Former Detroit Tigers outfielder Marcus Thames has decided to call it a playing career after spending parts of 10 seasons in the big leagues (six with Detroit). But his retirement won’t take him away from the game – he’s been hired as the hitting coach for the Tampa Yankees of the Advanced-A level Florida State League.
Thames was never an everyday guy during his career – he maxed out at 110 games played in 2006 – but carried a tremendous amount of thunder in his bat. In fact, in the last decade (2000-2009), few hitters in Major League Baseball were more likely to hit a home run when they stepped up to the plate. Here’s a list of the top several batters in terms of home runs per plate appearance.
That’s six guys who will garner significant Hall of Fame attention, a former MVP and multi-time All-Star (in Ryan Howard), and Marcus Thames. Somewhat below Thames on the list are the likes of Adam Dunn, Prince Fielder, Frank Thomas, Jason Giambi, and David Ortiz.
It’s an interesting choice for hitting coach. Nearly all of Thames’ value at the dish was delivered via the home run. And he hit all those home runs because he was really strong, and really good at getting the ball in the air (fifth highest fly ball percentage of the decade). I’ve never thought about the process involved in hiring a hitting coach – or who might be a good candidate – but it seems to me that you’d want someone who could instruct your young players on how to hit line drives. Thames was a very poor line drive hitter (16.9% of his batted balls – 15th worst among qualified hitters in the aughts.
Then again, a good bit of being successful as a hitter likely has to do with excelling in your areas of strength. Thames was a strong fly ball hitter and he parlayed that ability into a ten year career. Had he tried to become a line drive contact hitter, he may not have been as successful.