Tommy Pham Worse Than We Expected

Bottom four. Mets trailing 4-1 after Pete Alonso homered in the top half of the inning to get the New York Mets back into the game. Tylor Megill toes the rubber looking to build off a strong third after a very difficult second inning.

Michael Tauchman hits a soft liner right at Tommy Pham. It’s as routine as a play gets. Except, Pham can’t catch a ball hit directly into his mitt, and Tauchman is on second. Megill and the Mets unraveled from there.

This moment was emblematic of the type of season Pham is having. More than that, it was yet another reason for the Mets fanbase to become increasingly frustrated with Pham.

Defensively, Pham has flat out been bad. It’s not just the error. It is the fact Pham has a -2 Outs Above Average (OAA) in left field. That should come as no surprise to anyone because he is coming off a season where he had a -6 OAA with the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox.

This is not a one year anomaly either. In 2021, Pham had a -7 OAA with the San Diego Padres, and the year prior, he had a -10 with the Tampa Bay Rays. Summing up, Pham has long established himself as a bad defensive outfielder.

Of note, Pham has lost a step. His sprint speed is down to 27.3 ft/sec. That rates outside the top 30 among Major League left fielders, and it is just 0.2 ahead of the recently released Aaron Hicks. In all, Pham was already a poor outfielder, and now, he is a slower poor fielder.

Despite that, Buck Showalter has pressed Pham into action. He’s in a stretch where he’s played in nine out the last 10 Mets games. That’s more than Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, and Mark Vientos.

Mets fans have noticed and are questioning it, and at some point, you have to wonder what exactly the organization is seeing with Pham.

To be fair to Pham, he was supposed to be brought it to platoon at DH with Daniel Vogelbach, or at least that is what we were led to believe. That plan has not been going well, and it is one of the reasons Vientos was called-up to the majors.

On the season, Pham is hitting .210/.298/.358 with three doubles, three homers, and 10 RBI. He has an 83 wRC+. Notably, Starling Marte and Vientos are the only Mets on the current roster with a lower wRC+.

The argument for playing Pham has been the analytics. He has a .267xBA and .469 xSLG. He also has a 92.5 MPH average exit velocity. Put another way, with how hard Pham hits it, you expect far better results than he’s had.

However, that is just part of the picture. Pham has a 50 GB% and 1.82 GB/FB. He rarely goes the other way. His hard contact percentage is down from previous years when he was also a below average hitter:

  • 2020 – 79 wRC+
  • 2021 – 102 wRC+
  • 2022 – 89 wRC+
  • 2023 – 83 wRC+

At 35, you really have to question how the Mets thought Pham was going to improve upon being a below average hitter. Circling back, it does need to be pointed out again he was supposed to be a platoon bat.

There was some validity to that thought. In 2022, Pham had a 115 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. However, the previous season, it was only 94. This year, we see it is an 86. In essence, Billy Eppler bought a one year anomaly for an aging and declining outfielder.

The decision making there is concerning when the Mets knew Brett Baty would be Major League ready at some point in 2023, and Escobar kills left-handed pitching. The Mets also had Vientos and Francisco Álvarez set to begin the year in Syracuse.

Overall, the best argument we have for Pham is he hits the ball hard occasionally, but he is not showing elite exit velocity numbers. He is a poor fielder who is getting slower. He has a fanbase that is getting increasingly frustrated by him. However, in the end, he apparently has a manager and GM who believe in him, so for the moment, he appears set to play until the situation no longer becomes tenable.

EDITOR’S NOTE:: This post first appeared on MMO