcher.  Z and Dempster need to get in the groove now.

I honestly do not believe we should expect much more from Lee than we are getting currently.  It certainly is convenient that we are suddenly hearing about "neck and back spasms" that have been bothering him "as long as the broken wrist' in 2006.  Certainly bulging disks are serious matters, and now it is clear why his production has never recovered.  No, I'm not going to call for his ouster, he is for better or for worse the leader of this particular ballclub, and he has to participate.  Just, Lou, not batting third, ever again?

I don't know Geo Soto, personally, but those that do need to give him the jolt he needs to freakin' WAKE UP, and start playing some ball.  This is the 2006 Soto we're looking at here, the one that didn't show up on anyone's list of prospects.  If it is weight, then dammit, move his locker away from the postgame spreads, and give the man some Hydroxycut, before they pull it off the shelves.

Right now, Don't Wake Daddy is reminding me of a cross between Turd Hundley, Danny eFFing Jackson and all the other sideshow frauds we've brought in here.  If he's suffering from Moises Alou Disease, then please, someone piss on his hands already, because watching him is making ME sick!!

I started with urine, so I come full circle and end with it, too.  Happy Two Game Streak, everyone!  Big Cubs 101 starts Monday!!

Game Recap: Cubs 8, Marlins 6

I’m not sure if anybody was going to write the recap, so I will jump in and give my views of today’s improbable victory.

I left school with the Cubs down 3-1 and Rich Harden still on the mound. Within the first five minutes of my drive, Harden proceeded to walk the bases loaded, walk in a run and hit a man to give the Marlins a 5-1 lead. Needless to say, there were a few choice words that left my lips, none of which was too supportive of our Cubs.

The Cubs had a chance for a big inning in the fourth inning, when Mike Fontenot singled to cut the lead to 5-2 with one out, but Carlos Zambrano couldn’t come up with a hit. Then, Alfonso Soriano hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

The Cubs finally broke through in the sixth inning when Hayden Penn entered the game. Things started well for Penn as he struck out Geovanny Soto. Penn most of been inhabited by somebody else, because he walked Aaron Miles, followed by a single by Mike Fontenot that moved Miles to third.

All during this inning Pat and Ron are giving one of the most uncomfortable interviews with Denise Richards, who kept her answers so short that Pat must been going crazy trying to fill dead air after she refused to elaborate on any story. Of course she could have been scared as Ron threw a fit after Micah Hoffpauir hit a shallow fly ball to left for the second out in the inning.

The most amazing thing happened after that. No, Denise didn’t rehash stories about taking blow off Charlie Sheen’s chest. Soriano coaxed a two-out walk, which is something he usually doesn’t do. Personally, I was hoping for a three-run blast to tie it, because light hitting Ryan Theriot. Or so I thought. The Scrappy Cajun, who had seven home runs before today, hit his first career grand slam to give the Cubs a 6-5 lead. He has matched his HR total from last season and it gave the Cubs a much-needed spark.

The Cubs seemed destined for another lost, but they were able to scratch another couple runs across the plate in the 8th, thanks to a Soto RBI single and Fontenot sacrifice fly.

Even in victory, things weren’t all good for the Cubs. Carlos Marmol had all kinds of trouble after walking the first two hitters he faced, but he was able to get out of it by striking out the side. In the 9th, Kevin Gregg couldn’t sit the Marlins down, but only gave a run.

On the bright side, Derrek Lee, Reed Johnson, Soto, and Fontenot all had two hits. Bradley was able to single once again. The Cubs need to start producing soon, and this looks like a step in the right direction.

This was a game the Cubs really needed to win, but for six innings it looked like the Cubs were headed to another loss before Theriot’s heroics. Hopefully the Cubs will be able to put together a winning streak with Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano pitching the next two days.

2009 Player Previews - Ryan Theriot

Ryan Theriot!

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Editor's note: Colin was due to write this preview today, but he instead chose to leave me high and dry lookin' for a Cubs blogger. Since the subject of this post is a favorite of Colin's, I'll do my best to write in his place everything he would have written. And for the denser reader out there, at least 1% of what I'm about to write is tongue in cheek.

