- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

Avoid the Riot

Ryan Theriot had a surprisingly good season, both in real and fantasy baseball. He hit a somewhat impressive .307/.387/.359, striking out 15 times less than he walked and stealing 22 bases (granted, he was caught 13 times). However, his season was fueled by an unsustainably high batting average, and if that BA regresses next season, he could hurt your fantasy team.

Theriot’s BABIP was .335 this year; however, his expected BABIP was a mere .291 (according to a new model I introduced). If we adjust his batting average to be in line with his expected BABIP, his BA falls all the way to .267. Considering that Theriot hits for virtually no power and drives in very few runs, this drop in BA would have a huge impact on his overall value.

The lower BA would result in a lower OBP, which would lead to fewer runs scored and fewer opportunities to steal bases. Additionally, Theriot was downright awful at stealing bases in 2008, getting caught in 37% of his attempts. Unless he improves upon this, it’s possible that the Cubs will become more reluctant to let him steal, depressing his stolen base total even further.

There is little evidence to suggest that the BABIP information about Theriot is incorrect. His career batting average in the minors was .271; his BABIP in the minors was .309. There’s no reason to think that either of these things has suddenly improved significantly, and there’s no reason to think that Theriot can consistently beat his expected BABIP (for reference, in 2007 his actual BABIP was .283 and his expected BABIP was .311).

Considering that nearly all of Theriot’s value revolves around his inflated batting average, it would be a good idea to avoid him in most fantasy drafts next season. That’s not to say he’ll be entirely without value, but just make sure you value him as a ~.270 hitter who may not even reach last year’s SB total, rather than a ~.310 hitter with the chance to surpass 30 steals.