This Thompson is Not Always a Gunner
Miguel Montero took Brad deep on July 4
Miguel Montero took Brad deep on July 4

Posted Jul 19, 2007


St. Louis Cardinals right-handed pitcher Brad Thompson’s 15 home runs allowed leads the team. We look into the numbers a bit deeper for an idea about what we might expect from him the rest of the way.

With Brad Thompson’s fifth-inning home run allowed to the Florida MarlinsHanley Ramirez Tuesday night certainly a damaging one, still fresh on St. Louis Cardinals’ fans minds, I took a quick look at his rates of allowing long balls.

 

During this season, Thompson has been charged with a team-high 15 long balls in 90 2/3 innings pitched. Surprisingly to me, his rate of homers allowed is actually higher as a reliever than as a starter in 2007.

 

2007

HR

IP

IP/HR

Total

15

90 2/3

6.0

As starter

9

66 1/3

7.4

In relief

6

24 1/3

4.1

 

Extending Thompson out to 200 innings at his “total” rate, he would theoretically surrender 33 homers. In case anyone was successful at forgetting, the high in the National League last season was posted by none other than then-Cardinal Jason Marquis with 35 in 194 1/3 IP. The next worst were two hurlers at 31 home runs allowed, Ramon Ortiz and Bronson Arroyo.

 

On the other hand, if Thompson could maintain his 2007 “starter” home run rate, he would “only” allow 27 long balls in 200 innings.

 

Returning to the relief side again, with only 24 1/3 innings in that role this season, it may not be a representative sample.

 

Looking back at his last two partial seasons with St. Louis, in other words, his whole body of Major League work prior to 2007, Thompson served up just nine taters in 111 2/3 innings pitched. That equates to only one home run per 16.1 innings pitched. Other than a lone two-inning emergency start last season, all that work was in relief.

 

In his entire Minor League career, covering 214 1/3 innings, Thompson’s numbers look good, too. Over four seasons, he was touched for just 15 homers in total, or a rate of 14 innings per home run allowed.

 

Level

Years

HR

IP

IP/HR

MLB

2005-2006

9

111 2/3

16.1

Minors

2003-2006

15

214 1/3

14.0

 

Let’s shift gears and look at splits in terms of Major League hitters Thompson has faced this season. His long ball rates are very comparable in terms of left-handed vs. right-handed batters.

 

2007

HR

At-bats

AB/HR

Left

7

175

25.0

Right

8

193

24.1

 

Looking back at 2005 and 2006, here are Thompson’s comparable totals in the Majors. Again, nothing abnormal stands out. In fact, 2007 represents an improvement per at-bat from both sides of the plate.

 

2005-06

HR

At-bats

AB/HR

Left

4

164

13.7

Right

5

256

21.3

 

Moving to home and away splits, the data is very telling. First, here is 2007.

 

2007

HR

IP

OBA

Home

4

41 2/3

0.301

Away

11

49

0.307

 

While the enemy batters are hitting Thompson at a similar rate whether home or away, many more of those road safeties are the most damaging type - long balls.

 

Backing up to 2005 and 2006, the totals point to the same road problem with regard to home runs. However, one big difference is the huge increase in Thompson’s batting average against at home this season compared to the last two.

 

2005-06

HR

IP

OBA

Home

3

61

0.190

Away

6

50 2/3

0.306

 

Next is to look at Thompson’s month-to-month results this season.

 

2007

HR

IP

IP/HR

ERA

April

3

15 2/3

5.2

4.60

May

5

31 2/3

6.3

4.26

June

2

28 1/3

14.2

5.72

July

5

15   

3.0

6.00

 

The general home run trend looked promising until July. Thompson yielded two homers to Arizona at home on the Fourth of July, two more in Philadelphia last Friday and the Ramirez shot in Miami on Tuesday night.

 

Is this just a blip on the radar, a small sample sized bump in the road or something else? For example, could it be an indication of fatigue on the part of the 25-year-old?

 

A 16th-round draft pick in 2002, Thompson first garnered a lot of attention as a Minor League starter due to his near-record scoreless run of 57 2/3 innings over parts of the 2003 and 2004 seasons. But, the truth is that Thompson had only 25 career starts as a Minor Leaguer, with 46 more appearances in relief.

 

Just after his scoreless streak ended in July, 2004, Thompson headed to the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis. Over his four-year career, he averaged 81 innings-pitched per season. His high-water mark was 109 1/3 innings logged between Memphis and St. Louis in 2006.

 

With two-and-a-half months to go here in the 2007 season, assuming he sticks in the rotation the rest of the way, Thompson could see as many as 14 more starts (of the 72 remaining games). If he can maintain his stamina of six innings per start, this would add 84 more innings to his current 90 2/3 innings pitched.

 

A projected 2007 total of 174 2/3 innings would more than double Thompson’s career average prior to this season and is 60% higher than his previous highest-ever workload season.

 

As arguably the Cardinals’ fifth starter, doing whatever possible to minimize Thompson’s innings-pitched, especially away from Busch Stadium, would seem to play in keeping his home run counts down. However, in terms of the rate of enemy runners getting hits against him, Thompson is having as much trouble at home as he is on the road here in 2007.

 

In either case, the sheer pace of the volume of workload that Brad Thompson is being asked to carry this season will soon place him in uncharted waters. Expecting his results to improve as these past limits are surpassed might be setting the bar too high.

 

Yet more results are precisely what his floundering Cardinals team needs. That presents a real dilemma. With a lack of other healthy starting candidates on the active roster or even on the horizon at this point, the Cardinals seem to have little choice but to ask Thompson to continue to take the mound every fifth day.

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

 

© 2007 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.



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