Can Thames 2010 be more like Thames 2006?

Looking at some interesting splits for Yankee hitters
Thinking about the Yankees' numbers

Marcus Thames is not an everyday player. Never has been, really. His abilities, which include a seeming ability to hit lefties, make him a platoon player. True to that, he’s seen about 40 percent of his career plate appearances against lefties, whereas an every day player — I’ll use Derek Jeter as an example — sees about 25 percent of his plate appearances against lefties. Since the Yankees have just two righties in their A lineup, a lefty masher might be a nice complement off the bench.

Yet Thames had something of a disappointing 2009. It’s part of the reason that the Tigers didn’t tender him a contract, and certainly a big factor in why he had to accept a minor league deal. His OBP, at .323, was among the highest of his career, but he didn’t hit for nearly as much power as he had in years past. Even during his poor performance in 2007 he maintained a .257 ISO. That number dropped all the way to .202 in 2009, the worst mark of his career.

The reason for the power outage becomes apparent when looking at Thames’s batted ball breakdown. He hit 47.4 percent fly balls in 2009, which ranks on the lower end of his career. In 2006, his career year, he hit almost 60 percent fly balls. The resulting increase in ground balls led to a higher BABIP in 2009, .301, but his batting average, .252, actually went down slightly from 2006. Furthering the problem, his HR/FB dropped to 14.3 percent, again the lowest mark of his career.

What I wonder is how much Thames’s oblique injury affected his power numbers. He missed 44 days in 2009, hitting the DL on April 23 and not seeing action again until June 6. He actually hit well at first, posting a .267/.341/.527 line in the 164 plate appearances following his activation. His numbers dropped greatly at the end of the year, though, as he hit .235/.309/.351 in his final 110 plate appearances. The injury, for some reason, makes me think of Bobby Abreu, who strained his oblique in camp in 2007 and went on to hit .228/.313/.289 through the season’s first two months.

As we can see in his splits, Thames’s power outage came almost exclusively in August and September, as he posted excellent ISO figures upon his return. As you can further see, his fly ball numbers dropped in those months, as his ground ball frequency rose. Also obvious: his HR/FB dropped off in the last two months, most notably in September when he didn’t hit a single home run. The injury might help explain some of that, and would explain even more if it recurred and he didn’t tell anyone, though we have no way of really knowing that.

Unless the Yankees really like what they see from Jamie Hoffmann in camp, I’d bet Thames makes the team as a righty pinch hitter, mostly for Brett Gardner or Randy Winn. Bench players often bring one skill to the table, and Thames has demonstrated tremendous power in the past. If he recovers from last season he can contribute as a pinch hitter and possibly a starter against some lefties. In other words, he’s something like a righty Eric Hinske. That doesn’t sound all that bad.

Credit: AP Photo/Duane Burleson

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Looking at some interesting splits for Yankee hitters
Thinking about the Yankees' numbers
  • DP

    What worries me (as much as such things can be worrisome) is that Joe Girardi’s love for all things platoon might cause him to have Thames DH vs. lefties too often.

    • http://www.vimeo.com/fiveeightfoursix ledavidisrael

      If Thames takes at bats away from nick johnson. Imma flip

      • radnom

        Johnson’s got a reverse platoon split, I would be more worried about Granderson.

        I would like not to be, but the whole Richie Sexson/Giambi platoon is still fresh in my mind.

        • RKelly39

          Fine, but that was like platooning a bag of garbage with a broken toaster oven. Ideally, if we establish that Thames can’t hit anymore, he won’t see any playing time.

          • radnom

            Well, no actually. Giambi had a fine year and it was getting ridiculous towards the end that Sexson (who continually showed that he couldn’t hit) was getting at bats at the expense of Giambi. The situation was finally solved when Sexson was cut.

            Of course everyone agrees that the best case scenario would be that Thames proves his mettle against LHP and gets plenty of at bats next year. What DP (and myself) were voicing concerns about, is that Thames might get more at bats than he is worth, simply because Girardi has shown a tendency to do so in the past (with Giambi/Sexson being a prime example).

            Overall not a big deal either way. I don’t see him taking at bats from NJ, regardless of how he hits LHP. I think the majority of his ABs come from LF.

            • RKelly39

              Richie Sexson hit .325 with a .414 obp and .992 ops against lefties in 2008. He struggled with the yanks, yes. But Girardi is not some goofy clown who likes to play lefty/righty to inject himself into the game. It was a smart move. I would’ve hit Sexson too.

              • DP

                The point is that Johnson (like Giambi) doesn’t need a platoon partner.

                • MattG

                  I think the point is that Brett Gardner does.

              • radnom

                I would’ve hit Sexson too.

                Maybe to start sure.

                But Giambi was no slouch against LHP either, and after a while a straight up platoon was just insane.

          • DP

            Fine, but that was like platooning a bag of garbage with a broken toaster oven.

