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.
Let's do our normal FJM due diligence here. (I'm going to write it as if it is a Playbill bio from a Broadway show.)
Jacque Jones (mediocre outfielder) is a mediocre outfielder for the Chicago Cubs. In 2007, at the age of 32, he went .285/.335/.400 (OPS+ of 87), with a below-league-average EqA of .255. In 453 at bats, Jones hit an astonishing five home runs, and walked 34 times, which is very not good for an outfielder. Jones has previously appeared in Equus, Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape, and the 1999-2005 Minnesota Twins, for which he won no prestigious awards.Assuming the blank checks are as elusive for the Cubs this winter as a done deal on the sale of the team -- which assumes no A-Rod sweepstakes and no $15 million free agents of any ilk -- the top of the Cubs' offseason list of priorities in 2008 becomes pretty simple.
No. 1 on that list: Don't trade Jacque Jones.
That strikes me as the stage name a gay porn star might choose. Okay. Now back to the article, if you're still somehow reading this.
Heavily criticized, regularly booed and on the trading block for much of his two seasons with the Cubs,
Sign him! Lock him up!
the outfielder who nearly was traded to the Florida Marlins in June should be considered a must-keep player going into next season.
Actual "Must-Keep" Players on the Cubs:
That's it, I think.
The most immediate reason is the Cubs don't have a better center-field option going into next season -- again, assuming they won't be in the market for high-priced free agents such as Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand or Andruw Jones.
Why wouldn't they be? Jones makes like $5.something next year. Someone will take him.
Felix Pie? Forget it. He has speed and a strong arm, but he's not a major-league hitter, and it's questionable whether he ever will be. In fact, the Cubs would be better off trading Pie now, while his perceived value is high enough to get serious return for him. It was obvious by the end of the season -- and after a .216 batting average during his three shots at the starting center-field job -- that manager Lou Piniella isn't convinced the reality matches the hype with Pie.
Pie is 22 and has a total of 177 AB in his life. Now is probably not the time to give up on him. In 1952, at the age of 21, Willie Mays had 127 AB and hit .236. Am I saying Felix Pie will turn out to be as good as Willie Mays? Yes. In fact, I am guaranteeing it. If Felix Pie does not turn out to be as good as Willie Mays, I will give everyone who reads this blog one hundred dollars.
Keep Pie if you want. Give him a shot in center next spring, even. But Jones had better be around to take over when it doesn't work.
You are extremely certain that Felix Pie is going to fail, considering that the man has had 177 AB and is 22. In 1967, Reggie Jackson was 21 and had 118 AB. He hit .178/.269/.305. Now, am I saying that Felix Pie will end up being as good as Reggie Jackson? Absolutely. In fact, if Felix Pie retires with fewer home runs than Reggie's 563, I will get a tattoo of Joe Morgan's face over my entire face and I will name my first son Timothy McCarver Is Tremendous and I will give everyone who reads this blog one hundred thousand dollars. Book it.
And that's just the small-picture, immediate reason for keeping Jones in the final season of his contract, which calls for him to made a modest $5 million in 2008.
The bigger reason is that he's one of the few guys on the roster -- particularly among the veterans -- who exemplifies the culture change this team talks about making.
Just quickly to reiterate: the small reason to keep him is that he's like "eh" at baseball. The big reason to keep him is: he exemplifies the culture change this team talks about making. Which equates to wins: nebulously.
Jones' critics can scoff all they want, but as bad as he might look at times on a throw from the outfield or chasing an outside pitch in the dirt, he plays the game the way the Arizona Diamondbacks do.
Nowitzki: Mark, listen. Hear me out. Yes, he stinks. He can't throw, he can't hit, and if you throw him a breaking pitch he swings with his eyes closed like a 4th-grade girl playing tee-ball in gym who just wants to strike out so she can go talk to her friends. But: Jacque Jones plays like a D-Back!
Cuban: You're fired.
