Archive for Marcus Thames
The Yankees have hired Marcus Thames as the hitting coach for their High-A Tampa affiliate, the club announced. He joins long-time manager and former Yankee Luis Sojo, the winningest manager in Florida State League history.
Thames, 35, last played with the Dodgers back in 2011. He was originally drafted by the Yankees back in 1996 and broke into the show with them in 2002, famously homering off Randy Johnson on the first pitch he saw as a big leaguer. He’s perhaps best remembered around these parts for being a force off the bench back in 2010 — .288/.350/.491 with a dozen homers. Thames is a super nice guy and incredibly easy to like, so I wish him well down in Tampa. Plus, you know, I get to link to this.
Via George King, the Yankees have signed Marcus Thames to a minor league contract. He’ll work out in Tampa at the minor league complex before being assigned to Triple-A Scranton. The Dodgers released Thames earlier this week after he’d hit just .197/.243/.333 with two homers in 70 plate appearances this year, plus he missed a bunch of time due to a calf strain. Welcome back, Marcus.
I tend to have very little interest in players’ personal lives. It adds zero value to my life, all I worry about is what happens on the field. So when Austin Romine left camp for a few days last week for a personal reason, I thought nothing of it. Stuff comes up, who cares, none of my business. Jack Curry wrote about Romine today, and it turns out the young backstop had to leave camp to attend the funeral of his younger cousin, who was killed while participating in a combat operation in Afghanistan. “At this point in time,” said Romine, who remained in camp for ten days after learning of his cousin’s death, “I have no more tears.” It’s a great and heartfelt article that gets RAB’s highest recommendation.
Unfortunately, that side of journalism, the good side, is generally overshadowed by garbage. Instead of more columns like Curry’s, we get stuff like this complete assassination of Marcus Thames by T.J. Simers of The LA Times, a hatchet job that went so far as to attack the pronunciation of the guy’s name. Based on what we read and saw last year, Marcus was as nice a guy as they come, and if you needed any reason to root harder for him, well Simers provided it. I’m glad Thames took the high road and refused to stoop to that level, a level unfit for the hackiest of hacks.
Anyways, here is your open thread for the night. YES is playing an encore of this afternoon’s Yankees-Orioles game, and MLB Network will be doing the same with Mets-Tigers. All three hockey locals are in action as well. Talk about whatever, go nuts.
Game 1 of the 1996 World Series was a shocking one for the Yanks and their fans. After a 15-year wait, the Bombers were back in the Fall Classic, but the Braves knocked around Andy Pettitte. Some 19-year-old kid named Andruw Jones stole the show as he belted a two-run home run in the second inning and added a three-run shot off of Brian Boehringer in the third. The Yanks would go on to lose the game 12-1, and with his glove and bat, Jones earned himself comparisons to both Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.
Over the years, Jones almost lived up to his potential, but he never took baseball as seriously as he should have. In his age 28 and age 29 seasons, he hit 51 and 41 home runs respectively, and after 10 full seasons in the league, he had a .267/.345/.505 triple slash line with 342 home runs and over 1,000 RBIs. Those are the makings of a Hall of Fame-like career.
Since then, though, Jones’ production has dropped precipitously. He signed a two-year, $36.2 million contract with the Dodgers and couldn’t last in Los Angeles. Over the past four seasons, he’s averaged 104 games with a slash line of just .212/.312/.412 and has managed to add just 65 home runs to his total since then. He’ll turn 34 shortly after Opening Day, and he remains a free agent.
Throughout the winter, the Yankees have been intrigued by Andruw Jones. They realize his defense has declined along with his bat, and in fact, his once-mighty UZR now ranks him as merely an average player in the field. Yet, they see one number that intrigues them. In 102 plate appearances against lefties, Jones hit eight home runs in 2010 and sported a nifty .402 wOBA. With Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner vulnerable to lefties, the Yanks want a power right-handed bat who can play the field if need be. Jones, on their radar in 2009, might once again be there man, and the team is strongly interested in him.
