Exit Interview: Tommy Pham

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is Talking About Birds, the only Cardinal podcast that….well, whatever Nate wants to make up this week.  Nate and Ben break down the week that was with humor and insight.  Plus they have me on sometimes, which I enjoy.  Find them on iTunes or check out their site!

Player: Tommy Pham

Season stats: 78 games, 183 PA, 26 R, 7 2B, 9 HR, 17 RBI, 20 BB, 71 K, .226/.324/.440, 103 OPS+, -0.1 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 5, Goat 2

Overall grade: C

Positives: Hit four more homers in 2016 even though he only got 10 more plate appearances….started six straight games in July and had a .280/.308/.720 line in them, including an 0-5 that ended the streak….Had five of his home runs and 10 of his RBI in July….had an .839 OPS and eight homers as a starter….had a .911 OPS when he was the leadoff batter in an inning….hit .563 with a 1.375 OPS on the first pitch (16 PA)….had a 1.230 OPS when he was ahead in the count….hit .269/.338/.567 with nobody out….had a .953 OPS in high-leverage situations….hit six of his home runs off relievers, even though he hit just .213 against them….hit .421 with a 1.132 OPS in 11 games against the Reds.

Negatives: Got hurt on Opening Day, then went to Memphis when he healed up….hit .167 in September, though he had just 19 plate appearances….hit .147/.256/.235 coming off the bench….hit .224 with three walks and 22 strikeouts in 11 games as the leadoff hitter….hit .207 with runners in scoring position, though four of his home runs came in those spots leading to a .999 OPS….hit .197 with men on in general….hit .059 in 18 PA with a runner on first and one out….hit .125 (but slugged .500) with two outs and RISP….hit .190 against power pitchers….hit .100 in 10 games against the Pirates.

Overview: It still feels like we really don’t have an idea of what Tommy Pham is or what he really can do.  Optimists think if he could stay healthy and play regularly, he could be a solid and talented part of the outfield.  Pessimists think that the former is unlikely and, as with many others, it’s tough to play someone every day when he’s struggling.  There seems to be a lot of talent with Pham, but whether it is all going to click is a different story.  The defensive metrics don’t even give him a boost, at least not from last year.  So what do we have with Pham?

Pham will be 29 years old when the 2017 season starts and while he’s maybe not quite that old in baseball age because of all the missed time due to injury, it also seems pretty likely that he’s not going to just suddenly blossom into this great talent that some feel like he could be.  The club isn’t looking for him to play center, which is probably some indication of what this club thinks they have with him.  And, like it or not, they are usually a smart club when it comes to talent evaluation.

Outlook: Pham isn’t arbitration eligible for another couple of years and especially with the losses of Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss, and Jeremy Hazelbaker, should have a spot in St. Louis in 2017.  That said, the club has never been as enamored with him as they have been with others (or as much as the fan base has been) and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he didn’t get a lot of playing time next year as well.

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