The book on Marcus Thames was supposedly a quick read: He crushes lefties, but struggles against righthanded pitchers, and if you want to get him out, don't throw him a fastball. Whoever the author of the book is, they might want to consider a rewrite.
"He's swung the bat all year long for us really well," Joe Girardi said last night. "A lot of times he would play leftfield [in previous years], but he's adapted to DHing very well. And that's why we're continuing to play him, because of the way he's swinging the bat."
Despite signing just a $900,000 minor-league contract on Feb. 8, Thames might be the Yankees' most productive pickup of the offseason, even if he did go 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the Yankees' 9-3 win over Oakland last night.
He has homered in five of his last six starts- six homers total - and has hit safely in 14 of his last 16 starts (.350, 21-for-60). He's established career highs in batting average (.318), on-base percentage (.398) and slugging percentage (.556) coming into last night.
"I'm getting a chance to play," Thames said. "I'm just trying to take advantage of it, and hopefully I can keep doing something to help the ballclub."
Thames was signed with the idea of being a platoon player, thanks to pronounced batting splits (.268 career average against lefthanders, .236 against righties). But injuries to designated hitters Nick Johnson and Lance Berkman forced him into action against both lefties and righties.
While he's still crushing lefthanders (.349), he's been above average against righties as well, hitting .277 with a .372 on-base percentage coming into last night.
"I think some of the confidence that he's been able to gain from just facing lefthanded pitching has carried over," said hitting coach Kevin Long, who worked with Thames on opening up his stance and keeping his head still to see the ball better against righties. "I think when he steps up there against a righty, he feels as confident as he's ever felt against them."
Said Thames: "Just getting in there and being able to see [righties] a little more. Just trying to get a pitch to hit, it doesn't matter lefty or righty. You still have to put the ball in play."
Teams have attempted to adjust to Thames' strong season by throwing him the fewest percentage of fastballs he's seen in his career (51.2 percent). But the decreased movement in Thames' swing this year has enabled him to attack fastballs and breaking pitches alike.
"People know who I am," he said. "So I got to make an adjustment and make sure I'm ready to hit."
No matter what hand the pitcher throws with.