Why "The Riot" Is Best Cubs Can Get
I have been reading a lot about the Cubs this off-season. To my surprise, there are a lot of people who want a different shortstop in Chicago. I myself am a fan of "The Riot" for many reasons.
The first reason is his hustle. He will get dirty and in many ways reminds me of another shortstop I like, David Eckstein. What Theriot lacks, he makes up for in other areas.
Now, when it comes to defense, Ryan isn't Omar Vizquel or Ozzie Smith, but he isn't terrible either. While he won't make the great play, he won't normally make the bad one either.
When it comes to making errors, Theriot is right around average, with 14 in 2008. There are 12 shortstops in the league that made more than 14. Only eight shortstops with less than 14 miscues played in at least 100 games.
Then, there are double plays. Theriot isn't going to turn them at the rate of say, Michael Young in Texas, but he does normally get the lead runner. It would be nice to turn more, especially to make up for Derrek Lee's propensity to hit into them, but this is a problem the Cubs have at third and second also.
So all in all, Theriot isn't a great defender, but he is not a bad one at all. As he matures his fielding percentage may get better, though his range will probably never be great.
When it comes to offense, to many people's disbelief, "The Riot" makes up for what he lacks as a defender. I have heard it all off-season. Theriot isn't "that" good of a hitter. Well, quite frankly, when it comes to shortstops, he is.
He ranks among the top five in five different offensive categories among MLB shortstops. He comes in third in batting average for shortstops with more than 400 at-bats, checking in with a .307 mark behind the Royals' Mike Avilies (.325) and the Nationals' Christian Guzman (.316).
When it comes to on-base percentage, only the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez ranks higher with a .400 to Theriot's .387. This is a very important statistic on a Cubs team that has, since the beginning of 2008, found itself as an OBP type of team. Ramirez is also the only player that ranks ahead of Theriot's 73 walks, earning 92 free passes in 2008.
Theriot is a bit far back in the pack when it comes to steals, with his 22 swipes ranking fifth behind the Mets' Jose Reyes (56), Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins (47), Ramirez (35) and St. Louis' Cesar Izturis (24). The biggest negative here is that Theriot is only successful about two-thirds of the time, tallying those 22 steals in 35 attempts. This is one thing that I think he will improve on (percentage-wise) as he matures at the big league level.
A big positive is that Theriot does not strike out very much. Exactly one in every 10 at-bats (58 K's in 580 AB). Only five players struck out less; Guzman (57 in 579 AB), Rollins (55 in 556), Yuniesky Betancourt (42 in 559), Izturis (26 in 414) and Jeff Keppinger (24 in 459).
Out of all these players, only one has a better batting average (Christian Guzman) and the next closest (Betancourt at .279) comes in .028 behind him. The disparity shows even more when you compare on-base percentages, where Theriot is the run-away leader: Theriot is .038 ahead of Rollins, who comes in with a .349 OBP.
The biggest problem with Theriot's offense is the lack of extra-base hits. While he has speed, he just hasn't developed gap power, but could with expierence. In 2008, he only had 24 extra-base hits. He had 19 doubles, four triples and one home run. In this aspect he ranks behind most all other shortstops.
So while Ryan "The Riot" Theriot is an average defender and below average when it comes to slugging percentage, he is a very valuable shortstop, especially for the Cubs.
Looking at the shortstops that ranked ahead of him in "important" categories, not one is available or more valuable than Theriot. Mike Avilies will most likely be a mainstay in Kansas City for a long time. Christian Guzman and Cesar Izturiz are less valuable. There is no way the Cubs could bring in Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins.
Theriot could also show much improvement in 2009. Back in 2007 he hit for more power, with 30 doubles and three home runs. He made a conscious effort in 2008 to raise his batting average and on base percentage, meeting with great success. In 2007 he hit .266 with a .326 on base percentage. He raised his batting average to .307 and OBP to .387 in one season.
Looking at players that are better statistically, along with being available, I can not find any that would be a better fit for these Cubs.