But what of the incumbent? Another 34-year-old with suspect defense held down the righty bat/fourth outfielder spot last year with mixed results. He certainly couldn’t play the field, but Marcus Thames broke out the boomstick at the right time. He hit .288/.350/.491 with 12 home runs in 237 plate appearances, and his .365 wOBA was just .005 off his career high. Against lefties, though, his numbers dipped. He hit just five home runs in 142 plate appearances and sported a .354 wOBA.
So now, as the Yanks look to fill in the blanks before Spring Training, the question becomes “who would you rather?” After running down these numbers, it might be tempting to lean toward Thames. He was productive against both lefties and righties last year and put up a career year, but his .248/.311/.491 body of work suggest that he’s not in line to do it again. They don’t call ‘em career years for nothing. We also don’t need to know Thames’ -4.3 UZR to know he was a disaster in the outfield. That game against the Red Sox during which he just flat-out dropped a pop-up is good enough for me.
Perhaps then Jones with his .261/.361/.501 career line against lefties is the Yanks’ man. He can play a passable outfield for a few innings and can still flash the power. But salary demands are a concern. He’ll want way more than the $500,000 he earned in 2010, but Thames will want a raise from the $900,000 he earned. It seems that Jones will be the more expensive sure thing while Thames has the good will of 2010 going for them. With the Yanks’ money to spend, I’d err toward Jones. Would you?
Via Buster Olney (Insider req’d), the Yankees are unlikely to consider bringing Marcus Thames back for the 2011 season. With Jorge Posada, a switch-hitter, slotted in as the full-time designated hitter, any right-handed bat off the bench would need to provided defensive flexibility to get playing time. The same logic applies to Manny Ramirez, another long shot signing.
Thames was awesome for the Yanks in 2010, but he’s unlikely to match the carer high (by frickin’ far) .345 BABIP again. His defense is also unusable, so he’s the very definition of a one-dimensional player. It just doesn’t make sense given the present construction of the team.
So the Yankees have extra cash, and need a 2011 Marcus Thames. I love the case for Scott Hairston, but what about … Marcus Thames?
(Here’s my case for Scott Hairston in case you missed it)
I don’t think you’ll be able to find a Yankee fan that doesn’t appreciate the job Thames did for the Yankees in 2010. He did what he was brought in to do against lefties (.354 wOBA) while far exceeding expectations against righties (.382 wOBA) and providing big hit after big hit after big hit. Plus he was extremely easy to like, at least based on his interviews and stuff. Sure, his defense was so bad that Joe Girardi simply refused to play him in the outfield in the second half (understandably), but the man hit, and that’s what he was hired in to do.
Now, as good as Thames was this season, let’s not forget that it was the second best offensive season of his career, behind his age-29 season in 2006. His wOBA and OPS+ in 2010 were just .005 and 1 off from his career highs, respectively, and if you go by wRC+ this season was actually the best year of his career. Either way you look at it, the point stands. Thames’ 2010 season was not a level of performance we should expect him to repeat going forward, especially against right-handers and especially when you consider that he’ll turn 34 in Spring Training.
That’s not to say that Thames can’t be a valuable contributor off the bench, because he certainly could be if his exposure to righties is limited. His 2010 performance against southpaws is almost dead even with his career average (.358 wOBA career), so we can expect that skill to remain. No so much against righties however, he outperformed his career average against same-side pitchers by more than 50 wOBA points. There’s no reason to believe that at his age, the light bulb just came on. There’s also the issue of defense. Thames is basically a platoon DH, so the Yankees would be wasting one of their bench spots on a guy that can’t play the field.
I like Thames and he’d be a fine choice to fill a similar role next season, but preferably he’d be a fall back option. Guys like Hairston and Reed Johnson can also play the field, giving the team that much more flexibility, and will probably cost less coming off down years. Thames did fine work for the Yankees, but are there are players available that could be even better next season.
