After striking out in three consecutive plate appearances tonight, I've started to wonder if Jim Thome's bat is slowing down.
This has been on my mind for a while now. It started back in April, watching big Thome take a big swing at a big fastball and either miss completely or get just enough of one to foul it off. Recently it's been on the back-burner, because he hadn't been getting a lot of playing time.
The last three days have brought it back to my mind.
Historically, Thome is a great hitter. Nobody doubts that. And when you've been playing for 20 years and are about to turn 40, there's going to be some drop off in ability. But specifically, in regards to Thome and power pitchers, are my observations accurate?
I'll run some numbers after the jump.
Obviously we're playing with smaller sample sizes when looking at 2010's results, but they do imply that Thome has a much easier time handling finesse pitchers over power pitchers. In other words, while he continues to do well against pitchers who rely on contact to be successful, he's been vulnerable to hurlers who get swings and misses and can strike hitters out. SSST or not, it's something worth keeping an eye on.
I alluded earlier to seeing Thome take unsuccessful cuts on fastballs, because those are the pitches you typically associate with power pitchers, but in general Thome's been fine against the heater this season. FanGraphs shows he's worth 5.4 runs above average for fastballs.
Inside Edge agrees. Thome's fastball performance grades are solid, as he comes in no worse than above average in any category. (By the way, if you love stats and you don't have Inside Edge: think about it.)
It's hard finding a spot for Thome in the lineup on a regular basis, but if moving Michael Cuddyer to third base is to be a semi-permanent thing we might get to see a bit more of JIM JAM MASHIN SOME TATERS. I hope we do, because he's still an amazing hitter.
Maybe just not against power pitchers.