Archive for Marcus Thames

Feb
26

Thames has an opt-out clause

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Via Chad Jennings, Marcus Thames has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out and become a free agent if he doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training. Veterans on minor league deals almost always get clauses like this, allowing them to look elsewhere for a job instead of getting stuck in Triple-A all season.

Thames and Rule 5 Draft pick Jamie Hoffmann are essentially fighting for one bench spot, and it looks like whichever one loses that battle will head elsewhere. The decision comes down to whether the Yankees prefer Thames’ power against lefties (and basically nothing else) to Hoffmann’s ability to play all three outfield spots proficiently, steal some bases, and maybe even be a non-zero with the bat.

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Snowpocalypse 2010 has hit, so ride it out with these links…

Death to the Joba Rules

At long last, the Joba Rules are dead. “He’s not going to have any restrictions,” said pitching coach Dave Eiland, “so Joe (Girardi) and I are not going to have to go into the game thinking, ‘Oh, he’s got 85 pitches or six innings or whatever comes first.’ We don’t have to game plan it out. The kid gloves are off, and he’s just going to go out and pitch and he knows that and he’s going to come in and be all geared up to win that job, as are the other guys. Competition should bring out the best in everyone.” Of course, this won’t calm the conspiracy theorists who think Joba is going to return to the bullpen next year, because there was both a bullpen and rotation version of the rules. Either way, so long Joba Rules, and thanks for the shirt.

Big leaguers give bloggers a bad name

At his blog earlier this week, former big league catcher Brent Mayne told a story about how he once told a batter what pitch was coming. That batter was J.T. Snow, who was with the Yanks at the time and grew up playing with/against Mayne in Southern California. Long story short, he mumbled to the pinch hitting Snow that he was getting a fastball away, which Snow promptly ripped for a double and his first big league hit. Except, of course, that never happened.

Mayne said Snow was a September call-up with the Yanks, and they were playing in Kansas City. Snow went 0-for-5 in the only game he played against the Royals as a Bomber, and even though his first big league hit was in fact a pinch-hit double, it came off of Tom Henke of Toronto with Pat Borders behind the plate a week later. Here’s the easy to read game log. I expect it from the mother’s basement dwellers, Brent. But not from you.

Damon’s still looking for two years

Yeah, amazing, isn’t it? We’re basically a week from pitchers and catchers, Damon has received offers from just one team (that we know of), and yet he and Boras are still holding out for a two year deal. Matt at Fack Youk wonders if Johnny’s lost his mind, as do so many others. I can’t imagine Damon is happy with how Boras worked him over, or maybe he’s just naive and thinks someone will meet one day his demands.

Thames No. 1 on an all-time Tigers list

Marcus Thames doesn’t stand out as someone who would hold a franchise record, but according to Tom Gage of The Detroit News, he does. His 99 home runs in 1,463 at-bats is the franchise record for home run pace among players with 1,500 or more plate appearances as a Tiger. That also amounts to a home run every 16.28 times he stepped to the plate, which, considering his lack of bases on balls, is probably an even further record. Cecil Fielder, who ranks second on the AB/HR list, hit a home run once every 17.36 plate appearances.

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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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Feb
08

Yankees sign Marcus Thames

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Update (3:44pm): Joel Sherman confirms that it is in fact a minor league deal, adding that Thames will make $900,000 if he makes the team. He pulled down $2.275M last season.

3:27pm: Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees have signed Marcus Thames to what I assume is a minor league deal. The soon to be 33-year-old has historically crushed lefties, though those splits weren’t as pronounced last year. With negative defensive value and zero baserunning prowess, anything Thames contributes will come from his ability to run into the occasional mistake pitch from the right side. He’s just some competition for Jamie Hoffmann in Spring Training.

Thames, of course, grew up in the Yanks’ system, and homered on the very first pitch he saw as a big leaguer, taking The Big Unit deep.

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