As the folks in Mesa have been reporting most of the week, Ryan Theriot, not Starlin Castro, gets the start in today's Cactus League opener against the A's at HoHoKam. Maybe Lou felt he had jumped the gun a little bit when he talked of leading off phenom Castro to start the exhibition season. So maybe as a show of respect to Theriot, he put the incumbent in the starting lineup.
Anyway, the Theriot-Castro situation is going to be a fun one to watch.
Theriot seems to elicit a range of emotion in Cubdom. His OBP dropped from .387 in 2008 to .343 in 2009. His ISO, after being well into the .100s during his little "power surge," early last year, settled at .085, a slight improvement over his ISO of .052 of '08.
I get a kick out of some of the Theriot talk. If you talk of him being "gritty" and a "gamer," you get laughed at. However, some of the stats-oriented people like to ignore the numbers when it comes to Theriot's defense, which grades out in several measures better than what the eye might lead some people to believe. His UZR (ultimate zone rating) of 7.7 last year was seventh among shortstops behind leader Jack Wilson (14) and such notables as Cesar Izturis (10.8) and Rafael Furcal (8). Other sites and publications also give Theriot positive grades as a fielder.
In one of my final days in Mesa this spring, I tried to get Theriot to talk about being "sold short." I'm not sure he got the question, so I rephrased it in terms of being told he "couldn't do this and couldn't do that," as opposed to what he could do. He went back and forth on his answer.
"I've been hearing that my whole life," he said. "Really, honestly, I'm sure I'm not the only one who could tell you that. Probably, every one of you guys have heard that at one point, where somebody says, 'You can't, you can't, you can't.' The question is, 'How do you respond to that?' I haven't heard that. Nobody's every come up to me and said, 'You can't' since I've been up here, and there's a reason for that, and that's because I have."
That was in line with his comments of the previous week, when he said that Castro was "going to have to come and get it."
"It's always going to be that way," he said last week of feeling pressure from Castro. "There's always going to be somebody that's on your heels. I think that's good. That's good for competition and keeps everybody working hard. You can't get complacent and relaxed and sit back. I think it's good for everybody."
Lou was on the Waddle and Silvy show today on WMVP 1000-AM in Chicago today. He told the hosts about Castro:
"Well, you know, spring training, these games will tell a lot. Drills that he's done, if you were to look at him and evaluate him closely on that, you wouldn't be able to tell he's 19 years old. He's confident, he enjoys playing. The question is spring training games will give us a clue on that, and I think this man in a year or so will really be able to challenge the shortstop position. I tell you, the good ones come early _ age is not a factor. I don't buy the theory if you bring a kid up too early, you set him back. Sometimes, the good ones need to be sent back. Then when they work on the things they need to work on, they come back a better player and are here to stay.
"I had a similar type player, Alex Rodriguez, we sent him back a couple times and he came back and is the superstar that he is today. Now I'm not comparing Castro to A-Rod, but it's jus an example."
Tom Waddle asked Lou if the shortstop job is Theriot's to lose if Castro isn't ready.
"No question, no question," Lou said. "Ryan's an excellent ballplayer and I mean, look, he plays with a lot of enthusiasm and gets on base and he's really improved at the shortstop position. He's going to be our leadoff hitter, and I really like Ryan a lot."
Here are some other offensive comparisons with Theriot from 2008 to 2009:
Line-drive percentage: 23.2
Groundball percentage: 56.6
Flyball percentage: 20.2
BB/K ratio: 1.26
Line-drive percentage: 19.5
Groundball percentage: 50.5
Flyball percentage: 30
BB/K ratio: 0.55
Those numbers are from fangraphs.com. If you’re not visiting that site, you should be.
We'll see what we get this year from the scrappy one. Theriot's eager to see, too. He looked a bit stronger to me when I saw him in Mesa.
"Yeah, I changed some things up in my training this off-season," he said. "This is probably the first time in eight or nine years that I've really focused on the lower half of my legs. So we'll see."
We shall indeed.
In other news, got this “care package” from my colleague Carrie Muskat of cubs.com. Carrie is in Mesa. The upcoming Cubs pitchers, courtesy of Carrie:
Friday: Zambrano, Coleman, Stevens, Gaub, Mateo, Berg
Saturday: Silva, Marmol, Russell, Cashner, Kennard, Grabow
Sunday vs. LA: Gorzelanny, Diamond, J. Jackson, Schlitter, Parisi, Caridad
Sunday vs White Sox: Samardzija, Atkins, Mathes, Gaub, Stevens, Parker
Also saw on a New York Times blog that Milton Bradley blamed things on Chicago last year and not on himself:
Like the Supreme Court does on occasion, we’ll dismiss the claim without comment.