Milwaukee Brewers: Eric Thames 2017 season review

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 01: Eric Thames
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 01: Eric Thames /

Do you remember what Milwaukee Brewers slugger Eric Thames did in April? He wasn’t so much a hitter as he was a force of nature. Thames wrecked the National League for the better part of a month before cooling off, getting hurt, and sort of compiling his way through the season.

Eric Thames almost didn’t happen for the Milwaukee Brewers. He failed to impress in Spring Training, and only posted a .771 OPS. Jesus Aguilar nearly won the starting first base job with a torrid Spring. They managed to work out a platoon in early April, and Thames took off.

How awesome was Eric Thames in April?

Well, he only hit 11 homers and posted a .345/.466/.810 slash line in 24 games. Thames had one fewer run scored, 28, than he had hits in April, 29. He started the season absolutely on fire, and appeared to be a clear front runner for the MVP award.

Where did Eric Thames season go wrong?

Thames’ health had a lot to do with his struggles past April. He injured his hamstring sometime in April or May and attempted to play through it. Thames also came down with strep throat, and later developed soreness in both of his legs. He suffered through a few injuries other injuries that were enough to keep him out of the lineup, but never bad enough to warrant a DL stint. He was prone to peaks and valleys of production that left many scratching their heads.

Was the Baseball Tornado that struck in April the real deal, or is Eric Thames guy who posted a .163/.267/.402 slash line in June? The answer is probably a bit of both?

What did Eric Thames do well?

He got on-base, even when he wasn’t producing, and hit baseball really hard when he was. He only had one month with a walk rate below 10%, and that was a 9.6% rate he posted in June. The lowest ISO he produced in a single month was .195. That mark came in May when he was suffering through leg issues and strep. Eric Thames knows what he’s doing at the plate.

What does he need to improve?

He needs an off season program that focuses on maintaining strength in his legs and improves his cardio. He wore down as the months went by and was clearly used to the the KBO schedule. In Korea, there’s an off-day every week and the season is about 20-30 games shorter, depending on adjustments. Rainouts are also much more frequent in Korea, and that allows players to recover. Thames clearly struggled with the grind of an MLB season. He needs to adjust his off season workout program to account for the tougher schedule.

Where did Eric Thames’ season numbers end up?

The 31 homers were great, as were the 83 runs scored, but the .247/.359/.518 slash line and 63 RBIs were a surprise. The Milwaukee Brewers lacked a true lead off hitter, and Thames was asked to put his strike zone judgment skills to good use. Thames struggled at the very top of the order and only produced a .210/.329/.403 slash line when leading off. He was much more comfortable hitting out of the second slot, and posted a .259/.376/.563 line.

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Eric Thames will likely return to the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2018 season. He hasn’t even turned 31 yet, and he has two years and a club option year left on a very affordable contract. However, Thames could wind up in trade talks if the Brewers look to add an arm or two. An American League team in need of a first baseman/DH could have interest, and the Brew Crew is at the very beginning of a talent cycle. Thames is now an asset instead of a question mark, and has a chance to provide value beyond his 2017 season if there’s a deal that fits.