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.
Player: Tommy Pham
Season stats: 98 G, 174 PA, 67 R, 87 H, 11 2B, 14 HR, 41 RBI, 10 SB, 6 CS, 42 BB, 97 K, .248/.331/.399, 99 OPS+, 0.8 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 12, Goat 9
Overall grade: B-
Positives: Hit 14 home runs in just over half of a season, showing that 2017 wasn’t a fluke….hit .341 and slugged .511 in April….had a 1.098 OPS as a left fielder….hit .316 when leading off an inning….hit .380 with a 1.012 OPS on the first pitch and hit .379 with a 1.103 OPS when the count was 1-0….had a .338 average when he was ahead in the count….hit .301 with 10 homers when nobody was out….was three for seven with a home run in extra innings….hit .290 against relievers….had a .912 OPS against finesse pitchers….hit three homers in 16 games (14 starts) against the Cubs….brought in the talent Genesis Cabrera in trade.
Negatives: Started the year off with an expletive-laden interview in Sports Illustrated where he criticized the team and their handling of him….hit .130 in his last seven games (six starts) as a member of the Cardinals….hit .243 in the first half, dragged down by sub-.200 averages in both May and June….had a .537 OPS in June….went 0-4 with a walk as a pinch-hitter….hit .188 with a .510 OPS if the pitcher was ahead in the count….hit .231 with two outs in an inning….only two of his home runs came with a runner in scoring position and 16 of his 21 total bombs were solo shots….hit .238 with two outs and runners in scoring position….12 of his home runs came in low leverage situations….had a .722 OPS against power pitchers….hit .175 against the Brewers.
Overview: The problem with being an outspoken lightning rod is that you have to produce for that act not to get old. There’s no doubt that Pham is a very talented player–any questions about that should have been put to rest after 2017–but it’s tough to handle seeing someone that was counted on to be a core cog for the season hit .195 over 53 games. Pham’s walk rate dropped about three percent and he didn’t seem to be able to go on those tears that we saw in the prior season. That made him replaceable and when you factored in the fact that he was about to hit arbitration, that the team had plenty of outfielders (and particularly wanted to see Harrison Bader get more playing time), and Pham was the outfielder that could bring back the most, his trade at the end of July should have been less shocking than it was. (If you want to get into theories, you could also say the club had decided on a pursuit of Bryce Harper and there was going to be no room at all for Pham.)
Of course, because Pham tends to play best when he’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder (though, given that he was betting on himself this season, it doesn’t always work that way), he was back to Tommy Pham levels when he arrived in Tampa Bay, hitting .343 with seven doubles, six triples, and seven home runs. If we’d seen that production in St. Louis, odds are that Pham wouldn’t have been dealt and the Cardinals would have had a more successful first half of the season. You could even guess that Mike Matheny might still be employed if Pham had hit folks expected him to. Lots of guesses there, but they are reasonable ones. However, if Pham hadn’t been traded, it seems unlikely that he would have had the August and September for the Cardinals than he did for the Rays.
Outlook: Pham will go to arbitration this winter unless the Rays avoid that with some sort of contract. Pham will be 31 when the season starts so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Tampa Bay signed him to a two or three year deal. The question is whether Pham would accept that or take his chances with arbitration. Whatever the case, he’ll probably put up good numbers for the Rays next year, but I don’t know that he’ll be so good Cardinal fans would be pining for his return.