What if I told you a guy who hadn’t played in the majors since 2012 returned this season and has turned into a power hitting machine. Would you believe me, or no?
Well start believing it because Brewers outfielder Eric Thames is doing just that. Thames was never a household name in his early career, but since returning from the Korean Baseball Organization, he has become one.
In Korea, Thames hit to a slash line of .347/.448/.714, but no one expected that to carry over to the big leagues. However, Thames has made the transition look easy thus far. Through 19 games, Thames has a slash line of .373/.481/.910, and is leading the majors with 10 homers and 24 runs scored.
What’s made him so successful in his return? Some rival ball clubs are saying PED’s, what it really is is a much more developed plate discipline. In his first stint in the majors he was a free swinger, swinging at 33% of breaking balls outside the zone.
Over in Korea all they throw are breaking balls and split finger fastballs with a much bigger strike zone. Thames told Bob Nightengale of USAToday.com, “I had to really bear down in the strike zone and learn how to plate discipline… I would have to carry that there because they throw harder and the strike zone is bigger.”
Current Brewers GM David Stearns, who in 2013 as assistant GM of the Houston Astros granted release of Thames from the ball club, kept tabs on the big lefty. He told Nightengale, “We always kept him on our radar … one of the benefits of going to Korea was that he saw a ton of off-speed pitches that break out of the zone, he really transformed as a hitter.”
As a result, the Brewers took a chance on him this offseason. The Brewers showed they believed in him and his return as they granted Thames a three year deal. Today, the Brewers are wreaking the benefits of believing in the 30-year old slugger.
On his turn around thus far, Thames told Nightengale, “I think a lot of people thought I would struggle when I came back over here, I think everyone’s kinda shocked right now. But I feel like I did in Korea. My confidence feels different. My swing feels different. My mind feels different. It’s nothing like I felt the first time I was in the big leagues.”