Marcus Thames Should Never See Left Field Again

Joseph DelGrippoAnalyst IApril 28, 2010

NEW YORK - APRIL 16:  Marcus Thames #38 of the New York Yankees bats against the Texas Rangers on April 16, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Looking at the image with this article, you see that Marcus Thames has great hitting mechanics. Hips opening for power, a stiff front leg, elbow tucked near the hip to keep the swing short and the bat rotating through the zone.

A good hitter who, on occasion, can really mash left handed pitching.

But Thames is a designated hitter. Pure and simple. He can even be counted on to pinch hit when a lefty is brought into the game. With a career pinch hit line of .321 AVG /.424 OBP /.625 SLG /.1.049 OPS with five homers and 14 RBI in 56 at-bats, Thames would likely star in that role for the 2010 Yankees.

But he should never start in left field again over Brett (The Jet*) Gardner.

*I know Gardner's popular nickname is GGBG (Gritty, Gutty Brett Gardner) but I refuse to use that term for two reasons. First, it was originally coined by the traitor Peter Abraham, who used to run the Lohud Yankees Blog and now writes for the Boston Globe, covering the Boston Red Sox.

Wasn't it great that Abraham left the Yankees before the playoffs? Then, saw his new team, the Red Sox, lose to the Los Angeles Angels. Then, his old team goes on to win the World Series.

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Second, the term "gritty" for a baseball player is very overused. What constitutes gritty? Why are only white ballplayers called gritty? Is it another term for a hustling ballplayer? Baseball is a game of hustle. Baseball is a game of spurts and there is always a constant need to sprint. When hitting a ground ball a hitters only job is to run to first base, so why not run hard?

When the offseason signings were completed, we were told that Gardner that would be the starter, Randy Winn would play left field on occasion, and Thames will be a righty bat off the bench, occasionally getting a start at designated hitter. He was originally signed to a minor league deal, for heaven's sake.

Then, after a really bad spring training, Jamie Hoffmann was released, cleared waivers, and offered back to Los Angeles, we heard that Thames would likely platoon with Gardner.

After Sunday's game in which Thames played an easy ball hit by Brandon Wood into a two-run double, he confirmed the consensus that he does not need to be in left field ever again.

That was a ball which landed to Thames' right, then he let it get behind him. If Gardner was playing that, he gets to the ball easily and saves Javier Vazquez from a big inning.

Also, back on April 9, the Tampa Bay Rays had a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning with runners on first and second. Jason Bartlett drove a line drive to left and Thames tried to dive and catch it, but came up empty. Again, Gardner catches that ball because he is a lefty thrower or, at worst, he keeps the ball in front of him, saving, at least, a run.

Once again, Vazquez was the pitcher.

One more play in Game 2 against the Boston Red Sox when Thames mis-judges the soft fly ball by Jacoby Ellsbury into a single, stolen base, catcher's error and run scored on a sac fly.

That is at least four runs, maybe five, that Gardner saves the Yankees.

Errors are terrible anywhere they occur, as they increase the pitch count and put more strain on the pitcher with additional men on base. But outfield errors (both physical and mental) compound the problem, as they usually lead to two bases on the error for the batter, and usually clear the bases of all runners, when they happen. 

Those types of mistakes are game changing, like they were in Tampa and Los Angeles. In both of those games Vazquez was the starter.

We already have dicussed why Girardi hates David Robertson, but what does Girardi have against Vazquez by playing Thames in left when Javy pitches?

Thames is hitting well in limited time against lefties.

He has shown power and the ability to get on base via the walk. But he is a two, maybe three, plate appearance per game hitter because once the lefty starter is out, so is Thames. 

Gardner is not the detriment on offense he is portrayed, he has gotten on base at a 42 percent clip, and has shown the ability to wreak havoc on the bases when he gets there. He is a plus defender and a plus runner. He makes things happen; he causes the defense to rush throws and play different than normal.

That is what speed does to the defense.

The Yankees have enought offense versus lefties with right handed hitters. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Plus switch hitters, Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada. Girardi can DH Thames as often as he would like against left handed pitching, but Marcus should not play the field.

I will not understand if Joe Girardi puts Thames in left field again, as his defense likely cost the Yankees at least two opportunities to stay in the game, and possibly cost them a win.

We will find out on Thursday how Girardi will play it when left handed starter Brian Matusz pitches for the Baltimore Orioles.

Girardi will be best served by letting Thames DH and having Gardner in left field.

For the rest of the season.  

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