Weekend Recap 1: Thames and Nelson

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Weekend Recap, where I’ll note some interesting performances which you may have missed over the weekend. After starting the series against the Cubs with a walk-off wild pitch victory, the Brewers dropped the next two games as Zach Davies and Tommy Milone struggled in their starts.

Weekend Series Brewers Cubs
Friday April 7 (11) 2 1
Saturday April 8 6 11
Sunday April 9 4 7

However, Jimmy Nelson had a very good start on Friday. He held the defending champs to one run on four hits and only two walks in six innings. Walks were a bugaboo for him last year, as he led the National League, so improved control against a patient lineup was an encouraging start.

Nelson v. Cubs Number Velo Horizontal Movement Vertical Movement
Primary Fastball 47 94.7 -4.9 9.9
Secondary Fastball 47 94.5 -8.7 4.4
Slider 21 88.8 3.3 2.3
Curve 17 85.3 3.9 -2.3
Change 14 87.8 -3.5 0.96

Looking at his pitch mix, Nelson changed things up. Last season, the sinker was his dominant pitch, with a 46.8 percent usage rate. On Friday, he alternated between his four seam and sinker, throwing them each forty six times. He also utilized his change up more. Last year he threw it only thirty-eight times (total), whereas Friday he used it fourteen times. With only one game to look at, it’s way too early to judge anything or even discern a pattern, but for at least one game Nelson went in with a clearly different game plan and it certainly worked.

Eric Thames got the start in two games over the weekend and went 2-for-6 with a walk and three strikeouts. While Thames certainly has gotten on base and mashed the ball when he hits it, he has racked up eight strikeouts so far. Thames is probably the most interesting player on the Brewers simply because I have no clue what to expect from him this season, so I wanted to check in to see how his first week has looked compared to his previous MLB stint. Through his first week, it looks like Thames is still having some issues making contact with offspeed pitches. The following numbers are from Brooks Baseball and tally Thames’ whiff percentage through his career:

Year Hard Breaking Offspeed
2010 7.88 15.91 20.45
2011 9.53 15.85 19.15
2012 10.99 16.86 23.81
2013 11.69 10.53 36.36
2017 10.31 11.43 18.52

While Thames isn’t missing the hard stuff or breaking balls, he is whiffing on those offspeed pitches. The results from his first week are certainly positive, but pitchers will look at his past results and continue to pound him with an offspeed game plan. As of now, he’s seeing the lowest percentage of fastballs of his career (61.01 percent). If he can or has fixed his whiff issues with offspeed pitches, or at least does enough damage when he connects to make pitchers worry, then Thames is going to be a terror.

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