by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Brewers looked like geniuses early in the season, as Eric Thames looked like the best hitter in baseball. There was a steep dropoff, however, though that shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Did anyone really expect him to maintain that April pace , as he hit .345 with 11 HR?
He didn’t hit more than 6 HR after that and the average was generally poor. Of course the only number you really need to know was a 45.8% HR/FB in April, meaning the only way Thames could go was down. At the end of the day no one is going to complain about 31 HR, though it came with a .247 average and from May on the power was pedestrian. So what have we learned? Is there any value or is he destined to be a non-factor?
His April success had come courtesy of an impressive 19.1% O-Swing%. In the second half that was up to 32.2% and his SwStr% was 12.5%. Those are probably more realistic numbers, and he also struggled to make consistent contact against breaking balls (18.10% Whiff%) and offspeed pitches (18.99%). Those things give concern that strikeouts will continue to be an issue moving forward.
There are two other noteworthy splits that can’t be ignored:
1) Home/Road Power
- Home – 19 HR
- Road – 12 HR
Considering the home ballpark, is this a surprise?
2) Right-Handed Pitchers/Left-Handed Pitchers
- vs. RHP – .265/.382/.551
- vs. LHP – .182/.270/.394
The strikeouts were significantly worse against southpaws (36.9%), the walks were down (8.1%) and his line drive rate was unimpressive (17.2%). Again, as a left-handed hitter the split shouldn’t come as a surprise but it does tell us that he’s going to be limited to being a platoon player and nothing more.
You put that together and we get a .240/25 HR hitter, but with a few key caveats:
- He’s a much better play at home than on the road
- If there are lefties on the schedule he’s virtually unusable
For a player who already has limitations, pigeon holing him into such a narrow usage window makes it that much tougher. Will there be value when the schedule dictates it? Absolutely, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find a similar upside option with less restrictions. Let someone else pay for his strong April.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections: