Milwaukee Brewers: Eric Thames’ magic has run out

ST LOUIS, MO - APRIL 11: Eric Thames
ST LOUIS, MO - APRIL 11: Eric Thames /

Unfortunately for the Milwaukee Brewers and Eric Thames, the magic we saw during the 2017 season has run dry as he continues to struggle at the plate.

Just about all of us are familiar with Eric Thames’ wonderful comeback story that began with the Milwaukee Brewers back in the 2017 season. After struggling early on in his career with the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners, Thames would go play in the Korean professional baseball league from 2013 to 2016. During his time there, Thames would put up monster numbers and in 2017, the Brewers took a flyer on him and boy did it pay off.

The Milwaukee Brewers surprised everyone that season by missing the playoffs by just one game and Eric Thames was making big contributions along the way. He would start off his Brewer career with a bang by hitting 11 home runs in the months of March and April with 19 RBIs and an incredible 1.276 OPS. Overall in 138 games that season, Thames posted a slash line of .247/.359/.518, along with 31 home runs and 63 RBIs.

Thames would quickly become a fan favorite in Milwaukee and heading into the 2018 season he was the clear starter at first base and looking to build upon his 2017 performance.

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However, an unfortunate thumb injury would leave him stranded on the disabled list and Jesus Aguilar would take advantage of Thames absence by putting up ridiculous numbers at the plate and he would end up making his first All-Star game. From that point on, Aguilar was the Milwaukee Brewers starting first baseman, and Thames would be relegated to the bench.

Once Thames was healthy enough to return he saw limited action, either playing when Aguilar needed a rest, coming in late as a pinch-hitter or occasionally in the outfield. However, the outfield is not a natural position for Thames and he is a liability defensively. With Ben Gamel and Hernan Perez as options in the outfield, we most likely will not see Thames out there much in 2019.

At the plate, Thames would post a slash line of .161/.232/.333 during the second half of the season and would hit just three long-balls. Now, in Thames defense, filling in sporadically as a pinch-hitter is an incredibly difficult job to do well in. With the limited reps, a player struggles to find a rhythm at the plate, but if you struggle with the attempts you are given, those already limited opportunities will start to dwindle. It’s a vicious cycle and like many, Thames fell victim to it.

Although what we have seen so far in 2019 is a small sample size, Thames is still struggling at the plate. Not ideal for a player that is fighting for more playing time. In eight plate appearances, Thames has two hits but has struck out six times.

What Thames can and has provided this Milwaukee Brewers team with is the home run ball, he’s a power hitter that is going to strike out a lot. He won’t hit for a high average, he doesn’t have the best arm and he is okay defensively at first base.

Since the All-Star break in 2018 when Thames struggles really became obvious, opposing pitchers have been giving him a heavy dose of breaking and off-speed pitches. Thames has a very high whiff rate when these pitches are thrown and he hasn’t been able to figure them out. It’s hurt his average, his on-base percentage, and his home run numbers are down. Opposing pitchers know this and are taking advantage.

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With a base salary of $6 million this season Thames isn’t going anywhere. Unless he is part of a trade package at the trade deadline mid-season, but currently he doesn’t hold much in terms of trade value. We just have to hope that with the opportunities he is given he can hit his way out of this extended slump, but realistically we may be past that point as it appears the play we saw from Thames in 2017 is long gone.