The Dodgers signed OF Marcus Thames today to spend some time in left field. My gut reaction was...meh...but I decided to take a closer look.
He's a better hitter than I thought. Especially if used correctly.
This is Thames' average line vs left-handed pitchers for his career and last 3 years (per 600 PA)
Career: 540 AB, 143 Hits, 32 HR, 54 BB, 134 K, .264 BA, .333 OBP, .505 SLG, .358 wOBA
Last 3: 537 AB, 142 Hits, 33 HR, 54 BB, 147 K, .265 BA, .332 OBP, .498 SLG, .356 wOBA
This is Thames' average line vs right-handed pitchers for his career and last 3 years (per 600 PA)
Career: 545 AB, 129 Hits, 37 HR, 43 BB, 166 K, .236 BA, .296 OBP, .480 SLG, .329 wOBA
Last 3: 543 AB, 136 Hits, 36 HR, 46 BB, 165 K, .251 BA, .307 OBP, .481 SLG, .337 wOBA
Thames is obviously a better hitter vs lefties. Which is the reason that he was signed. The Dodgers have Ethier, Gwynn, Gibbons, and Paul as left-handed hitting OFers and only Kemp as a right-handed hitter. Players with wOBA between .350 and .360 (as Thames has vs lefties) are: Derek Jeter, Vlad Guerrero, Robinson Cano, and Carl Crawford.
Unfortunately, only about 30% of at bats come against left-handed pitching. That won't be the case for Thames this season though. Teams have already realized that Thames hits lefties much better as 43% of his career at bats have come against lefties, including 60% last season.
So the Dodgers will have this player in the lineup about 30% of the time.
.265/.330/.500 .330 wOBA per 600 PAs with 33 HR
Two problems: Defense and the other 70% of the time.
Thames is a terrible defender. So is Ethier and the reviews as Kemp as a CFer are mixed. Lets leave it at that.
The other 70% of the time. Thames will get some at bats vs righties. He's not good, but not terrible against them. The other options are likely Gwynn and Gibbons.
Gwynn is a terrible hitter and excellent defender.
Gibbons was out of major league baseball in 2008 and 2009 and only had 80 PA's last season. But they were a productive 80 PA's and he looked good in the minors as well...but what to expect from him is... volatile
For Gibbon's career vs righties:
.259/.319/.464 .336 wOBA per 600 PAs with 26 HR
That's not much better than would be expected out of Thames vs righties.
Unfortunately, Gibbons is also a poor defensive player who will give back a lot of the runs he created with his bat with his poor glove.
I'm still not convinced that an OF of Ethier in left, Gwynn in center and Kemp in Right isn't the best option.