Tag Archives: Eric Thames

NL East Division position comparison: first base

The race in the National League East Division should be one of the more compelling during the 2020 Major League Baseball season.

The division has been won by the Atlanta Braves during each of the past two years. The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals also play here. Both the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies are legitimate contenders. And though the Miami Marlins are likely to again bring up the rear, they are an improving ball club with plenty of young talent percolating in their minor league system.

Over the next two weeks, I will be examining the rosters of each team and breaking them down with a position-by-position comparison and ranking. One position each day will be covered, beginning today with the division’s first basemen.

For positions players, I’ll continue working around the infield, then behind the plate, and finally to the outfield. Once the eight starting positions have been covered, I’ll do one piece on each starting pitching rotation as a whole. That will be followed by separate pieces on each bench and bullpen, and finally on the managers.

If it appears as though any particular position is unsettled or that a team may use a platoon situation, any potential starting players will be covered.

Once that process is complete you should have a good picture of where the Phillies, or whichever club is your personal favorite, stands entering spring training.

NL EAST – 2020 FIRST BASE RANKINGS

1) Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves: Freeman plays at age 30 for the entire 2020 campaign. He has been an All-Star in each of the last two seasons, and won a Gold Glove in 2018 and a Silver Slugger in 2019. Freeman slashed .295/.389/.549 a year ago with 38 home runs, 34 doubles, 121 RBIs, and 113 runs scored in what was his 10th big-league campaign. Signed through the 2021 season and due to make $22 million in each of the next two years, it will be interesting to see if the Braves look to extend him beyond that point before their team leader enters the final year of that deal.

2) Pete Alonso, New York Mets: Alonso was the near-unanimous winner of the 2019 National League Rookie of the Year Award. He turned 25 years of age in early December and so will play at that age for the entire 2020 season. Alonso slashed .260/.358/.583 with 53 home runs, 30 doubles, 120 RBIs, and 103 runs scored in his ROY campaign. Even if he can repeat or approximate those big offensive numbers, he cannot hold a candle to Freeman defensively. But at this stage, Alonso clearly has to be considered the number two first baseman in the division.

3) Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies: Hoskins was one of the most disappointing players in the entire division a year ago. His inconsistent offensive performances in 2019 were a frequently overlooked piece to the overall disappointing Phillies puzzle. Hoskins will turn 27-years-old on St. Patrick’s Day and play at that age for the entire 2020 season. He slashed .226/.364/.454 with 29 homers, 33 doubles, 85 RBIs, and 86 runs scored in what was his second full MLB season. The Phillies made the right move in bringing him back in from left field to play first base. Though he’ll never win a Gold Glove, he is really not a poor defender at the position. Perhaps no player has more to prove in the division and can be more of a difference-maker should he reach his true potential.

4)Eric Thames, Washington Nationals: First base is one position that could prove a weakness for the defending world champions. The plan at the moment is to go with the 33-year-old veteran Thames, who signed with the Nats as a free agent earlier this month. He slashed .247/.346/.505 with 25 homers, 23 doubles, 61 RBIs, and 67 runs scored last season with the Milwaukee Brewers. A lefty bat who fields right-handed, Thames is likely to cede at least a few games at the position to 36-year-old Howie Kendrick, the utility man who was MVP of the 2019 NLCS. There is also still the possibility that 35-year-old franchise icon Ryan Zimmerman, currently an available free agent, could return to the club.

5) Jesus Aguilar, Miami Marlins: The six-year big-league veteran was selected off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays in early December and will go to arbitration next month on a one-year deal with the Fish. Aguilar appeared to have enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2018 when he blasted 38 home runs for a Milwaukee Brewers team that won the NL Central Division and nearly advanced to the World Series. But a year ago, Aguilar regressed to slash just .236/.325/.389 with 12 homers, 50 RBIs, and 39 runs scored split between the Brewers and Rays. He is not a shoo-in to keep the position, as 29-year-old Garrett Cooper is still here and slugging prospect Lewin Diaz could push his way to Miami during the season.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

 

Brewers and Cardinals cut NL Wildcard deficit to just two games

The Milwaukee Brewers made the Pittsburgh Pirates walk the plank by an 8-2 margin on Wednesday at Miller Park.

Meanwhile in Saint Louis on Thursday, the host Cardinals flew past the Cincinnati Reds for a 5-2 victory.

With their respective wins, both the Brew Crew and the Cards have now pulled within just two games in the loss column of the final NL Wildcard playoff berth.

That spot has been held for months by the Colorado Rockies, who were shut out by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday. The Dbacks control the top NL Wildcard, with their Magic Number down to 8 in order to clinch an MLB postseason berth.

A two-run homer off the bat of Eric Thames in the bottom of the 3rd inning broke a 1-1 tie for Milwaukee. Brett Phillips added a two-run single later in the frame as the Brewers chased young Pirates starter Tyler Glasnow.

