Friday, September 4, 2009

Ryan Theriot Really Struggles at Baseball

For all the hatred Cubs fans spew at Milton Bradley, Carlos Zambrano, and Alfonso Soriano it makes sense that most have missed a disturbing trend on happening at shortstop. See Ryan Theriot's power surge in May has turned him into a bad baseball player. 

Theriot's main strength on the baseball field is his ability to hit the ball the other way and get on-base. Some have confused that with skills fit for a leadoff hitter, really they are skills of an eighth hitter, but that isn't the point here. Sometime in May Lou Pinella told Theriot that sometimes with runners on base he should look into pulling the ball and hitting into a gap or perhaps out of the park. Theriot then hit six homers in a short period of time and many thought he had made a nice change in his hitting. Theriot slugging a bit more couldn't hurt as long as he maintained his other skills.

The problem is Theriot stopped hitting the ball the other way and stopped taking as many walks. He became more aggressive at the plate and with that had a number of strikeouts. In 2008 Theriot walked 73 times and struck out only 58. This season he's only walked 35 times, yet his strikeouts are up to 79. His on-base percentage has dropped 46 points despite only having a 16 point drop in batting average. His 40 point rise in slugging is hardly beneficial when you consider that most of that came from a two-week binge at Wrigley Field. 

To make this problem worse Lou insists on making Theriot his leadoff hitter everyday, resulting in the same one or two pitch at-bats that Soriano was providing. Considering the fact that Theriot is barely a stolen base threat (16 steals all season) and isn't getting on-base very much something needs to give here. His second half OPS of .642 sure isn't helping the team, and when you consider that his defense is likely to kill Derrek Lee one day I don't see what Theriot does that's good.

As long as Lou is the Cubs manager Theriot is going to be the starting shortstop, I just wish he would start at the bottom of the order. Taking Fukudome out of the leadoff spot isn't doing the team any good when he is replaced by Theriot. Might as well let Soriano go back to leading off. 

The other part of Theriot's decline is a perceived tiredness (not a word I don't think) or Theriot. We all know in 2007 he fell off the map in September putting up a .520 OPS over the final month. It was because Theriot wasn't prepared for the extra month the major league season has over the minor league one. That didn't seem to be an issue in 2008, but I can't help but think that it's happening again. Lazy at-bats that result in weak popups make me think Ryan is worn out. Part of that is probably because there wasn't a real backup shortstop until yesterday (Andres Blanco started right away), but it is certainly something I will pay attention to in the final month. 

No comments:

Post a Comment