Tommy Pham added another impressive accomplishment to his baseball resume’ this week honoring his body of work at the plate this season.
The promising St. Louis Cardinals outfielder was named a finalist for the 2017 Hank Aaron Award in the National League on Monday. The award is presented to the best overall offensive player in each league as voted by the fans and a panel of baseball experts which includes the award’s namesake, Henry Aaron himself. Pham joins an ensemble cast of power hitters and line drive artists within the Senior Circuit such as Giancarlo Stanton, Charlie Blackmon, and Joey Votto as finalists for this prestigious award.
“That’s pretty elite company for a guy that wasn’t on the Opening Day roster,” stated 550 KTRS Sports Radio personality Brendan Wiese via Twitter on Monday during his show.
According to KMOX Sports, Pham became the first Cardinal in the club’s 125-year history to secure an average above .300, swipe 20 or more bags, and belt 20 or more home runs in a single season. The 29-year-old Las Vegas native was among the top two players in every one of the team’s offensive Triple Crown categories, finishing first in batting average (.306), tying for second in home runs (23) and occupying the sole position in second-place for runs batted in (73). He then managed to accumulate an offensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 5.0 according to Baseball Reference, earning him the eighth spot in the National League.
Sure, Pham is not the clear favorite to take home the trophy, but let us dig a little deeper as to why 2017 was THE season Pham was an emergent hitter.
According to FanGraphs Baseball, Plate Discipline Statistics specifically help hitters diagnose how frequently they swing and initiate contact from certain types of pitches. For instance, the statistic known as Contact% is determined by dividing the number of pitches on which contact was made by the number of swings. This calculation tells us the type of approach, style, and skill-set hitters possess when up to bat facing a variety of pitches. FanGraphs Baseball analyst Jeff Sullivan recently conducted research determining the hitter with the highest year-to-year Contact% improvement from 2002-2017 with a minimum of 100 plate appearances in each season. In the end, Tommy Pham’s 13.8% change was the highest difference by any player based on Sullivan’s calculations within his targeted range (beating out Anthony Rizzo, Chris Davis, and Bill Hall). Pham’s year one percentage total (66.1% in 2016) significantly increased as he concluded his offensive barrage in 2017 (79.9%), which Sullivan explains is no easy feat.
“That’s a hard thing to pull off by accident,” he concludes. “As a result, Pham has trimmed his strikeout rate by an unbelievable 15 percentage points, and although Pham now just looks pretty similar to what he was as a part-time player in 2015, he’s doing it now over greater playing time.”
For more information on the Hank Aaron Award and voting instructions, here is the link.