Via NPB Tracker, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks are working to sign free agent outfielder/designated hitter Marcus Thames. Thames, of course, was fantastic after signing a dirt cheap minor league deal with the Yankees last year, exceeding all expectations by hitting .288/.350/.491 (.365 wOBA) overall. He was brought in to mash left-handers and he did just that (.365 wOBA), but he was much better than expected against right-handers as well (.382).
At 33 years old (34 in March) and coming off his best season in half-a-decade, Marcus is probably looking to cash in on what his likely his last opportunity for a big payday. If Softbank offers him two or more guaranteed years at something like $1.5-2M annually, I’m not sure Thames could turn that down.
As the 2009-2010 offseason played out, it became increasingly clear that the Yankees needed some sort of righthanded bat to balance out their lefty heavy outfield. Nick Swisher wasn’t the problem since he’s a switch hitter, but the newly acquired Curtis Granderson had significant trouble against southpaws in recent years (.267 wOBA vs. LHP from ’08-’09) and Brett Gardner was still a complete unknown at the time. Enter Marcus Thames.
The former Yankee farmhand agreed to a minor league contract in early February that granted him an invitation to Spring Training, at which point he’d have to compete for job against the likes of Rule 5 Draft pick Jamie Hoffmann, Greg Golson, and David Winfree. Thames didn’t perform well during camp at all (.135/.182/.269 in 52 at-bats), but the Yankees preferred his experience and power to whatever the younger guys had to offer. If you’re going to go for experience over youth, a bench/platoon spot isn’t a bad place to do it.
Thames started the season in a platoon with Gardner (not Granderson, contrary to what we all expected) and played in only two of the team’s first eight games. He got a start at designated hitter in the ninth game of the season, going 2-for-3 with a double in a win against the Angels. That earned Marcus another start the next day, which resulted in another two hits, and before you knew he finished the month with a .588/.650/.941 (.666 wOBA) in 20 trips to the plate. Thames kept hitting so Joe Girardi kept giving him starts through the month of May.
The Yanks started play with a 24-13 record on May 17th, certainly a dynamite record, but they hadn’t had one of those big remember-why-you-love-’em wins yet. Thames gave New York just that when he completed a ninth inning comeback against Jonathan Papelbon by following Alex Rodriguez‘s game-tying two-run homer with a walk-off two-run homer of his own. Brought in to mash lefties, he also was getting the job done against righties, and that homer won him a place in the heart of every fan.
After a bum hamstring sidelined Thames for close to a month, he returned on Independence Day and provided an instant jolt to the team’s offense. He pinch hit for Ramiro Pena in the tenth inning of a tie game against the Blue Jays, driving in the winning run with a walk-off broken bat single. Not bad for a welcome back moment, eh? A few weeks later he helped the Yanks mount a comeback win against Cliff Lee and the Rangers by whacking a solo homer in the eighth before driving in the go-ahead run with a single in the ninth.
Thames’ role became more and more prominent as the season progressed. He hit .342/.384/.671 (.438 wOBA) after returning from the disabled list through September 1st, after which he and the newly acquired Lance Berkman went into a straight platoon at DH. All told, Marcus hit .288/.350/.491 (.365 wOBA) with a dozen homers in 237 plate appearances on the season, filling the role of platoon bat perfectly. He did his job against lefties (.354 wOBA) and was even better than expected against righties (.382).
Of course, we can’t forget the horror show that was Thames’ outfield defense. He played just 171 innings in the outfield all season, but he managed to cost the team more than four runs defensively. It seemed like a helluva lot more, I know that much. The most notable blunder came a day after the walk-off homer against Papelbon, when Thames botched a fly ball in right that led to a pair of unearned runs in the ninth and an eventual loss. Thankfully Girardi wised up, and Thames’ days as a regular outfielder were finished after he came back from the disabled list.
Mighty Marcus Thames was everything the Yankees hoped he would be and then some, giving them pop off the bench and later on, production in a damn-near every day role. As far as gambles on minor league deals go, the Yankees hit the jackpot with this one.
