Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cubs Stat of the Week: Ryan Theriot on 3-0

Ryan Theriot has never made an out on a 3-0 pitch.


When I started looking up an intriguing Cubs stat for this week, I was hoping to find a revelation in Theriot's average with two strikes. His career average in that situation isn't bad (.233) but it's not great this year (.171). And then I stumbled upon something I had never even considered:

You don't want to go to 3-0 on anybody, especially not The Riot. 

In his relatively short career, Theriot has faced a 3-0 count 89 times. And in those 89 career 3-0 counts, Theriot has never made an out on a 3-0 pitch. Actually, he's never even put such a pitch in play. 

That's right. Ryan Theriot has exactly Zero point Zero Zero official at-bats on 3-0 counts. He has had 34 plate appearances decided by a 3-0 pitch, and all 34 have been walks (three of them intentional). I can't exactly say the stat gets better (how can you improve on a 1.000 OBP?) but Theriot's career performance after a 3-0 pitch continues to impress.

In his 89 career plate appearances that began with three straight balls, Theriot has drawn 60 walks. Of the 29 remaining at bats, Theriot has 11 hits, five of them doubles (.379 BA, .552 SLG). But the overwhelming majority of the time (roughly 2/3), when Theriot reaches a 3-0 count, he draws a walk on his way to a .798 OBP after 3-0 counts. 

When Theriot works a 3-ball count of any kind, good things happen. He has a .323 BA, a .631 OBP, and a 1.088 OPS. So how does Theriot compare to the rest of baseball?

In 2009, Major League hitters put almost 5% of 3-0 pitches in play (compared to Theriot's career 0% rate). Here's the general breakdown of Theriot vs. the ML average:

After a 3-0 Count
MLB: .267 BA, .759 OBP, 1.220 OPS
Theriot: .379 BA, .798 OBP, 1.349 OPS

With Three Balls, Any Number of Strikes
MLB: .259 BA, .593 OBP, 1.029 OPS
Theriot:  .323 BA, .631 OBP, 1.088 OPS

This definitely reinforces my opinion that Theriot uses the count to his advantage as well as just about anybody in the game. He just has an impeccable sense of modifying his approach as his at-bats go along. That's why I love watching Theriot at the plate, because he is a textbook example of how to approach each pitch.

Long story short: throw strikes to The Riot, or he'll make you pay.

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