Don’t ask me why I remember Chris Shelton, or how I remember Chris Shelton…I just do.
Back in the day (Since my 29th bday is tomorrow, I think I qualify as old enough to use that statement) Chris Shelton was a scrub. That’s the best way I can think to describe him. Not that he was bad by any means, he was just…well…average. He was never really good enough to be a household name, just an average player that you figured would make minimal impact over the course of his career and then ride off into the sunset.
And then 2006 happened.
Shelton somehow managed to hit nine dingers in the first 13 games of the season, the quickest anyone has ever done that in the American League. The thing about Shelton, though, is that he faded out almost as quickly as he hit those homeruns. He went on to end April with 10, followed that up with a very “meh” May hitting .286 with one HR, and ended the season hitting .273 with 16 HR.
He went on to play a grand total of 50 more Major League games over the next few years and was out of baseball by 2011.
Don’t get the meaning of this mixed up, though. Thames’ career has been a bit different up to this point. I’m not saying he will be out of baseball in two years and every one will forget who he is. What I’m saying is, the season that Thames has put together so far is eerily similar to Shelton’s 2006 season. So similar that it actually made me remember something so obscure from 11 years ago.
I get it, Thames seems to have reached Super Saiyan God level amongst baseball nerds and nobody wants to hear it. I’m just trying to temper people’s expectations. Keep in mind, this is the same guy that was so good he had to go play in Korea for three years just to prove he can actually still play baseball. Korea, of all places, is not a baseball mecha where players go to get great coaching against great competition and become great players. Korea is a place where careers go to die (I’m looking at you, Andruw Jones).
Besides the fact that 8 of his 12 HR have come against the Reds sub-par pitching, Thames has drastically slowed down in the hitting department as of late. After hitting a bomb in Sunday’s game against the Pirates, Thames has a grand total of one HR and 3 RBI in his last 10 games. Not only that, he is hitting only .200 (9/45) with two doubles over the same stretch.
What I’m saying is that the “baseball god” looks more and more mortal by the day. His sweet, sweet swing (I’m not exaggerating at all with this, the guys swing is a thing of beauty) seems to have been figured out by opposing teams. He has a tendency to crush pitches all over the strike zone, but he also seems to have a tendency to swing freely at pitches down and away in the same strike zone with far worse results.
At this point, Thames’ 48.1% hard contact rate and .407 ISO and 194 wRC+ seem likely to regress sooner rather than later. Don’t kid yourself, you know those aren’t sustainable. Although his BABIP is .343 and I do think that is something he can keep up which will keep his average hovering around .300.
What once seemed to be a season destined for 50 HR and 140 RBI now seems like it was a bit of a mirage. You may consider it a “small sample size” compared to the rest of the season, but when you take into account his entire career it seems as though his miraculous April may have been the true “small sample size”.
Look for him to end the season closer to the .290/28/75 mark. Not a bad season by any means, but he will not go crazy the whole year like everyone seems to think. Players don’t just go from mediocre and out of baseball because nobody wants them, to best player in the league.
For baseball sake, though, I hope you read this, Mr. Thames. Prove me wrong. With the state of baseball and it’s steady lack on interest, the game needs a player like you.