"Theriot fans repeatedly pointed to his high on-base percentage in 2008 - and it was quite high. Detractors noted his limited range in the field and shoddy base running to make their case. I mean, what good is getting on base if you just get picked off or thrown out on a grounder to short with an open base? I was somewhere in between. The guy obviously had value, but he wasn't Ernie Banks out there. One night (May 7, 2008) after putting the kids to bed, I decided to try to settle the debate and figure out what impact Theriot's base running had on his overall performance. And we had to consider all of the base running mistakes and not just the CS that show up in the box score. That night, the Ryan Theriot Adjusted On Base Percentage - and, by extension - the TOOTBLAN was born."
The formula created to determine the RTAOBP was simple: RTAOBP = (Hits+Walks+HBP-CS-Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop)/Plate Appearances (AB+BB+HBP+SF). TOOTBLANs include extra base outs, outs on would-be sacrifice flies, pickoffs, double offs, fielder’s choice outs with an open base, batter’s interference, runner’s fielder choice, runner interference, caught stealing on a walk (really), hit by a batted ball and various other odd things that can happen during a baseball game. Stolen bases are counted separately.
"Taken together, the formula showed Theriot's RTAOBP was some 45 points lower than his actual on-base percentage at the time. It didn't really settle any debates, of course, and the adjusted OBP hasn't stood the test of time. It got lost in the whole thing, while Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop was quickly shortened to the more user-friendly "TOOTBLAN." It was an accident that the acronym was TOOTBLAN. I didn't really realize it until someone at Baseball Think Factory pointed it out."
Tim McGinnis, Founder of Aisle 424
"The interesting thing differentiating Theriot's rise to fan favorite from guys like David Eckstein was that the rise of blogs, and probably more importantly, Twitter, gave fans a voice that could provide a dissenting opinion on exactly how important Theriot actually was. In the days before, a narrative could get built by the media and it would almost become fact over time. Social media allowed savvier fans to push against the narrative flow being built by journalists who just wanted a good story. The invention of the TOOTBLAN ended up being a pretty important tool in that push back in the case of Theriot."
"In the early years, the term attracted a little bit of attention, primarily among Cubs fans who would Tweet 'TOOTBLAN' when the Cubs or their opponents would make an out on the base paths. I think it really started to spread as Theriot changed teams to the Dodgers, Cardinals and Giants. Reporters and bloggers would Google background on him and TOOTBLAN would be prominently mentioned. They started using it on their own, and it really became a thing on Twitter. I was as surprised as anybody when it took off. TOOTBLAN surely would have been forgotten long ago without the power of Twitter."
"This was around the time I first jumped on Twitter, and I started seeing fans from other teams using the term, people outside the Cubs' small blogging community. That's when I knew we were dealing with something bigger than ourselves."
"It's hard to say for sure (when I noticed it take off), since I've lived so thoroughly in the super-Internetty-Cubs-fan world for so long, and TOOTBLAN has been a thing to us almost immediately after it was birthed. What's funny is that, initially, I wasn't a huge fan. I liked the idea of tracking what TOOTBLANs tracked, but I thought the name was so silly that it undercut the relative seriousness of tracking baserunning mistakes (something few outside the sabermetric community were doing back then)."
Rob Neyer, FOX Sports Senior Baseball Editor
"I think it became a thing for the same thing everything else becomes a thing: because nature abhors a vacuum. It caught on because baseball players, even the best baseball players on the planet, so often do things that would get a Little Leaguer a lecture from his head coach. And it happens so often that for a long time we've needed a catchy name for it. What's amazing is that it took someone so long to come up with one."
"I first noticed it get used more and more by fans of other teams on Twitter. Then it would pop up in a news story somewhere. Then all of a sudden, there were Twitter accounts popping up trying to claim credit for inventing it. That was surreal."
"Over the last few years, TOOTBLAN has shown up on ESPN.com, MLB.com, the Washington Post, NBC, FOX Sports, radio broadcasts and countless other newspaper sites across the country - which is really quite cool when you think about it. It even got its own chapter in a book."