Nowitzki: Fine. I don't really even like this game anyway. (grabs basketball; heads to door)
Cuban: No -- you're fired from the Mavs. Because you're too valuable as an assistant GM! Sign Jacque Jones to a lifetime deal! And tell him to being that Diamondbacks mentality to our team! I am assuming it was their mentality and not luck that led to their success!
Nowitzki: (hits fadeaway three)
And the success he has had -- and that his teams have had during his career -- has as much do with that approach as the D-backs' approach had in sweeping the Cubs out of the playoffs.
Take note, people who don't know how to process information or separate cause and effect:
Jacque Jones -- responsible for Twins' and Cubs' recent success
General Mentality of Diamondbacks, Which Bears Some Kind of Similarity to Jacque Jones' Mentality -- responsible for Diamondbacks' recent success
No. 1, the guy can hit in the major leagues.
5% worse than the average baseball player last year.
Jones strikes out a lot, but he also is a career .280 hitter -- .285 this season, including a team-leading .332 average after the All-Star break. Strikeouts aren't ideal, but they don't keep you from winning consistently or from winning in the playoffs. The D-backs struck out more than the Cubs during the season, then struck out an astounding 35 times in three games and still swept the Cubs.
Yes, strikeouts do not keep you from winning consistently. That is correct. If you are Ryan Howard or Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez and you are walking a lot and hitting a lot, striking out isn't a big deal at all. But if you are Jacque Jones, and your career K/BB ratio is more than 3:1, and you hit for very little power, then you are not a very valuable hitter.
Jones also can hit for power. His career-low five homers in 2007 were an aberration that might have been caused as much by his early-season turmoil as anything.
Jones can play the guitar. The fact that we just watched him try to play the guitar for six months and he clearly cannot should be attributed to psychological factors.
Although he probably won't admit it, clubhouse insiders said Jones lost more than 10 pounds during that stressful period when the Cubs benched him, traded him, then called off the trade, and it's not a reach to think that affected his power when he started hitting again in July.
Either way, what he went through should make him that much better and stronger entering next season (not to mention it's a contract year).
Jones was bad last year at age 32. He should be much better this year, at age 33.
But this is the biggest reason to keep Jones: The next time he takes a play off will be the first. Criticize him for his arm or for some of the baserunning gaffes that got him booed in 2006,
In other words, criticize him for being bad at baseball...
but he runs out every grounder and pop-up,
A trait he shares with nearly every major- and minor- and Babe Ruth- and Little League baseball payer in the world.
and even his harshest critics must admit he's the rare outfielder on this team willing to go into the ivy to catch a ball.
For what it's worth -- and as always we should point out that it might not be worth all that much -- BP has Jones as a decent fielder (46 FRAA career). Also, cold hard stats have him as a guy with a career .329 OBP.
The Cubs have players making three times his salary who give up on catchable fly balls, who make early U-turns to the dugout on popups (if they get 30 feet out of the box at all), who too often gaze at balls off the wall and who spend too much time getting angry when their immense talent fails that they forget to finish the play or keep their head in the rest of the inning.
I'm looking at you, Jason Kendall. Yes, your immense talent and hitting prowess amazes critics and children alike, but that does not entitle you to phone it in. (I assume he's actually talking about Ramirez or Soriano, to which I can only reply: those guys are way better than Jacque Jones.)
That's far more damaging to a team's chances of winning than an honest, aggressive effort by a good player that falls short.
Sorry, I don't think that's true. I'll take the slacker weirdo who hits home runs over the earnest hustler who does not.
Just ask anybody who has played with A.J. Pierzynski, whose personality issues never have caused anybody to question his effort or fire on the field -- and who happens to come from the same heralded Minnesota Twins organization as Jones.
This is terrible journalism. What does Pierzynski have to do with the Jones/anti-Jones binary system you have been describing? The point you were making was: I would rather have a guy who tries hard all the time and isn't very good at baseball, than a guy who is great at baseball but half-asses it sometimes. Then you cited Pierzynski. Pierzynski, by all accounts, is a complete dick who is sort of fine at baseball, and seems to try all the time. It's not the same thing. And the fact that they both played for the Twins is: immaterial.
