Milwaukee Brewers slugger Eric Thames blasted his eighth home run of the season on Thursday night. He also has 14 RBIs, 20 runs scored, and is leading the league in about a dozen other offensive categories. At face value, his numbers are ridiculous, but what about the numbers behind the numbers?
Eric Thames currently owns a .604 weighted on-base average. He’s the only hitter in the league to be over .600. To put that in perspective, Barry Bonds‘ highest single-season wOBA for his career was .537.
In three years in with the NC Dinos in Korea, Thames posted OPSs of 1.111, 1.218, and 1.106. His current OPS is 1.481.
With eight homers, Thames is only one away from tying his MLB career high of nine. It took him 290 plate appearances in 2012. His OPS that year? .672.
Thames has increased his power production without adding a ton of strikeouts to his stat sheet. He currently has a 19.2% K%. That’s almost 6% lower than his MLB career 25.1 K%.
Through 15 games, Eric Thames has produced a 1.4 WAR at first base. Last year, former Brewers first baseman Chris Carter was a 0.9 WAR in 160 games played. Thames is already worth half a win more in 15 games than Carter was worth for a full season.
Thames stole 64 bases in 78 attempts in Korea. At the Major League level, Thames has only attempted to steal five times. He was successful in three attempts, and has yet to run this season at all.
Thames’ time in the KBO really did make him more selective at the plate. In his two seasons at the Major League level, Thames posted swinging strike percentages of 11.3% and 13.5%. He also swung at pitches outside of the zone 36.8% and 35.6% of the time he saw them. Now? Through 15 games this year Thames has a swinging strike percentage under 8%, and has swung at pitches outside of the zone less than 21% of the time he’s seen them.
Eric Thames’ start with the Milwaukee Brewers is one of the most unique stories to occur at the Major League level since Cecil Fielder returned from Japan and turned his career around. The numbers say that Thames will likely cool off at some point, but the underlying metrics indicate that this isn’t really a fluke. He’s simply become a better hitter than he was three years ago.