Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Monday, February 11, 2008


Why, God, Why articles like this continue to be written?

Baseball is a contact sport with shortstop Ryan Theriot.

The 28-year-old Cub, coming off his first full season in the majors, seldom strikes out (50 in 537 at-bats). That makes him an ideal No. 2 hitter, but he's versatile enough to lead off, having batted .300 in that role last season.

What is so hard about identifying the thing that makes a good lead-off hitter? OBP, man. OBP. That's it, really. That's the #1 thing. Speed is great. Speed is definitely #2. But if you're Juan Pierre, and you're super speedy, but you make more outs than anyone else in the entire game of baseball, you are not an ideal lead-off man. (As now several different teams have realized.) You may be an occasionally awesome lead-off man, when you bunt for a hit and steal second and move to third on a 4-3 and come home on a sac fly. But the 500 times you pop up, ground out, or are easily thrown out trying to bunt your way on make you an unideal lead-off man.

(#3 most important quality is guts, followed by grit, then fearlessness at #5, then IsoP.)

High-energy, low-key ... that describes Theriot, who carried the Cubs in July with a .348 average. His ability to manufacture runs endears him to manager Lou Piniella, who understands the importance of speed when the winds are blowing in at Wrigley Field.

I am going to do a Michael Moore kind of documentary where I talk about how the run manufacturing plant in my hometown was shut down, and all of these hard-working run manufacturers have been put out of work, and I'm going to take a camera crew and march into Billy Beane's office and demand to know why instituting his newfangled cost-saving measures means that the run manufacturing plant had to get shut down, putting all these salt of the earth run manufacturers out on the street. And he'll say, "There is no such thing as a 'run manufacturing plant.' And the phrase 'manufacture runs' is meaningless." Then we'll both turn to the camera and stare at it for like 45 excruciating minutes without moving. Then the screen will flash a giant bleeding skull for 1/8th of a second. Then men in hazmat suits will storm the theater and spray people down with an iridescent gas, while you hear a robotic voice yell "DISPERSE. DISPERSE." It will be like a cross between "Roger and Me" and "The Joke."

Also, while "High-energy, low-key" may be perfectly good ways to describe Ryan Theriot, I would also suggest describing him as "owning a 72 OPS+ last year" and "a guy who hit .266/.326/.346 in his first full season" and "a guy who could only manage .271/.355/.337 in his entire minor league career" and thus "probably not an ideal top-of-the-order guy."

"With more speed we could have scored four or five runs in our last game in Chicago," he said, referring to the final loss to Arizona in last year's playoff.

With more hits you could have won too. Or with better pitching. And P.S., after losing the first two games, you were down 2-0 in game 3 before anyone could blink. (And after a lead-off walk to Soriano in the bottom of the first, Mr. Ideal #2 Hitter here went 4-6-3. [Yes, it's a small sample size. He started it.])

Power is the missing link in Theriot's hitting approach. His .266 report card was spruced up with just three home runs. So pencil him in as a table-setter.

Make sure the eraser is in good shape, though, because a guy with a .326 OBP will be setting fewer tables than a guy who hates setting tables at a table-setting convention. Ohhhhhhhhhh! What a burn!

"It's what I've always done," Theriot says. "My numbers aren't going to jump out at you."

Your .326 OBP jumped out at me, faster than an awesome jumping frog hopped up on jumping beans on a trampoline at a frog-jumping convention. Noooo he didn't!!!!!!!

Shortstops who lack power are vulnerable. Knowing that, Theriot must be wary of infield predators.

"You have to keep that sense of urgency about you," he says. "There's always somebody behind you, trying to take away your job."

His competition will come from Ron Cedeno, a talented athlete who was a bust in 2007 but helped the Aragua Tigres win their second straight Venezuelan Winter League title with 11 RBI in the playoffs.

Ronny Cedeno is 25 and has a career .329 OBP in the minor leagues (and a .277 in his limited MLB time). He ain't taking anybody's anything away from anyone.*

If Theriot can hang on he would be the fifth different shortstop starting on opening day for the Cubs since 2004. Alex Gonzalez, Nomar Garciaparra, Cedeno and Cesar Itzuris preceded him.

Seems like Ryan should fit right in.

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posted by Unknown  # 7:57 PM

How on earth has it taken you this long to make a reference to the Jest on this blog?
It's not the first, Murbles.
* As reader Jeffrey points out, Cedeno did make a huge leap in OBP (and other things) when he went from AA to AAA in 2005. But whether he's the guy who tore up the PCL or the guy who did a lot of sub-.300 OBPing in A-ball remains to be seen.
And then Dan adds something we thought we remembered but were too lazy to look up:

Just so you know, everyone tears up the PCL. It's by far the best hitting environment in the minor leagues. Bubba Crosby hit .361/.410/.635 while there in 2003. If he can hit there, anyone can.
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