If the Cubs want to be competitive again next season and want that culture change to continue moving in the right direction, then they will start by --
Signing ARod? Going after Johan? Luring Posada away from the Yankees? Going after Mike Lowell?
-- keeping Jones.
Ah. Of course. Lock up the 33 year-old OF with the career 100 OPS+.
A little more than a year ago, the [Cardinals] were on an unconscious roll toward an unlikely World Series title and this ballpark was alive with championship noises.
No. A little over a year ago, the Cards were finishing up a shitty 12-16 September and limping into the playoffs.
Down in Miami, the first-place (NL Central) Cubs are battling all sorts of ghosts, curses and have been swept by the suddenly feisty Marlins, and because they are the Cubs, we are almost positive that some cruel and unusual punishment will befall Cubdom once again. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but over the next three days, the sky will fall and there will be a darned little blue bear smashed on the pavement.
Cubs won tonight, 6-0. 2.5 game lead with two to play as I type this.
This is why sports are fun. This is why the wild card is one thing Bud Selig got right. I love the wild card. I love the idea that seven teams cannot fit into four NL slots. I love that it’s a mad scramble and it’s impossible to tell how it will all end.
Except that you "know" that the Cubs will collapse, because they are the victims of a curse.
Twice a day — maybe more — Lou Pinella, the Cubs manager, keeps telling anyone who will listen that his team will not fall victim once again to a century’s worth of bad fortune. He swears the Cubs will hold on to their division lead. He swears that the long-suffering Cubs fans will not add another horrid chapter to a 99-year-old legacy of torment and heartache.
“There is no curse,” Piniella said before Tuesday’s game.
The Cubs then went out and lost a two-hitter to the worst team in the National League, 4-2.
Only explanation for a 4-2 loss: supernatural forces.
Time is running out, and if I was a betting man,
"Were." Hypothetical subjunctive, man. Come on.
here’s what I’d put my money on:
The Mets will hold to their division lead.
Mets lost today. Phillies won. Mets are a game out.
The Cubs will not. There is a curse. There is a curse.
Again, Cubs won. I am watching the Brewers lose to San Diego right now. That will mean a three game lead for the Cubs with two to play. That will mean a division win for the Cubs. Unless...........the curse should strike! And add more games!!!!
Philadelphia will find its way into the playoffs, and Charlie Manuel will save his job and win manager of the year.
Yes. They will probably win their division, beating those selfsame Mets you said would not collapse.
The Brewers win the NL Central because they finish the season at home, where they are 20 games above .500.
The Brewers have lost the NL Central.
The Colorado Rockies will win the NL West, knocking off first-place Arizona with the season-closing series in Denver this weekend.
Colorado has lost the NL West. You didn't make these bets, did you?
A year ago, the last team you could have imagined won the World Series. The Cardinals finished the regular season with a paltry 83 victories. They lost 10 of their last 14 games, and had a seven-game losing streak that stretched into the game’s final week.
You know, Bryan Burwell, a writer I very much admire once said this about the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals: "A little more than a year ago, the [Cardinals] were on an unconscious roll toward an unlikely World Series title and this ballpark was alive with championship noises." You know who that writer was? It was you, like five seconds ago. Please jibe the sentence you just wrote with the one you wrote five seconds ago.
Twelve months later, the mad rush toward October baseball is back in full affect. It doesn’t matter what we think. It doesn’t matter what insurmountable odds are piled up against these players. Miracles can happen and usually do.
Except for the Cubs.
There is a curse. There really is.
No, there is not. There is no such things as curses. Just as there is no such thing as hobgoblins, wood sprites, Poseidons, Giant Aardwolves, Godzillas, orcs, teeth fairies, psychics, daemons, or true Yankees.
The Cubs just won the Central. The curse is reversed!!!!!!!
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