With this series, I want to take a look back at the major players on the 2008 team and evaluate what we got from them this past year. Let’s start off with everyone’s favorite, Ryan Theriot

What They Said before the season:

Ron Shandler – “Scrappy player had a very strong first full MLB season. Nice base skill growth in 2H. The power he showed late in ’06 turned out to be a fluke, but the speed is here to stay. Good bet for 30+ SB.

My Thoughts – The little engine that could is definitely a fan favorite, but fan love doesn’t assure success in the Major Leagues. Theriot flew under the radar last year in part because many felt he was misused in the lineup in the number two hole. The leadoff role seemed to be his best spot in the order, with a .300 average and a 100 OPS+. The fans feel he can handle that role, but whether Lou Piniella agrees is another story. Theriot should be slated for the starting SS job out of spring training, but could be on a short leash if he struggles and Ronny Cedeno shows some success at the ML level.

This will anger a great deal of Cub fans, but by far the most overrated player on the team last season was Theriot. After bursting onto the scene in 2006 with sparkling offensive production to the tune of .328 / .412 / .522 and an OPS+ of 135, Theriot regressed significantly in the full time role posting .266 / .326 / .346 and an OPS+ of just 72. Very few shortstops were more inept offensively than Theriot, despite his Charlie Hustle type attitude toward playing the game. There is no question he plays hard and has a heart the size of Texas. Unfortunately, most fans fail to look at the numbers before affixing their man crushes on him.

Projections vs. Actual

Best Games / Worst Games

April 7 – vs. Pittsburgh – (WPA .461) – Comes into the game in the 9th inning to replace Michael Wuertz and play SS with the score tied at 8-8. Walks to leadoff the 10th and proceeds to steal second in front of Soriano. Went to third on Daryle Ward reaching via an error, but is stranded when Derrek Lee and Aramis both strike out to end the inning. In the top of the 12th, with the score still tied at 8, Theriot again leads off with a walk and steals second. Soriano causes hell to freeze over when he walks and both advance to scoring position on a wild pitch to Felix Pie.Theriot would go on to score on a sac fly by Ramirez and the Cubs win 10-8. (Box Score)

April 24 – vs. Colorado (WPA -.368) – Grounds into a double play in the 1st inning. Grounds into an out to the shortstop in the 3rd. Strikes out swinging in the 6th. With runners on first and third with 1 out in the 8th, lines into a double play to end the inning. Commits an error in the 8th. Cubs lose 4-2. (Box Score)

Where he ranks at his position among 17 MLB qualifiers

Batting Average (.307) – 2nd

On Base % (.387) – 2nd

Slugging % (.359) – 15th

OPS (.745) – 10th

Stolen Bases (22) – 4th

Runs Created (81.7) – 11th

BB/K Ratio (1.26) – 1st

Fielding % (.975) – 10th

Range Factor (3.90) – 17th

Zone Rating (.818) – 11th

VORP (27.3) – 10th

Projected Role for 2009

My guess is that, barring some sort of blockbuster trade, Theriot will remain in tact as the starting shortstop next year. There are mixed camps on that fact, but the fact remains that, looking at the numbers, it could be a lot worse. I don’t think 2008 was a career year. It’s important to remember that he’s still young and improving his game. If he can begin to develop a bit more gap potential, he instantly goes from the average shortstop pool to the above average pool. He’s never going to be an elite guy in the middle of the lineup, but he can be valuable in the 2nd spot of the order and, I believe, even the leadoff spot.

Question(s) for Discussion

    Killer Bean Forever trailer

  • Do you feel my claim that Theriot’s 2008 was not going to be his career year is correct?
  • Will he continue to improve his game?
  • Do the Cubs need to be looking to improve at the SS position for 2009?
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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail