Note: This article has been updated as of May 1st, 2012. Part 1 is the untouched original article, going over the premise that Thames needs to adjust to how he’s being pitched. Part 2 is down the page and includes statistical & graphical updates of Thames production from mid-April to May 1st.
Part 1 (Original Article)
The Toronto Blue Jays are a little over 5% into the season. They are on pace to blow 72 saves. EE is on pace to hit over 50 HR. Everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt, including this post. And on that positive note, let’s dive into Eric Thames GB data.
Numbers and Such
Thames has put balls into play 22 times, 15 of these have been on the ground. Of the 7 remaining balls, 2 have been infield flies. Without saying, this is certainly not the greatest of starts and is certainly a leading factor is his .250/.296/.292 line with .261 wOBA.
Tom Tango aside, the league may be putting their version of ‘The Book’ into action vs Thames.
In 2011 Thames was called up to the show. Since he wasn’t a hot shot prospect, opponents data was likely sparse. Eric had a decent season and while his OBP was nothing to write home about he did slug .456 and hit 12 HR.
Jumping into his HR data, he pulled all but one HR.
The majority of these pitches were up and either inside or near the middle of the plate.
As the season wore on, Thames production started to drop. He ended the season on a sour note, posting a .651 OPS, .284 wOBA and watching his BABIP drop to .243, as his GB% jumped from the mid-30′s to an astounding 52.1% for Sept/Oct.
Here is a heat map chart of pitches that resulted in GB from the 2011 season. Contrast this to the above HR location data that we just looked at.
For the 2011 season Thames hit .198 vs GB with a lowly .200 SLG percentage.
Last season Thames hit only .228/.264/.344 against outside offerings. This is compared to .262/.313/.456 vs inside pitches and finally .266/.292/.451 against middle location.
Teams appear to be using the outside formula against Eric this season, which has resulted in the aforementioned 15 GB in 22 balls in play. Here is a heat map of all pitches vs Thames in 2012.
Outside of middle and down, anything that’s inside or middle is likely a mistake.
Takeaway: Eric is going to have to prove to opposing teams that he can drive outside pitches for extra bases. Until he can do so, why pitch him any other way?
Future Updates: As with last week’s J.P. Arencibia framing data on FB & off-speed pitches, I’ll jump back into this data in May to update on how teams are pitching Eric.
Part 2 (Update, May 1st)
As promised, an update to Eric Thames: Outside Adjustments, how he’s been pitched and any potential adjustments he’s made. For data April 18th – April 30th.
Caveat: It goes without saying that roughly two weeks of data is a small sample.
Stats: 45 PA, .341/.400/.537 line with 2 doubles, 2 HR and a .400 BABIP. After starting the season with a 68% groundball rate, Thames has hit 12 FB & 6 LD vs 14 GB over the past two weeks, which is a great improvement.
Since the original article teams have continued to pitch Thames away. There have been some mistake pitches inside. There has also been an increased frequency of pitches just off the plate outside.
Hit Chart: Thames is finding success going with pitches on the outer portions, hitting singles & doubles to the opposite field. He’s pulled his two HR.
Thames singles, followed by doubles.
Thames taking advantage of pitches that creep back in, hitting his two HR.
This following piece of data is a great sign: Thames hit 6 line drives over this stretch, primarily on away pitches.
While this led to no extra base hits, 4 of the 5 singles went the other way. This tells me that Thames is starting to adjust and is looking to drive pitches to the opposite field.
Take Away: It’s only been two weeks but Thames appears to be making a concerted effort to work with what pitchers are giving him, driving pitches the other way and capitalizing on mistakes that creep into the inside portion of the plate.
Next Update: I’ll give this data some time to breath and make an additional update at the All-Star break.
Notes: Charts, Maps via ESPN Tru Media, Photo via Google Images, Stats via ESPN Tru Media, Fan Graphs