Comparing Nick Madrigal to former Cubs infielder Ryan Theriot

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

Remember when Ryan Theriot was playing everyday in the middle of the Chicago Cubs infield? It has been over a decade since “The Riot” put on a Cubs uniform, and nine years since he played in the Majors. Theriot was a slappy-hitting contact guy with little emphasis on driving the ball out of the park. As a Cub he slashed .287/.350/.362 with 15 home runs in 609 games. From 2007-2010 he averaged roughly 150 games played in a season with 162 hits (.282 average) and three home runs. He was also a very solid baserunner, sporting a career 7.8 UBR and 121 stolen bases.

In July of this past year the Cubs got Nick Madrigal in the Craig Kimbrel deal, and comparisons between the two were being made immediately. Two guys who spray the ball around the yard with little pop and can run the bases. Is Madrigal really Theriot 2.0? Let’s look deeper into the numbers.

Chicago Cubs: Comparing numbers between Ryan Theriot and Nick Madrigal

It’s worth acknowledging the fact that we are comparing a guy who played nearly a decade ago and was an eight-year veteran to a 24-year-old kid who has played in 83 career games. But the makeup of Madrigal is set in stone, he is not going to alter his game and suddenly become a home run slugger who strikes out a ton.

The appropriate first thing to look at is contact rate.

Theriot was a career 90.3 percent contact rate hitter, with a contact rate of 94.7 percent on pitches in the strike zone and 77.2 percent on pitches outside the zone. Madrigal is a 92 percent contact rate hitter, with 97.6 percent contact on pitches in the zone and 83.8 percent on pitches outside the zone. Theriot swung at 41.7 percent of the pitches he saw while Madrigal has swung at 44.7 percent of them. Very similar looking numbers, both guys making contact at least 90 percent of the time. Madrigal’s contact rate was the best among active hitters with at least 100 plate apperances going back to the start of 2020 when the Cubs got him.

Clearly both guys can put the bat on the ball, but what about the type of contact? Both hit a majority of balls in play on the ground. Theriot sported a 52.1 percent groundball rate and 21.5 percent line drive rate, while Madrigal sports a 58.3 percent groundball rate and 22.3 percent line drive rate. The most notable difference comes with Theriot’s flyball rate (26.4 percent) being seven points higher than Madrigal’s.

While Theriot and Madrigal both hit more to the opposite field than pulling, one of them spread things out a bit more. Madrigal has pulled only 21.8 percent of batted balls compared to him shooting 35 percent of them to the opposite field, a roughly 13 point difference. Theriot shot balls the other way 34.2 percent of the time, around a six point difference as compared to what he pulled (28.4 percent).

Neither player walks or strikes out a lot, but in the end Theriot did more of both. He walked 7.9 percent in his career while Madrigal has walked only 4.6 percent. Madrigal’s better ability to make contact on pitches outside the zone leads to believe he will focus solely on putting the bat on the ball no matter where the pitches are. Theriot struck out 10.6 percent of the time with Madrigal at 7.4 percent.

To recap:

  • Theriot: 90.3% contact, 52.1% GB, 21.5% LD, 34.2% oppo, 28.4% pull, 7.9% BB, 10.6% K
  • Mardrigal: 92% contact, 58.3% GB, 22.3% LD, 35% oppo, 21.8% pull, 4.6% BB, 7.4% K

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So yes, both have very similar games when it comes to hitting. Having a guy who can have the contact skills like Madrigal will be very useful for the Cubs going forward. He will not be a top producer, but will likely be a key cog in the offense. Theriot’s career ended after eight years, but Madrigal appears to be a bit more athletic. Just hope that he can stay healthy going forward.