For the Cardinals, rookie Luke Weaver tossed a gem. He allowed just two hits and an unearned run over six innings, striking out six Cincy batters. Tommy Pham’s 20th home run of the season, a two-run shot in the 5th inning, broke open a tight contest.

The 24-year old Weaver was quoted by Jenifer Longasch for MLB.com on his key performance in the midst of a playoff race:

“I know it’s a big deal, but I try to downplay it in my mind and think of it was another game. It doesn’t change my mentality when I go out there. I want to stay aggressive and be strong and put up a great performance.”

Out in the Arizona desert, the high-powered Rockies lineup was kept in check by 27-year old Dbacks starter Zack Godley. The righty scattered five hits across eight strong innings, striking out seven without surrendering a walk.

Dbacks skipper Torey Lovullo was quoted by Jarrid Denney for MLB.com following the game:

“I know that there are a few teams that are right there; right on out heels. It’s not just the Rockies that we’re concerned about in the standings. But we placed all that aside at the right time of the day to go out and execute. We’re not paralyzed by what’s going on around us. I’m happy that these guys are eliminating the noise.”

The Rockies now will host the San Diego Padres this weekend at Coors Field. That series begins a stretch in which Colorado will play teams at least 10 games under the .500 mark (San Diego, San Francisco, Miami) in a dozen straight games.

The Brewers are in Miami this weekend, so the Marlins will have a real chance to play spoiler down the stretch. After that it will be three in Pittsburgh. The Brewers return home for a four-game long weekend set with the Chicago Cubs next Thursday.

The Cardinals play host to those arch-rival Cubs this weekend at Busch Stadium. It begins a nine-game road trip that will continue next week in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson is now the hunter

Anderson has gone from being the hunted to the hunter in Milwaukee
The Milwaukee Brewers haven’t fielded a winning team since the 2014 season. It has been six years since the 2011 Brew Crew won 96 games and the NL Central Division crown. That was the most recent contending seasons for the club.
Thus far in the 2017 season, the Brewers are off to a .500 start at 16-16. They are still hanging around in the division race, a game and a half out of first place as we move through the second week of May.
Much of the credit for the Brewers’ more competitive start has rightly gone to surprising slugger Eric Thames. The first baseman signed as a free agent this past offseason after four years away from Major League Baseball, the last three of those playing in Korea.
Thames has given Milwaukee an offensive threat to team with Ryan Braun, the likes of which haven’t been seen on the banks of Lake Michigan since Prince Fielder left following that 2011 campaign.
But as any baseball fan knows, you can have all the hitting in the world, and your team will not win if it cannot compete on the mound.

FOURTH YEAR STARTER EMERGING

Right-hander Chase Anderson has emerged early on this season as Thames’ surprise counterpart among the pitching staff.
A Texas native, Anderson was a fourth round choice of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Oklahoma. He came to Milwaukee in a January 2016 trade along with Aaron Hill and prospect Isan Diaz in exchange for Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner.
Now in his fourth big league season, the 29-year-old Anderson entered this year with a career mark of 24-24 over his first 79 starts in the major leagues. His typical ERA has been north of the 4.00 mark.
Thus far in the 2017 season, Anderson is 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.212 WHIP mark. He has allowed 30 hits over 34.2 innings with a 30/12 K:BB ratio.
Anderson’s K/BB ratio of 2.50, his K/9 rate of 7.8 and his BB/9 rate of 3.1 are all right along with his career marks to this point. Sometimes a nice ERA can be deceptive. But Anderson also has a fine 2.77 FIP mark and a 153 ERA+ on his stat line. So what has been the difference?
One bugaboo for Anderson in the past has been a propensity to surrender home runs on a far too frequent basis. He served up 62 long balls in 418.2 innings over his first three seasons.
But to this point, Anderson has yielded just one homer. After giving up 25 bombs a year ago, he is on a pace to allow just five this season.

MORE AGGRESSIVE MENTALITY

In late April, Anderson was quoted by Todd Rosiak with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on an improved mental aspect of his approach to the game:

“I think it goes back to the mentality of being the hunter and not the hunted,” Rosiak quotes the pitcher. 

“(Pitching coach Derek Johnson) harps on that a lot. He tells me to just go out there and attack the strike zone and that my stuff’s good enough, and that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t.”

The lone homer that he has surrendered thus far in 2017 came in his very first start of the year. On April 6, Mark Reynolds of the Colorado Rockies tagged him in the third inning at Miller Park.
Since that time, Anderson is working on a streak of 27 consecutive innings without allowing a ball to leave the yard. It has clearly been a key to the overall improvement in his results.
Things haven’t been all rosy for Anderson. His last two starts have been less than stellar, as he allowed four earned runs to both the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. Against the division-rival Cards, Anderson lasted just 4.2 innings, his shortest outing of the season thus far.
The improvement that Anderson showed on the mound over his first handful of starts was noticeable. If he simply continues to keep the ball in the park, he will enjoy many more of those types of outings as the year moves along. Maintaining that “hunter” attitude will be the key.