Manuel Has Plans For Thome

This off-season the Phillies improved their offense quite a bit by adding multiple free agent reserve types. One of those acquisitions, Jim Thome, is a familiar face that made the man who is in charge of the team each game day extremely pleased.

Phils’ manager Charlie Manuel knows what Jim Thome can do and looks forward to the type of contributions Thome will make on and off the field. Manuel coached and managed Thome during the 1990’s and early-2000’s in Cleveland, and then managed Thome again in Philadelphia in 2005.

Thome, who ranks 8th among MLB sluggers all-time in homeruns with 604, solidifies a Phillies bench that lacked power last year, especially from the left side.

Manuel, the most winning manager in team history, knew from Thome’s days as an emerging power hitter, that the now 41-year-old would become an elite slugger in the sport.

“I’ve been around Jimmy about the first fifteen years of his career. I’ll tell you something, when I look at him sometimes, for him to hit 600 homeruns, I never thought he would hit 600 homeruns. But, when he was young, and I used to sit and talk to John Hart and these guys, you know, the general manager and the assistant GM Danny O’Dowd, about what he was going to do, I used to say that he’s gonna hit close to 500 homeruns. I used to definitely think that, if Thome was here, he’d tell you that,” Manuel stated.

Locking up a guy that loves to play and that exudes a positive attitude at nearly all times is something that Manuel was very happy about this off-season. The Phils’ skipper feel that Thome’s presence, even on days off, will help the team on the field.

“Thome’s a guy that can walk through our clubhouse and have (a positive) impact. And if he’s not playing a game that day and he goes out and watches the game, other guys are gonna follow him. Things like that are what I look for. He’s so upbeat and he gets along with everybody.”

The Phillies have a plan in place to get Thome, who has played a total of 28 innings in the field since he left Philadelphia following the 2005 season, some time on defense at first base in minor league games, when the spring training schedule begins. After some time, Thome will be eased into some Grapefruit League games against big league competition.

Manuel feels that Thome can contribute a considerable amount in limited playing time this coming season, citing the veteran’s experience as being beneficial toward adapting to new his reserve role.

“He’s still got a good enough bat,” Manuel stated. “In the last couple years, he’s hit 40 homeruns…in about 500 at bats or something.

“If we can get him in a game a week, or two or something like that, I figure he’ll get- I don’t want to put a solid number on his at bats, but, I would say if he can get to 200, that’ll give him plenty of time to stay sharp, and stuff, because I think he’s experienced enough to know how to pinch hit now.”

Accurate numbers for 6-foot-3-inch 250-pound Thome over the past couple of seasons are 40 homeruns in 553 at bats, but nevertheless, Manuel seems correct, as the potential Hall of Famer, Thome, has kept his productivity up while his playing time has dwindled. Add in his .269 batting average, 32 doubles and 109 RBI over that stretch, it is clear that big Jim can still get it done at the plate.

After an August trade last year, the veteran of 21 major league seasons made a return to Cleveland, where his professional career began when the Indians drafted him in the 13th round of the 1989 amateur draft. The manner in which Thome returned to Philadelphia, which became his second pro organization when he signed there as a free agent in 2002, wasn’t attributable to the opening left when All-Star first baseman Ryan Howard required achilles tendon surgery after the 2011 post season. According to Manuel it was more about both sides wanting to reunite for some time.

“I think the opening really didn’t matter. Last year, we were trying to get him, like down toward the end (of the season), ’cause we wanted him to hit for us. But, he had to clear waivers and Cleveland is where he started his career and they picked him up. In some ways that was good for him, but when the season was over and he became a free agent, he had us in mind all along and Ryan getting hurt is something that had nothing to do with it.”

It’s a sure thing that the potential to win that elusive World Series ring helped rank steadily post-season bound Philadelphia high on Thome’s list of desired destinations. If everyone involved has their way, jewelry will surely be in the big man’s future.

Another key addition to the Phillies’ roster this off-season was Jonathan Papelbon, who served as Boston’s closer for six seasons. Manuel expressed additional excitement about the four-time All-Star solidifying the back end of his bullpen.

