Eric Thames is making a very nice first impression in Seattle.
All the team is doing since he came to the Mariners in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays for reliever Steve Delabar at the deadline is win. They've won 9 of their 10 home games. Eric Thames has played in every one of those 10 games, and he's driven in at least one run in eight of them. He's hitting .387/.424/.839 at the notoriously difficult to hit in Safeco Field and he's crushed three no-doubt home runs here in just 33 plate appearances.
He and John Jaso -- who has been delivering plenty of heroics of his own for the M's in 2012 -- have developed a sort of friendly rivalry in the form of celebratory post-game interview shaving cream- and whip cream-pies to the face over the past three weeks. Thames got one that really stung a few nights ago, but if the winning and the hitting keep up for Seattle and Eric, I don't think anyone will mind.
Of course Thames hasn't been alone in this stretch for Seattle, where they've won 15 of 16 at home for the first time in team history. Michael Saunders is back to hitting the ball very hard after a few tough weeks, Dustin Ackley just had a very productive homestand at the plate and he and Trayvon Robinson made about seven highlight-reel plays between them the past handful of games. And the pitching -- well, the pitching has just been phenomenal. And that statement doesn't only belong to King Felix's perfecto.
But back to Thames. The Mariners got the 25-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder for a relatively cheap price (a hard-throwing, somewhat inconsistent, right-handed, late-20s reliever without a secondary pitch to keep right-handers off the fastball) and without much fanfare. Thames is a guy that has pop in his bat, has a bit of speed and plays the game hard, but he is also a free swinger that is strikeout prone and isn't a great defender. The Blue Jays let him play last year and he tallied an impressive 41 extra base hits in under 400 plate appearances as a rookie. But when they challenged him to win a spot on the big club this spring, neither he nor his opponent in that battle -- Travis Snider, who found himself traded at the deadline as well -- could take ownership of the left field job for Toronto. So back to Triple-A Thames went. And that is where he stayed until he was dealt to Seattle.
But sometimes all players need to kickstart their hunger is a change of scenery, and that is exactly what it seems has happened with Thames. Back in the big leagues, and back into an every day role more or less, Thames has posted an .858 OPS in 19 games with the Mariners, including an American League best 1.284 OPS over the course of the club's current eight game winning streak. These are small sample sizes (8 and 19 games), and as we already saw earlier this year, it is easy to get carried away in annointing someone as the next great thing, but with regular center fielder Franklin Gutierrez looking like he is finally close to returning from his concussion, Thames is making a real case to continue to get the bulk of the playing time in an outfield corner for Seattle as the 2012 season wraps up.
That may mean that Robinson and Casper Wells don't see a lot of action in September for the M's as we could see a fairly regular outfield featuring Saunders in left field, Gutierrez in center and Thames in right. Is that the best option for the Mariners as they look ahead to 2013? That isn't something that can be answered confidently at this point, in my opinion. But guaging just what the young, energetic, powerful, lefty-swinging Thames can offer the club is a wise move.
Who knows -- maybe Thames is the club's good luck charm. And maybe he is a long term answer in the outfield.
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