The Milwaukee Brewers have struggled to get consistent production out of first base this season. But there’s been a silver lining.
Coming into 2019, Eric Thames was set to be the backup first baseman to Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar took Thames’ job after Eric suffered a thumb injury last April, and he was riding the bench mostly ever since and struggled in doing so. But Thames in 2019 is having a resurgent season for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Due to Aguilar’s struggles in the early part of the season, Thames has been able to push his way from a regular bench bat, to a platoon at first base with Aguilar.
Eric Thames By The Numbers
This year, in 151 ABs, Thames has a .258/.379/.503 slash line, good for a .882 OPS, which is 4th highest on the team.
Thames has seven doubles, 10 home runs, 28 RBIs, 27 walks, 61 strikeouts and two stolen bases.
Also, Thames has upped his walk rate from 10.4% last year to 14.8% this year. He has seen his strikeout rate drop as well. His K% is down from 34.9% to 33.5%, so it’s not a significant drop, but hey, progress is progress.
In 2017, Thames posted a 125 OPS+, and to this point in the 2019 season, Thames has a 127 OPS+.
The interesting thing is that there’s almost no change in the amount of soft-, medium-, and hard-hit rates for Thames from 2018 to 2019. But his BABIP has gone up from .284 to .358 this year. So all those hard hit balls he had last year that found gloves, are finding outfield grass this year. For those curious, his breakout 2017 season had a .309 BABIP and his career average is a .310 BABIP.
Jumpstarting First Base
Jesus Aguilar couldn’t get it going for a long time to start this season. For nearly the entire month of May, the Milwaukee Brewers didn’t get a single home run from their first baseman. Thankfully they were saved from that shame on the final day, but it has still been a rough spot in the Brewers lineup this year.
Thames has given a nice little jumpstart to the position with his play this year. He’s not a standout first baseman, but he’s been producing well. Now Thames is getting the lion’s share of playing time at first base with the platoon he has with Aguilar. As the lefty bat, Thames gets to start against right handed pitchers, which there are much more of than lefties in big league rotations.
He’s making $6 million this season and has a club option for $7.5 million for next year. It’s unlikely that option will get picked up, despite his strong play, but Thames has been coming up big for the Milwaukee Brewers when they needed him most.
Aguilar is also showing some signs of breaking out of his season long slump recently, and we could see both of these guys playing well quite soon and that’ll be a fun sight to see.