“He’s a legit big time closer…a proven commodity. When I met him and I talked to him, he was, he gets real excited. He’s really intense, he’s ready to go. And it’s good. I liked him before I ever met him, but at the same time, (now) I like him even more. I think he’s gonna be great for our club, I think he’s gonna go good in our bullpen, I think he’s gonna be everything that we expect of him.”

And in regards to the manner in which the Phillies may ease some ailing players into action this season, Manuel was candid and referenced a focus on light .

“We’ve got some regular players, especially the ones that’s nursing injuries and things like that, we’ll take it easy on those guys. We’ll definitely monitor them and won’t expect them to go out there right away and throw a big heavy workload on them.”

Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league insider. You can read more from Jay by visiting his site,

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  1. Dave L

    January 29, 2012 at 11:04 am

    I think Thome is a great addition that will not only supply power in a pinch hitting role,but give the team some punch when he actually spot starts. I have a feeling that he will end up playing a larger role for this team than expected. I think Howard is on his way down as an everyday four hole guy with the injury, his diminishing productivity and inability to hit in the clutch. Not to mention his diminishing skills. As a result, I thing you’ll see Thome play more innings and hit in situations when the game is on the line. Overall, I think our bench has dramatically improved over last year. Definitely more offensive punch. I think Mayberry is a budding star and will exceed everyone’s expectations this year if Charlie just puts him in the lineup everyday. If we could only address the declining production of the four infielders, we would be on our way.


    January 29, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Thome will help Howard be more productive. Howard ALWAYS hit better after a day off, and Thome will provide this. Also, Thome will help coach Howard in a very positive manner. All good.

    • EricL

      January 29, 2012 at 9:12 pm

      FYI, Howard’s best year was 2006, in which he hit .313/.425/.659 with 58 HR & 149 RBI. He played in all but 3 games that season.

      So there’s some evidence that he hasn’t “ALWAYS” hit better after a day off.

      • Lefty

        January 29, 2012 at 11:32 pm

        My question is – what happened to that Ryan Howard? And can he come back please?

    • schmenkman

      January 30, 2012 at 11:50 am

      I actually have the data for 2010-11 handy, and he did hit better after a day off in 2011. But in 2010 he was pretty awful in the few games after an off-day:

      2010: 5 games, .188/.235/.188 (.423 OPS)
      2011: 10 games, .344/.475/.656 (1.131 OPS)

      2010-11 combined, after an off-day: .292/.404/.500 (.904 OPS)

      In all other games: .263/.347/.497 (.844 OPS)

      15 games is not much to go on, and maybe 2011 is more relevant than 2010, but just based on this I don’t see a clear difference after an off day.

  3. Scott Ward

    January 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm


    • EricL

      January 29, 2012 at 9:12 pm

      I’m curious why this entire post is written in all capital letters with the lone exception of “their bench?”

  4. Dan L.

    January 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    If you remove those who used steroids from the list of all time HR leaders, Thome is fifth all-time leader in HRs. Just sayin…

    • EricL

      January 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm

      Yeah, it doesn’t work like that.

      How do you know Ken Griffey Jr. or Jim Thome didn’t use steroids? Or Willie Mays or Hank Aaron, for that matter?

      Or, maybe the guys you’re excluding from the list should be given MORE credit, because they had to face pitchers who were also taking steroids, whereas Ruth hit off a bunch of cans watered down by segregation.

      The steroid hate is silly, is what I’m saying, so dividing lists like that in such a manner isn’t useful, IMO.

      • George

        January 30, 2012 at 9:12 am

        One of the most intelligent posts on performance enhancement I’ve read. While it’s doubtful that Mays and Aaron didn’t use steroids AS WE KNOW THEM, there is no telling what was available years ago to aid production. I read an articlet once about a pitcher from the dead ball era, a Hall of Famer no less, who used a product derived from bull testosterone or some such to aid his play.

        Add in a another thing: some of those old guys played with more days off, more day games, and a shorter season. Mays, for instance, played the first part of his career in 154 game seasons. Ruth played ALL of his career that way.