Marcus Thames has been everything the Yankees could have possibly asked him to be and then some. He was brought in to hit lefthanded pitching and has done just that (.300/.352/.454, .354 wOBA), but he’s also been much better than expected against righthanders (.268/.347/.549, .382 wOBA). He’s produced numerous big hits throughout the year, like this walk-off homer against the Red Sox, this walk-off single against the Blue Jays, this go-ahead homer against the Jays, and of course this go-ahead single against the same Rangers’ club that the Yanks will face in the ALCS starting Friday. As good as Thames has been this season, his team is going to need just a little bit more out of him against Texas.
Although neither team has officially released their ALCS rotation yet, the Rangers are expected to start the series with C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis before giving the ball to Cliff Lee in Game Three. Tommy Hunter is your probable Game Four starter. It’s highly likely that each team will win at least one game at some point, meaning that Texas will be able to give the ball to a southpaw three times in the first five games of the series (Wilson twice, Lee once). These aren’t your everyday lefthanders either. Wilson annihilates batters of the same hand (lefthanded batters had just a .205 wOBA with just five doubles and no homers off him this season) and Lee … well … is Cliff Lee.
Even though Curtis Granderson has improved immensely against lefties since working with Kevin Long (.380 wOBA vs. LHP since the changes that, ironically, took place in Texas), his offensive ability is likely to be somewhat compromised during those three games. Ditto Brett Gardner, even though he was more than respectable against lefties this season (.332 wOBA, .351 vs. RHP). Alex Rodriguez was uncharacteristically awful against lefthanders this year (a solid .335 wOBA, but Alex is held to different standards than mere mortals) as well. That’s why they need Thames to be on top of his game, he’s got to pick up the seemingly inevitable slack.
The good news is that Marcus has already shown he can do that, albeit in a tiny sample. When Mark Teixeira was away with his birth-giving wife in early August, Thames not only stepped in as the three-hole hitter for two games, he basically replaced (or even improved upon) Tex’s production as well. He went 5-for-10 with a homer in the two games (started by Wilson and Lee of all people), with one of the hits being that go-ahead single linked above. He took Frank Francisco deep one inning before that to bring the Yanks to within one. Of course it was all or nothing for Marcus that series, because he struck out in the five plate appearances in which he didn’t get a hit. That’s the trade off you get with a guy like him though.
The Twins learned the hard way that the Yankee lineup is extremely deep with no easy out(s), especially their two lefties Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing. Thames was a big reason for that, as he has been all season, but the team still needs a little more out of him. They know that, he knows that, the other team knows it, everyone does. Thames has been worth every penny of his $900,000 salary so far this season, but the job isn’t done yet.
Aside: That’s easily my favorite picture of the season so far. So badass. Here’s that play, if you’re curious…Also, check out this Wall Street Journal piece on Thames. Mike Sielski spins a great tale of Thames’ friendship with former Yankee farmhands Jeff Nettles and Drew Henson as well as his time in Detroit.
Both times the Yankees faced the Blue Jays in August they lost the series 2-1. There are worse things than 2-1 series losses, especially to a team that has played like the Jays. It’s not like they lose a series to the Indians or Royals. With yesterday’s victory the Yankees locked down another series.
Biggest Hit: Mr. Automatic
What type of runs would you like? Do you like yours when down in a close game? How about game-tying? I hear that go-ahead runs are just the tastiest. Except walk-off, of course. Walk-off runs are the juiciest runs of them all. Marcus Thames has cooked up all of them this season. Yesterday he prepared us a helping of go-ahead runs.
The game took some early turns. Neither starter got through the fifth. Javier Vazquez did make a bid, but Joe Girardi removed him in a first and third, two outs situation in the fifth. In a scenario that we will discuss in a moment, the Blue Jays tied the game. It stayed that way for a couple of innings. Until Marcus Thames came to the plate, that is.
