How good has Brewers’ Eric Thames been this April?

PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 02: Eric Thames
PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 02: Eric Thames /

Milwaukee Brewers slugger Eric Thames is well on his way to player of the month honors. How good has he really been over this scorching streak?

Eric Thames has started off April scorching hot after signing a three-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers this offseason. Thames spent the three seasons prior to 2017 overseas with the NC Dinos putting up absurd numbers. Thames slashed .349/.451/.721 while hitting 124 home runs and knocking in 382 RBI’s in three seasons. He garnered offers from multiple MLB teams but ultimately decided on the Brewers who guaranteed him their first base position.

To this point in the season Thames is hitting .373 with 10 home runs and 17 RBI’s. Seven of the 10 home runs have come against the Cincinnati Reds. At one point from April 13 to April 17, Thames homered in five straight games. Thames is well on his way to winning player of the month.

The question is, how good has Thames really been over this month?

The answer, out of his mind.

To begin with, we must first recognize that while Thames batting average is good, batting average inside of itself does not tell the whole story. Batting average is a flawed metric. Batting average is calculated by taking the total number of hits a player has and dividing it by the number of at bats. However, just by watching a baseball game you can tell that not all at bats are created equal. Some matter more than others. This is where slugging percentage comes into play.

Slugging percentage is calculated to give more weight to hits where more total bases are accumulated. So, if a player gets a triple you would add 3 to the numerator and 1 to the denominator (for the AB). Slugging percentage is a good indicator of a player’s offensive production, particularly amongst power hitters. So far on the young season, Thames leads Major League Baseball in slugging percentage at .910.

Further, Thames comes in at eighth in RBIs in the National League with 17. However, RBIs, just like batting average, is a statistic that should be taken with a grain of salt. RBIs are dependent on the players around you. If there is no one on base in front of you then you cannot bat runs in. Which is why it may be better to look at the Runs Above Average (RAA) statistic to correctly quantify how effective a player is at producing runs.

Runs above average is the number of runs a player is better than the average player. So your average player on a baseball team would score a 0 on this scale. On Thames past two major league teams had a RAA of -6 and -1. However, so far this year he has accumulated a RAA of +14. Meaning that he is 14 runs more valuable to his team than the average player in Major League Baseball.

Thames also leads the NL in Wins above Replacement on the young season with 1.7. Thames also leads the National League in Situational Wins Added (WPA/LI). This metric divides a player’s offensive contributions by leverage to measure how much value a player adds to their team. This metric measures more of a players talent level than win expectancy does.

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In short, both the traditional baseball minds and the sabermetric community can agree on one thing, Eric Thames has been on fire this month and deserves every bit of the awards that are coming his way at the end of it.