LHR Tot PctObviously, the asymmetry of Yankee Stadium and the way it favors lefties (318-399-408-385-314) has something to do with that change; by comparison, the Oakland Coliseum was a more symmetrical 330-362-400-362-330. But as the last breakdown shows, this is something that's gotten more pronounced during his Yankee tenure, suggesting that it's more a function of choice or habit to focus on puling the ball to right field, than anything else. If he can't break out of that cycle -- and it's not just homers; O'Neill was incredulous that Giambi doesn't just take his pokes to the left side of the infield -- his career will continue its downward spiral. For the sake of the 2008 Yankees, here's hoping tonight's homer plants the seed for what he needs to do.
Career 46 367 12.5
Oak (95-00) 28 187 15.0
NYY (01-08) 18 180 10.0
2001-2003 13 94 13.9
Since 2004 5 86 5.8
So, as you read the coverage of the Jays’ decision to release Thomas yesterday, on the heels of their decision last week to reduce his playing time, remember that the “slow start” being cited as justification isn’t a slow start at all. It’s a slump that lasted all of 10 games, beginning April 9 against the A’s. Thomas was hitting .240/.296/.640 a week into the 2008 season, which is the kind of awkward line you get when you have 27 plate appearances, but it's nonetheless productive. In the subsequent nine games, Thomas was awful: 4-for-35 with no extra-base hits and 10 walks.Did I say savaged? There are days I read Joe as a fan rather than a colleague; like editor Christina Kahrl, I eagerly awaited seeing pounce on this petty little decision. Like a lion eating a rabbit (a particularly clueless one so as to better resemble the Toronto GM) -- "disembowled" would have been more appropriate. "Eviscerated" maybe. Classic Sheehan stuff.
There were any number of ways the Blue Jays could have handled this. They could have given Thomas a day or two off, diddled with his spot in the lineup, put him into a platoon with Matt Stairs for a week or two, kept everything quiet and private. No, the Blue Jays had to turn it into a project, telling Thomas that he would be playing less, which invited Thomas to question their motivations. After all, Thomas is a bit more than 300 plate appearances shy of vesting his 2010 option for $10 million, and has already lost one contract to the invocation of a “diminished skills” clause. He would, justifiably, see this as an attempt to take money out of his pocket rather than a baseball decision.
Whether motivated by baseball or money, the Jays released their DH and #5 hitter based on a 10-game slump. Thomas was unquestionably awful over the last two weeks. If only there were evidence of him emerging from similar early-season stretches to be productive over the course of a season. It’s not like he hit .097/.243/.129 in a stretch of 37 PA last April, then went on to hit .285/.382/.500 afterwards. No, wait, that happened. Of course, that’s another small sample size. It’d be something else if, in 72 PA, he hit .154/.236/.323. That would be meaningful. He could never come back from that and hit .289/.403/.575 the rest of the way. What? He did that in 2006? Boy, I don’t know. Keep reading things like this, and you’d think that stretches of ineffectiveness weren’t all that meaningful when put up against Thomas’ career. But that would mean the Blue Jays had made a bad baseball decision, and that doesn’t seem…. No, wait.
It would be one thing if the Blue Jays were so larded with talent that they had to create space for it, and this was the only way to do so. On Saturday, the Blue Jays DH’d Matt Stairs, batted Rod Barajas sixth, and played Joe Inglett in left field. On Sunday, their DH was Barajas, who batted fifth; their left fielder was Marco Scutaro. I give you Jays’ GM J.P. Ricciardi:I don't know that we have the luxury of waiting two to three months for somebody to kick in because we can't let this league or this division get away from us.Really, now. Well, let me help you along with that, J.P. Rod Barajas is 32 and has a career OBP of .288. I seriously doubt it’s all going to “kick in” for him. Marco Scutaro is 32 and a utility infielder. Not playing him in left field is one good idea if you want to help your club's offense. Joe Inglett is 30 and might be a serviceable replacement for Scutaro, but is also not suitable for the outfield. These are all the guys who Frank Thomas is too done to play ahead of, based on 10 bad games.
The national media, ESPN in particular, has been all over the topic of Prince Fielder not having any home runs in 45 at-bats. Oof course, people are blaming his vegetarian diet because it's an easy topic of conversation and makes Prince an easy target after his 50-HR season.Fielder did homer last Thursday, just in time for me to note it in the Hit List, and he's now up to .250/.386/.368. His diet will continue to draw more scrutiny than merited, and he may not top last year's monster season, but we should at least wait for a larger sample size before trying to connect the dots between his lack of cheeseburgers and his lack of homers.
PTI and Around the Horn both had Fielder as subjects, and it amazes me that some people are still thinking that his diet is a way to lose weight and that it is contributing to his lack of home runs. I'm sure the Cardinals don't feel that way since they completely pitched around the slugger last night.
...Prince is struggling. Period. He isn't driving the ball because he is not squaring it up on the meat of the bat with any consistency. He's proven to be a good, patient hitter. His groove will probably come. The guy hit the ball 8 miles last season, so a drop in power won't mean he can't hit the ball over the fence. It'll just mean that instead of hitting balls off the scoreboard, he'll hit them into the bullpen.
Maybe, if there is a drop in power, and I'm not saying there is because I don't think that's the case, it would affect the balls that get to the warning track. But in reality, how many home runs of Prince's do we remember scraping the back of the wall? Not many.
He plays for a professional baseball franchise, and that franchise has enough money to hire qualified nutritionists to help Prince and all the players with what their bodies need to perform.
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