Thames actually led off in the bottom half of the fifth, but he realized that he had plenty of time. Instead of pulverizing a Jesse Carlson slider he merely grounded it to third. It was a gift by appearances, but Thames was just biding his time. In the seventh he recognized that the situation had become dire. Carlson retired six straight and his successor, Jason Frasor, added two to the tally. But then Robinson Cano snapped the skid with his second up-the-middle single of the game. Thames would not let the opportunity pass.
Frasor threw his first pitch, a slider, towards the inside edge. Thames swung, but he managed only to foul it away. Carlson, fool that he is, tried the same thing again, but this pitch he left right in the center of the plate. Thames put a mighty swing on it and drove it to the bit field in left-center. But it could not contain Thames. He sent the ball into the visitor’s bullpen, putting his Yankees ahead.
A curious pitching change
Over the course of a season the manager makes hundreds of pitching changes. There is no way that they’ll all work. Most of the time, if he’s a good manager, he’ll make the right call. But most is just more than 50 percent. There are plenty of times when the manager will make a good call that fails. Other times he’ll make a plain bad call. It happens. Joe Girardi mostly makes the right call. Yesterday he made a suspect one.
Javier Vazquez was not pitching like he had during his previous two relief outings. His fastball didn’t crack 90. He didn’t have the command necessary to compensate for his diminished velocity. He threw too many damn sliders, a pitch that just hasn’t worked this year. It amounted to three runs through four innings, both on second inning home runs. But Vazquez had settled down, allowing no runs in the third and fourth before retiring the first two batters in the fifth. But then he walked Jose Bautista. No biggie. It became a biggie, apparently, when Vernon Wells followed with a single.
That brought Overbay, who had homered earlier in the game, to the plate. Joe Girardi bound out of the dugout after the single, so it was clear that he in no way would let Vazquez face Overbay again. That might sound like a reasonable position, especially considering how Javy looked, but there were a few things to consider here. First, the tying run was 270 feet away, so it would have taken a big hit to score him. Second, the homer earlier on the game came on a slider. Letting Vazquez pitch to Overbay, but forbidding him to throw a slider, was probably the right call. But Girardi went to Dustin Moseley. I fail to see the upgrade.
Maybe if he’d gone to Robertson, or Chamberlain, or even Logan, I wouldn’t have thought it such a bad call. But Moseley? Maybe he could have brought Moseley in to eat an inning or two after that. The big guns in the pen have been worked hard lately. That tends to happen when you win a lot of games in a short span. If Girardi wants to go with the long man in the sixth with a two-run lead, so be it. But Moseley with the tying runs on base? It just seems odd coming from a guy who, just a month and a half ago, used Robertson in the third inning in a crucial situation.
This doesn’t make Girardi a bad manager. No one will make the right call 100 percent of the time. But this seemed like a fairly obvious one. Don’t go to Moseley with the tying run on base unless it’s of the utmost necessity.
For much of the season Brett Gardner has hit ninth. That makes him a “second lead-off hitter,” whatever that means. Really, it means he’s hitting ninth. I don’t know why Girardi does it, but he likes having that second leadoff hitting advantage. But ever since A-Rod‘s injury Girardi has found a spot in the top of the lineup for Gardner. Which makes sense. He takes pitches, he gets on base, and he’s a threat to steal. That means not having a wrap-around lineup. Unless you do.
Francisco Cervelli had another pleasantly surprising day. He doubled twice and came around to score both times, first thanks to a wild pitch and second thanks to a Derek Jeter chopper that — to invoke Michael Kay — fortuitously ricocheted off the third base bag. As Chad Jennings relays, it was the first multi-double game of Cervelli’s career. It’s always a little easier to score runs when the bottom of the order produces. Cervelli deserves much praise for his recent timely hits.
Graph and Box
If I just saw this graph and the final score, I’d probably think that this was a pretty good game. And I’d be right.
It’s never a bad game when you’re looking at not only a sweep, but a ninth straight win. Phil Hughes goes for it, while Brett Cecil tries to stop it. It’s Day Game No. 4 of 5 from the Bronx.