MESA, Ariz. - Ryan Theriot has finally earned a tip of the baseball cap from some of the more respected names in the statistical analysis community.
Until breaking out last season with a .307 batting average and .387 on-base percentage, Theriot was derided as not much more than a utility infielder who would never provide much offense.
The reality changed last year, as did some of the perception.
Witness this from Baseball Prospectus, perhaps the leader in baseball's number-crunching world:
"It's easy to cherry-pick things to fret about - Theriot doesn't run as well as you might wish, and he presents a bit of a problem hitting second, since he hits so many grounders that twin killings are unavoidable... Despite those sorts of nagging concerns, though, it's important to focus on how, (David) Eckstein-like, he made himself into a playable shortstop, and his improved patience makes him an offensive asset at a position where too many teams have punted getting anything. It isn't going to be a long and brilliant career, but for a guy who wasn't expected to necessarily make it as a utility type, you've come a long way, baby."
Around the Cubs clubhouse, author John Dewan's book, "The Fielding Bible," has been getting a lot of pass-around readership. Theriot comes out as a "plus" player on runs saved, earning a Plus-5.
The narrative also is kind to Theriot.
"Theriot has strong range up the middle and good hands, but he has occasional trouble when he backs up on groundballs instead of attacking them," the author states. "His arm is an asset when turning two or completing a tough play. He is tremendous on any kind of ball hit in the air, both line drives and pop-ups... A favorite of veterans and rookies alike, Theriot brings a steady glove to the Cubs infield."