Between the time Yonder Alonso trotted out of the home team’s dugout to take his first reps of the year at second base last night and the time the Cuban born first baseman made his way to third base to get the lay of the land, big things were happening: Joe Thatcher had entered the game.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Joe Thatcher. I’m not sure if it’s because I have his Portland Beavers jersey hanging in my closet or the fact that his arrival in San Diego indicated the departure of Scott Linebrink which, in my opinion, was the high-water mark of the 2007 season.
Joe Thatcher was playing independent league baseball a short two years before he arrived for his Padres debut on July 26th, 2007. Joe Thatcher was a throw-in, a whacky lefty to put in the pen for the remainder of the season. The real players involved in the trade were Will Inman and Steve Garrison. Boom! Remember those names?
But Joe Thatcher is still in San Diego. He and Chase Headley are the longest tenured Padres (until Tim Stauffer and his elbow return). It’s crazy when you think about it. It’s a weird sensation. I have feelings right now.
In addition to the current emotion described above, I had intense feelings about Joe Thatcher whilst pitching last night. And not just because Yonder Alonso was sited playing second base, and third base, and then 2nd base again, behind Thatch. My feelings stemmed from who he is and who he has been. Who is Joe Thatcher?
My feeling was that he’s a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, a LOOGY, if you will. He sees a couple of batters per appearance, and then hits the showers. My feelings also told me that despite being a funky lefty who faces mostly left-handed batters, Joe Thatcher is terrible at his job. I mean, freaking terrible. Feelings . . .
These feelings overwhelmed me last night as I watched Joe Thatcher enter the game in the 9th inning. He entered not against a lefty but a right-handed hitter in Mark Ellis. After 7 pitches Ellis found himself on first base with a single.
Then came Matt Kemp, another righty. Kemp worked Thatcher for 6 pitches before flying out to deep left-center.
After Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez stepped to the plate and promptly singled to right field. Now that’s the Joe Thatcher I know! The guy who is supposed to retire lefties but gives up singles.
I began to feel better, like there was order in my tiny corner of the universe where everything is pink and barbie dolls lay perilously under foot.
With runners now at first and third another left-handed bat stepped to the plate, in Andre Ethier. On the fifth pitch Joe Thatcher plunked the left-handed batter. Yes! This is also the Joe Thatcher that I know! The left-handed-slinger who all too often walks or plunks the very lefty he’s brought in to retire.
But then Joe Thatcher did something crazy. He retired the next two batters, AJ Ellis and Luis Cruz (both righties, no less) on 9 pitches and escaped the ninth without letting in a single run. Who is Joe Thatcher?
I feel like Joe Thatcher is a left-handed specialist who can’t retire left-handers. Is this accurate? Baseball-Reference.com suggests otherwise.
Joe Thatcher has faced 91 more right-handed batters than he has left-handed batters is his career. Righties are hitting .269 while lefties are hitting .213.
Every 73 plate appearances Joe Thatcher will hit you with a pitch. He will hit you more frequently if you bat right-handed.
Joe Thatcher’s K/BB ratio is 4.5o to left-handers. But only 1.63 to right-handers.
These are career numbers, mind you. If you look at Joe Thatcher’s 2012 numbers you will see that he faced more lefties (72) than righties (69) and that the righties thrived (.333) while the lefties faltered (.175).
In 2012 Joe Thatcher gave up 2 HRs. Both to . . . lefties?
In 2012 Joe Thatcher plunked 3 batters. All three were . . . righties!
Joe Thatcher struck out batters at a ratio (K/BB) of 5.17 in 2012. This ratio is better than his career mark.
Someone is about to tell me about relievers and small sample sizes, of which I am not concerned. These are my feelings we’re talking about.
I feel like I don’t know Joe Thatcher. I don’t know what I feel. My mind is still messed up from seeing Yonder Alonso diving for a ball while playing second base.
I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly inspired. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM where I say things with shaky command, 7 days a week.