        You just can’t compare tjhings that simplistically when there here were guys, too, like Home Run Baker. How many would he have hit with today’s ball? He might have lead everybody.

      • George

        January 30, 2012 at 9:16 am

        Can’t figure out where that “j” in “things” came from, or that weird “there here.” I’m just a klutz, I guess.

        I hope my comment is at least readable for the most part. Just eliminate the “j” and the “here.”

  5. brooks

    January 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    It would not be a good idea to expect much out of big Jim now..

  6. Mazinman

    January 30, 2012 at 6:48 am

    I am hoping that Jim gets the start in the first home game at CBP. It would be a nice treat for both player and fans. Besides, the place will go nuts if he hits a homer. I am also hoping that Jim can be a good influence on Ryan this year.

  7. Bob in Bucks

    January 30, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Lefty – What happened to Ryan Howard was the shift. Other teams did not start shifting their infield until very late in that season.

    • Lefty

      January 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      That’s a good point Bob, not much he can do about that. But there is one other thing I find a little bothersome. In 06 and 07 he walked over 100 times. So they are pitching him different too. I’d like too see him adjust, I know he’s not going to hit .300 or hit 58 bombs anymore, I don’t expect that. I just want him to be more patient and make pitchers throw him better pitches. And I played long enough to know it’s not that easy or simple to do, but -wow- that .425 OBP Eric posted really stands out. And I’m sure it would be helpful to him in getting better pitch selection.

      • George

        January 30, 2012 at 4:06 pm

        A large number of those walks in ’06 and ’07–particularly in ’06–were intentional; he was feared that much. Now that other teams have figured out his weaknesses, and employed the shift, there’s not as much reason to put him on. Consequently he gets fewer walks and has a lower OPS.

    • EricL

      January 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      In addition to the shift which has taken away a lot of hits that fell in during the 2005-6 seasons, opposing teams also learned to pitch to him differently, specifically using LH pitchers.

      2006 was the first season in which he was the every day starting first baseman. In that season he faced LHP in only 31.9% of his plate appearances.

      In 2007 and 2008 he faced LHP in 37.9% and 37.8% of his plate appearances, respectively. And since he’s always been a worse hitter against LHP his overall numbers saw a marked decline. Additionally, I don’t have the numbers in front of me (and am not going to spend the time looking them up), so I’m just speculating here, but I’d be surprised if the number of FB he’s seen from those LHP hasn’t drastically decreased while the number of off-speed pitches–especially out of the zone–increased.

      What’s more alarming is that the past couple years he’s seen more RHP than he has since he was a part-time platoon-ish player in 2004 and 2005, yet his numbers have continued to decline (relative to his peak/baseline). In 2010 he saw LHP in 34.8% of his ABs, and last season that number fell to 28.7% (despite his OPS+ v. LHP being a mere 93).

      I would guess that’s due to (1) opposing teams being less fearful of him vs. RHP than they were in 2005-2008 and (2) opposing team bullpen mismanagement (which includes not having any LHP in the pen which IIRC occurred a few times against the Nats and/or Marlins)

      • schmenkman

        January 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm

        Combined with being less fearful of Howard, which I agree is a factor, there is one other aspect that may help to explain the drop in ABs vs. LHPs:

        – Managers had been bringing in a LOOGY to face both Utley and Howard

        – They realized, coming into 2011, that Utley was actually hitting BETTER vs. LHPs than RHPs:
        OPS vs. RHPs in 2008-2010: .932, .877, .752
        OPS vs. LHPs in 2008-2010: .888, .962, .1.003

        – Some of them decided that facing Howard alone was not in itself worth making the switch, since they might lose as much in the LHP vs. Utley matchup as they might gain vs. Howard, and took their chances with the righty, who would then be able to face Victorino/Pence/Mayberry.

      • schmenkman

        January 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm

        Also, Howard was coming off a 2010 in which he OPS’ed .826 vs. LHPs.

      • EricL

        January 30, 2012 at 3:09 pm

        Good point. I hadn’t realized that Utley was actually better vs. LHP recently.

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