The best story in baseball is a former journeyman outfielder who hasn’t played in the league since 2012. Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Eric Thames is back from a sojourn in the Korea Baseball Organization, and he’s brought back his immense power.
Thames has been unstoppable since returning to Major League Baseball, hitting an incredible five home runs over his past five games. His latest came Monday night against the Chicago Cubs.
With the blast, Thames tied a team record for home runs in consecutive games. He joins outfielder Jeremy Burnitz, who accomplished the feat in 1997.
But Thames’ success goes beyond what he’s doing for the Brewers. Overall, Thames is hitting an incredible .405/.479/1.000, with a league-leading seven home runs.
That last figure has led to the following series of early season fun facts:
Eric Thames has 7 homers.
The Red Sox have 6 homers.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) April 18, 2017
Yes, Eric Thames has hit more home runs than the entire Boston Red Sox team by himself. He’s hit just as many home runs as the Toronto Blue Jays.
Now, there’s nothing predictive about that stat. Thames isn’t going to do that all year, obviously. But it’s incredibly fun to read. And it’s an example of how small sample nonsense can lead to some unusual results. Eric Thames is out-homering an MLB team. You can at least chuckle at that.
That performance is pretty much in line with what Thames accomplished in the KBO. Over three seasons, he hit a Ruthian 349/.451/.721 with 124 home runs. All of that came after flaming out in the majors after hitting .250/.296/.431 over 684 plate appearances.
His teammates have definitely taken notice of what Thames has accomplished.
“It’s hard to describe,” Ryan Braun said of Eric Thames. “It’s as good as I’ve ever seen anybody be at baseball for a two-week period.”— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) April 18, 2017
As our own Jeff Passan pointed out Sunday, Thames isn’t the first player to leave the majors and experience incredible success upon his return. That honor belongs to Cecil Fielder. Fielder’s initial success carried over for his first few seasons after returning to the majors. He was an All-Star in three of his first four seasons, hitting 160 home runs.
Thames will have to prove he’s capable of doing the same. As the stat about the home runs above highlights, it’s early. Thames has gotten off to a great start, but baseball is a game of adjustments. Pitchers will figure out how to pitch to him as he is exposed to the league. They’ll find ways to attack him and attempt to exploit his weaknesses.
That will be the true test. Can Thames sustain the resurgence he found in the Korean League, or is this nothing more than small sample luck? We don’t have the answer yet, but we’re going to enjoy the hell out of the journey.