            If Nick Johnson can perform like a bag of garbage and OPS .876 and have a wOBA of .377, I’d be ecstatic.

      • RKelly39

        But what if he kills against lefties in 2010? Why wouldn’t you give him the respect/ABs?

        Girardi is an excellent manager, IMO, he’s not going keep starting a guy against lefties if he’s hitting .204.

        It’s a great situation if Thames is hitting well enough to spell the old and/or injury prone.

        • http://www.vimeo.com/fiveeightfoursix ledavidisrael

          ? No one said he doesn’t deserve at bats. Or that he doesn’t deserve respect.

          OR that its a bad move.

          And im sure everyone agrees it could work out if he hits and someone gets injured.

          Just if Johnson is healthy Thames should not be hitting for him.

          • RKelly39

            Well, again, Girardi is not dumb, so I doubt he’d sit a guy who actually hit better against lefties than righties last year. Nick Johnson had a .440 obp against lefties last year … especially in an important series. (Wow, really? .440? Insane.) Sitting a struggling Granderson in favor of a guy who is mashing against lefties, however … again … provided Thames is really hitting again … I’d be okay with that here and there. Unless I draft Granderson on my fantasy team. Then that’s completely unacceptable!

            Trust Girardi though. He’s a champ.

        • DP
          • RKelly39

            Wait a second. Thames can’t play CF. What are we even talking about? I need more Jim Beam. You fellas have a nice night. Let’s go Yankees.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

              Yes, but Gardner/Winn/Hoffmann can. If Thames did become a platoon partner for Granderson (not that I think he will), he’d play LF and one of the leftfielders would slide over to center.

              It’s not hard to do.

              • Bo

                You really believe they got Granderson to platoon him with Marcus Thames???

                Doubtful

                • Slugger27

                  id be shocked

                • JobaWockeeZ

                  If Thames did become a platoon partner for Granderson (not that I think he will) […]

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  You gotta be fucking shitting me.

                  That cannot seriously be your response to my statement. I mean, WHAT THE FUCK IS THE POINT OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IF NIMROD NUMBSKULLS LIKE YOU REFUSE TO FUCKING READ THE FUCKING WORDS THAT ARE BEING WRITTEN.

                  Did I say that I believed that they got Granderson to platoon him with Thames? No. I did not.

                  You fucking idiot.

                • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Peck Templeton “Brendog” Peck

                  whoa..somebody snapped. haha

                  http://www.getonmyhorse.com

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  whoa..somebody snapped. haha

                  Thurgood: THIS MONEY’S NOT FOR SPENDING, IT’S FOR SAVING!!! KENNY’S SWEET VIRGIN ASS, MAN!!!
                  (puffs joint)
                  I’m sorry for yelling.

                • RichYF

                  Whoa. Looks like you got trolled by your boy.

                • Zack

                  it was satire so it doesnt count

                  /palin’d

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  it was satire so it doesnt count
                  /palin’d

                  (golf clap)

      • Tbord

        Yankee brass would be fools to count on Johnson staying healthy for the entire season. It makes sense to bring in Thames as Insurance. The move costs nothing compared to another trade, and further depletion of the farm.

    • MattG

      He’s looking for a platoon partner for Brett Gardner. I would love a platoon there, too.

  • Esteban
  • Bo

    You can try talking yourself into Thames and Hoffmann and Winn all you want. But theres a reason they were all on the scrap heap. Thames has never been good. This team will be in a big trouble if any of those three are getting 500 ab’s.

    • Steve H

      Lemme guess, Johnny Damon?

      Thames+Hoffman+Winn+Gardner>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Melky+Gardner.

      • pistol pete

        Are you going to compare this group of either unproven or proven part timers vs Damon. Go ahead, be sarcastic, you’ll be wishing you had Damon sooner than you think. He’s proven, had a great year last year, can play under pressure, and was a steal at what he wanted just a couple weeks ago. Cashman let his ego get in the way, it got personal, and the Yankees will suffer in the long run. I guaranty you they’ll be trading for outfield help next year and spend not just money but prospects to replace Damon.

        • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          Heh. Does SBGL have a new moniker?

        • Zack

          “and was a steal at what he wanted just a couple weeks ago”

          2yrs/26m is a steal for someone who has 0 offers?

    • Zack

      “This team will be in a big trouble if any of those three are getting 500 ab’s.”

      So any team that is not #1 in scoring is “in big trouble”?

      • pete

        the yankees will be #1 in scoring. But since they’ll only score 923 runs this year, instead of the 977 they’d have scored with damon in the lineup, they’ll be in big trouble. Except not.

  • MattG

    Players typically don’t lose their power at 32/33–in fact they usually experience a power spike. I’ll bet the oblique injury was a huge factor in his 2009 season.

    With a lefty on the mound for the opponent, and a right-handed strikeout pitcher on the mound for the Yankees, Thames may make a fine left fielder. If Hoffman is what he’s supposed to be defensively, that is a tough choice.