Ryan Theriot will be the MVP of the 2009 Chicago Cubs. Let's face it - he was the unsung hero of the '08 squad, and he'll be back to cause even more damage to Chicago's opponents in 2009.

His defensive skills are dramatically undervalued. And what he does with the bat is nothing short of amazing. He consistently strokes singles and provides a deadly base-stealing threat -- something the Cubs haven't had in what feels like forever.

A lot of people wanted to cut Theriot loose after a mediocre '07 season. In his first full year in the majors, Theriot batted a meak .266 with an OPS of .642. At the time, I'd asked a simple question - would anybody be worried if he managed so much as a 1 exra single every week of the baseball season? The next year Theriot answered my question en force. Yes, EN effin' FORCE. He managed 35 more hits, batted an awesome .307, got on base at a clip of .387, and stole 22 while providing extremely solid defense at short.

So, how will he do in 2009? I think it's fair to say that Theriot is capable of putting up a career year. I'm talking 10-15 homeruns, 70-85 RBI, 40+ steals, a .320 AVG, and an OBP above .400. Not to mention he should finally get the Gold Glove he so justly deserves.

Ryan Theriot. The Cubs are lucky to have him. I know I'm just parroting Colin in saying all of that, but I believe it from the bottom of my heart - the guy is a stud, and - sorry, Ernie! - the best shortstop in the history of the Cubs organization.

Theriot Haters Take Note

Michael Young is asking to be traded.

The so-called "Gold Glove" shortstop has been told (not asked) by Rangers management that he will play 3rd henceforth, in order to give his current position to a 20-year-old defensive whiz.  In a typical display of player entitlement, Young figures that he has already changed positions once for the good of the team (moving in 2004 to short to enable the Rangers to play newly acquired Alfonso Soriano at second, and How YOU Doin'?), and he has had enough, it appears.

Whether you agree with Young's stance against the long-standing ineptitude by his current masters, or whether you think a man in the early stages of a $60MM contract should do what it takes, fact is, he plays shortstop. Fact is, many of us on this here site and elsewhere in Cub Fan Universe believe that our shortstop is in the need of an upgrade, upgraaaade, gimmegimmegimme an upgrade! 

Fact is that the Rangers are pitching poor, as they have always been, and like the Rockies and anyone else that plays in a bandbox, the future success of the Rangers depends on the over-development of their pitching corps. Fact is that we have several pitching prospects of various levels, from the raw to the experienced, available for trade.  And we would have even more if MacFail would ever quit playing with his Tinkertoys long enough to send us Garrett Olson for Felix Pie already.

Fact is that Young, like Jake Peavy, has a no-trade clause and has the right to dictate to the Rangers where he would like to go.  Fact is, the North Side of Chicago is at the moment a Destination of Choice for many players, especially those who would like to play shortstop and see an incumbent with limited range and minimal pop in his bat, who would be better off at second base anyway.

Think about how swell it would be to see Young in the two-hole, and Aaron Miles stuck in a hole with Buffalo Bill handing him down lotion in a basket?  I heart Michael Young, his latest stance aside, and I'm sure you all will tell me what YOU think, which of course is the purpose of this here portal-o-fun.

So, first Pie-for-Olson, then Olson, Hart, and one of the "DeRosa Prospects" for Young?  Maybe two of the DeRosa Prospects, make Nolan Ryan feel like he's pulled a fast one on us?  THIS would make me feel like the DeRosa trade was not in vain.

Of course, there's always the money.  Come On Already, Sam Zell.  SELL THIS EFFIN TEAM ALREADY, YOU WITHERED UP PUPSTICK!!!  You're jackin' around with my mortality, you real-life Mr. Burns wanna-be.  Give it to somebody who wants to win ballgames, and you can go back to doing what you do best, which is altering the size of the page of your newspapers in order to achieve maximum pleasure when you roll one up, rubber band it, then fenestrate yourself with it.

