Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez. Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site. My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast. It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug. So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!
Player: Lane Thomas
Season stats: 34 G, 44 PA, 6 R, 12 H, 1 3B, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 1 SB, 1 CS, 4 BB, 8 K, .316/.409/.684, 180 OPS+, 0.6 bWAR
Statcast: 13.3% barrel %, 91.7 exit velocity, 43.3% hard hit %, .376 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Hero 1
Overall grade: A
Positives: Made his major league debut as a defensive replacement on April 17 and pinch-hit a homer for his first hit on April 19….had a multi-hit game on April 24….smashed a grand slam against Pittsburgh August 11 that brought the Cards back from a three-run deficit….that was a five RBI day for him….had over a 1.000 OPS against both righties and lefties, but was a little better against the sinister side (1.182)….hit .333 with three homers at Busch Stadium….slashed .320/.433/.760 in the second half, all of which was in August….hit .467 in the four games he started….three of his four homers were the pinch-hit variety….went 4-12 as a pinch-hitter….went 3-5 hitting seventh….put up a .538/.667/1.231 line when he was ahead in the count….had a 1.645 OPS with runners in scoring position….hit .400 with men on base….went 2-5 with two homers with two outs and RISP….had a 2.414 OPS when the team was behind….was 4-6 in medium leverage situations….put up a 1.378 OPS against starting pitchers….was 1-1 against the Cubs and 3-10 against the Brewers….hit .268 with 10 homers in Memphis.
Negatives: Was hit in both of the last two games he played, the final one knocking him out for the season at the end of August….hit .190 in June in Memphis after a demotion….went 0-for-May, June, and July, though that was only three plate appearances….hit .217 as a substitute….also hit .217 batting ninth….hit .200 when the count was either even or he was behind….had a .684 OPS with one out….hit .167 in late and close situations.
Overview: The use of Thomas was, in a word, weird. While he sat on the bench, Tommy Edman learned out to play outfield (and while he was in one of his few slumps on the season). Thomas showed power, speed, and a good glove, but couldn’t push out a struggling Harrison Bader or Dexter Fowler for any real starting time. He only started four games all year and while that might have changed some in September, as the team ran toward a title, the fact that Mike Shildt continued to run the same guys out there day after day (when people like Randy Arozarena were available) doesn’t really lend much credence to that theory.
Of course, Thomas did get into almost every game after his callup at the end of July, whether as a pinch-hitter or as a defensive replacement, so maybe he would have gotten a bigger look. It’s also possible that a bigger sample size would have exposed some weaknesses–it’s not likely he’d have had an OPS over 1.000 with regular playing time. Thomas did all he could do to make an impact, though, and it would have been nice to see him a little bit more in 2019.
Outlook: Thomas should be healed and ready to go in spring training, but right now the outfield log jam that kept him picking splinters and taking trips to the land of the Delta blues is still there with only Marcell Ozuna moving out of the picture. It wouldn’t be the most unjust thing if Thomas wound up with a little more time in Memphis and I don’t think the Cards are looking to move him. That said, a deal that includes either him or other outfielders could get him a lot more major league playing time, whether it is in St. Louis or not.