Editor's note: As the countdown continues toward the April 6 opener for the Cubs, Daily Herald Sports Writer Bruce Miles will offer his analysis of each position on the team and the key issues facing the club this season.
Q. Why is Ryan Theriot so unpopular with the stats guys?
Miles: My stats friends, and I have a lot of them, don't seem to like "scrappy" guys, and they get sick of media types lauding "scrappy" and "gritty" players, such as Theriot.
Theriot had an OBP of .387 last year. That was best among Cubs everyday players, and it shattered the projections of the respected folk at places like Baseball Prospectus.
But any day now, a lot of stats people expect it to all come crashing down on Theriot. They also bemoan the fact that he provides virtually no extra-base hitting. Many observers also don't like his lack of defensive range and his throwing arm. But he somehow finds a way to get it done, and Lou loves him.
Q. The Cubs obviously see something different from him than the stats guys, right?
Miles: Well, it took them awhile. They fooled with making him a switch hitter in the minors, and that didn't work. Even Lou thought Theriot was a better second baseman (and he may be) when he got here.
But when Lou quickly discovered that Cesar Izturis couldn't play, he asked Theriot if he could play short, and the rest has been history.
Q. Three years from now will Theriot be entrenched as the starting shortstop or will he be long gone?
Miles: I've learned not to count this kid out. Baseball Prospectus projects his OBP to fall to a still-respectable .359 this year, but BP is surprisingly kind to him over the next few years.
I can see him staking claim to shortstop over the next three years until Theriot-clone Darwin Barney is ready to come up from the minors and confound the stats people all over again.
Q. There has been talk of a little more of a rotation at short and second. How do you see things shaking out with Aaron Miles in the mix?
Miles: A lot of people seem to think Miles will "compete" directly with Mike Fontenot at second, but I expect the two to share time there with Miles seeing a good number of games at short when Theriot needs a rest. Fontenot also may slide over from time to time. Lou was better last year at giving Theriot a breather from time to time, and it paid off.
Q. Some say Theriot's an ideal leadoff or second hitter. Others say he should be a bottom of the order guy. What do you think?
Miles: Yes. And that's no cop-out answer.
Just as Lou was pretty good at resting Theriot last year, he also had a good feel as to when to move him down to the eighth spot. That seemed to take some of the pressure off Theriot and rejuvenate him when he needed it.
He's fine as a No. 2 hitter, but he can handle the leadoff spot now and then. His biggest problem is that he gets caught stealing too much to make the reward worth the risk. I'd keep him batting second.
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