The wheel man

As tempted as I am to write a long, pithy post about the numerous talents of Jake Peavy and why he is worth the first born of every Cubs fan, I thought I would instead address another area of need by the Chicago Cubs - the leadoff hitter, aka The Wheel Man. (Note: the leadoff hitter is not in fact called The Wheel Man. I just made that up. If you see it used elsewhere, they stole it from here.)

We all know that the Cubs do not have a wheel man. They don't have a guy who will lead off a game by working 10 pitches before finally drawing the 4th ball, trotting to first, and then stealing second before the Cubs #2 hitter can smack a soft shot into the outfield porch and drive him home. What they have instead is an uber-rich star slugger, a left fielder with great bat speed who also has the ability to steal bases and prefers to bat leadoff despite being better suited to bat 5th. Phew. Long sentences so far in this one.

The cry to let Fonzie be Fonzie is not only plagiarism, it's also wrong. I don't believe he's as flaky as some think he might be, so treating him with kid gloves is unnecessary. After all, we have now seen Soriano bat leadoff for the Cubs through two post season appearances, and in both cases he appeared lost and inadequate. Coincidentally or not, so did the rest of the Cubs lineup and we the fans had to put up with watching our team get blown out by a collective score of 36 to 12. That's 12 runs in 6 games. Do the math. Wait, on second thought don't, because if you're anything like me it will end in a pit of depression, a drinking binge, and waking up in a seedy Detroit hotel with what appears to be a nude transvestite. The transvestite I could deal with, but Detroit? Oh no, my friends, you do not want to do the math.

Rob has already expressed his views that the Cubs need a Real Leadoff Hitter. He believes that it should be a top off-season priority and has suggested that, for a second winter in a row, Jim Hendry pursue Brian Roberts, who is presently wasting away in Baltimore for a perpetually crappy team (thereby proving that a leadoff hitter alone is not enough). However, I thought I'd put the anal back in baseball analysis and take a closer look at the players we already have. After all, surely the Cubs must have somebody who'd be a good leadoff hitter, right? Let's take a look.

Alfonso Soriano - 443 AB, 29 HR, 75 RBI, 19 SB, 3 CS, .287 AVG, 100 SO, 42 BB, .350 OBP, .894 OPS
In his second season as a Cub, Soriano put up those numbers while batting in the #1 spot of the lineup. Pretend he doesn't have a power game, and 19 steals in 22 tries plus a .287 AVG plus a .350 OBP puts him right in line to be a good leadoff guy. But the fact is this - Soriano is a free swinger. His actual numbers leading off an inning - as opposed to batting #1 in the batting order - are not great.
Leading off an inning: 168 AB, .286 AVG, .318 OBP, 36 SO
Leading off an inning '06-'08: 648 AB, 39 HR, .299 AVG, .335 OBP, 135 SO.

Some people are afraid that the Fonz would be too much of a headcase to succeed elsewhere in the lineup. I disagree. He may be one of those sensitive types who needs to know his jorb in order to feel comfortable, but he'd adjust. Quite frankly, he has expressed a willingness to bat elsewhere in the past, but after a shiz-itty start to the '07 season, the Cubs returned him to his comfort zone. He then had an equally crappy start to the '08 season, which leads me to believe the more likely scenario that he's just a slow starter in cold weather. So, relax already and move on. The Fonz is not the solution, nor should he be a problem if he gets relocated to 5th.

Kosuke Fukudome - 58 AB, 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB, 1 CS, 8 BB, .276 AVG, .373 OBP, .804 OPS
Ah, Fukkie. I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that, back in March, our own Rob predicted that Fukudome would put up exactly the numbers he actually put up. Rob, heed your own advice: When asked who would be the biggest turd of the '08 season, you said "People are gonna say FukU because he is NOT going to hit for a high average in 2008... probably around .250. His OBP will still be over .350, though." (You also predicted he would hit 13 homers, by the way.)

The 'dome did not spend a lot of time batting leadoff, and in the second half he also didn't spend a lot of time hitting the ball. But he is above all else a professional hitter, and I am convinced that he'll have a decent 2009. Considering that he has respectable speed - he could probably do better than 12 steals in 16 tries, and I suspect he will next year - and especially considering that he has epic patience at the plate, then Fukudome might be a sensible in-house leadoff guy. However, I am intentionally ignoring his "lead off inning" numbers, because although he has a better OBP in those situations (.336 to Soriano's .318) he otherwise sucks.
Leading off an inning: 104 AB, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 14 BB, 24 SO, .240 AVG, .336 OBP, .663 OPS

Reed Johnson - 77 AB, 4 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, 2 CS, .234 AVG, .302 OBP, .666 OPS
If I was trying to talk myself into Reed Johnson as a leadoff choice, I promptly talked myself out of it when I looked at that line. However, taking it a step further, in the past 3 seasons as a leadoff hitter Johnson has had 724 AB, and he has a .290 AVG, a .360 OBP, and a .784 OPS. In other words, he's not an unreasonable option.

By the way, his "lead off inning" numbers also sucked last year, but doing the 3 year split thing, Johnson has had 377 at bats leading off an inning, and he's batting .281 with a .342 OBP in that situation. Here's the full splits:
Leading off an inning: 93 AB, 6 2B, 0 HR, 2 BB, 18 SO, .226 AVG, .265 OBP, .555 OPS
Leading off an inning '06-'08: 377 AB, 25 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 19 BB, 71 SO, .281 AVG, .342 OBP, .740 OPS

Ryan Theriot - 68 AB, 3 2B, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 6 BB, 1 SB, 1 CS, .368 AVG, .419 OBP, .831 OPS
I've argued for the past season that Theriot is either a #1 hitter or a #8 hitter. He doesn't have the slugging ability to bat anywhere else in the lineup, and Colin very well might disagree with me even on that premise. Theriot's numbers obviously benefit from limited at bats, but in terms of hitting, getting on base, and stealing, Theriot had a respectable '08. The one concern I'd have with him offensively as a leadoff guy is that he was caught stealing way, way, way too often this past season. His EOBP* was .364 last season, roughly 20 points lower than his OBP of .387.

(*EOBP = Essential On Base Percentage. Basically H+BB-CS divided by AB+BB = EOBP, or the number of times a player was actually a factor on the base paths for his team. It's a stat I invented a few years back that, I swear to Gawd, will someday catch on)

If Theriot can cut down on the basepath blunders, he might be a good choice to bat leadoff. Although, in reality, I believe that like Rich Hill before him, Theriot should be Trade Bait this off season.
Leading off an inning: 129 AB, 5 2B, 1 3B, 18 BB, 20 SO, .287 AVG, .374 OBP, .715 OPS
Leading off an inning '06-'08: 301 AB, 21 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 31 BB, 31 SO, .276 AVG, .343 OBP, .758 OPS

Mark DeRosa - Did Not Bat Leadoff in 2008, nope, not once
Ah, DeRosa, the dark horse. On a team where steals don't matter, DeRosa is a possible leadoff man, although he remains in my mind the best #2 hitter on the Cubs. Just consider even only his career line - .279 AVG, .348 OBP, and he actually was 6 for 6 in steals in '08. If DeRosa returns to the mean and puts up a .350ish OBP next season, he'd still be a fine choice to bat near the top of the lineup. (Sidebar - what's actually most impressive is that DeRo batted 6th last year 243 times and he batted 7th another 150 times, and he still managed to score more than 100 runs for the Cubs. Christ, that was a Complete Offense.)

Also, any way you cut it, DeRosa is one of the best when it comes to actually batting first in any inning. I can't believe this guy isn't batting second in the lineup at the very least.
Lead off an inning:
115 AB, 9 2B, 5 HR, 11 BB, 14 SO, .330 AVG, .394 OBP, .933 OPS
Lead off an inning '06-'08: 331 AB, 28 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 34 BB, 54 SO, .299 AVG, .370 OBP, .820 OPS

And now, just for crits and grins, let's take a look at Rob's Coveted:

Brian Roberts - 609 AB, 51 2B, 8 3B, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 82 BB, 104 SO, 40 SB, 10 CS, .297 AVG, .379 OBP, .831 OPS
Roberts is clearly a pro when it comes to this gig. In all ways, he's better than any Cub out there - but how much better? If I guessed, I'd say that were Colin to crunch the numbers, Roberts might account for a win difference of perhaps 2 or 3 games if the Cubs shuffled their lineup to bat Roberts leadoff.

But the place where Roberts might make a difference is when those 2 or 3 games would count the most - the DS, the CS, and the WS. There are so many little factors that go into playoff success, and I truly believe that the best team rarely wins. It often has a lot to do with luck, and who's hot. Roberts could easily enter the NLDS and tank. Soriano could enter the NLDS and light the park on fire with his bat. We really never know, but any advantage gets put under a microscope in October, and Roberts would be a good one to have. Although I would argue that, realistically, the Cubs do have a few options to bat leadoff who could get the job done, and perhaps their best option would be to find a more potent #3 hitter/RFer. Just a thought, assuming they can't do both.
Lead off an inning: 256 AB, 22 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 26 BB, 40 SO, .301 AVG, .365 OBP, .834 OPS
Lead off an inning '06-'08: 728 AB, 58 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 79 BB, 99 SO, .291 AVG, .361 OBP, .796 OPS

Incidentally, over the past 3 seasons leading off an inning, I would argue that the only difference between Roberts and DeRosa is pure speed. DeRo looks surprisingly comparable to Roberts otherwise.

So, who will be the Cubs wheel man? It's a tough call. If the team plays it in-house, the easy prediction is Theriot or Fukudome if he regains his stroke. If the team plays the free agent market and ponies up the cash, the best option may be Furcal. But if the Cubs are looking for their best option for scoring runs in the playoffs, then they need to reshuffle their lineup and pursue another big stick to play right field. A pure leadoff man of Robertsesque quality would be great - great - to have, but this is where I disagree with the Sloth. As great as it would be, it's probably not the end-all be-all move the Cubs can make.

A friendly wager

Over the past 28 days - a number conveniently chosen because Baseball Reference lists it on the splits page - has hit, or really has not hit, .149/.233/.324. That's called "slugging Ryan Theriot's batting average," folks. Even Ryan Theriot does better than that.

This has officially freaked out a segment of the Cubs fanbase. People are also freaking out about Derrek Lee again - even though I asked them not to - because he's hitting .143/.143/.190 since the All-Star Break. (Incidently, Lee's overall seasonal line improved since I wrote that post.)

I'm going to, admittedly, go out on a slight limb here. This is a wager that is open to all other Cubs blogers, including the other Riders. (And if any, say, Brewers or Reds bloggers are interested in the bet, that'd be fine, too. Open to Cubs beat writers, too!)

I have Lee projected at .306/.382/.521 for the rest of the season, or a wOBA of .390. Similarly, Ramirez is projected to hit .288/.368/.523, wOBA of .384. (I'm using the Marcels, not the ZiPS, which in this case makes almost no difference at all.)

The bet, as it stands right now, is that over the next 30 days - so between tonight's game and the game against the Nationals on August 23rd - Aramis Ramirez will hit within one standard deviation of his projected wOBA or above. In order for the bet to to stand, Ramirez has to get at least 80 plate appearances. (Ramirez is on pace for 118 PAs over the next 30 games.) If Ramirez doesn't get 80 PAs during that time period, the bet shifts to Lee and his projected wOBA (within one standard deviation). wOBA is to be calculated using the weights published on Tango's website, and stats used to calculate wOBA for the time period will be from baseball-reference.com

The stakes are as follows - and are only in play if another blogger puts up a matching bet: if Ramirez (or, as a fallback, Lee) fails to do so, I will write a sonnet extolling the virtues of Ryan Theriot as a shortstop, baseball player and human being, to be published on Goat Riders of the Apocalypse no later than September 1st.

Please comment or e-mail me no later than the commencement of the Cubs-Marlins game tomorrow night if you want to be involved in this. Remember - there will be no Ryan Theriot sonnet if somebody doesn't match the bet.

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.

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