Tommy Pham only had one plate appearance in the MLB Little League Classic, but his impact went way beyond the box score. Prior to the game he ordered 200 snow cones for the Little Leaguers in attendance, and then wore cleats decorated by two children battling cancer in St. Louis. His on-field accomplishments this season are well documented, but what he brings off the field maybe even more impressive. The statement was made on the broadcast last night, that Pham is probably the Cardinals MVP this season, and they’re not in contention without him. Let’s take a look back at his breakout campaign.
Spring Training and Memphis
Coming into the season Pham was expected to be the fourth outfielder and break camp with the big league club. Spring training of course did not go as planned, and he received a demotion to Memphis. Jose Martinez far outperformed Pham in Grapefruit League play and deserved the roster spot. Rather than mope and complain, Pham went to Memphis and did what he’s done all season in St. Louis, he hit. After hitting .283/.371/.500 through 25 games, he was recalled in May when Stephen Piscotty went down with an injury.
As has been the case in the past, whenever Pham receives regular playing time he performs. The combination of speed and power has always intrigued the Cardinals and those who follow Pham, but he could never fully put it together. Lost seasons in the minors due to injuries, and battling a chronic eye condition delayed his progression and derailed his prospect status. Through it all, Pham continued to work and the product he has placed on the field this season shows his ability. For the Cardinals he currently ranks first in steals, second in hits and runs, tied for third in homers, and fourth in RBI. All of this while playing in only 95 games and joining the team in early May. Pham is slashing .307/.399/.501 on the season with the big league club, all career highs and rank first among Cardinals qualifiers.
Defensively he sports a .994 fielding percentage, and has committed just one error in 161 total chances. Pham also has seven outfield assists to lead all Cardinal outfielders. In addition, he has excelled on the basepaths, an area the majority of the team struggles with greatly. According to Fangraphs, Pham has a 4.8 BsR ranking which puts him between above average and excellent in their base running ranking system. If WAR is your thing, Fangraphs has Pham leading all Cardinals with a calculation of 4.0 overall. Although WAR is just one measure of a player’s value. Pham leading the team in WAR does go a long way to support him being the team MVP.
Off the Field
In addition to what he brings on the field, Pham has been a jolt of life in the Cardinals’ clubhouse since his arrival. Rather than toe the company line in interviews, Pham speaks from the heart. Whether it be his reaction to Jhonny Peralta’s release or the opinion he could be a fourth outfielder next year, he doesn’t hold back. Never satisfied, Pham expects excellence of himself and his team. He plays the game “the right way” as the old adage would describe. Always hustling, always confident, and always striving to improve. Pham is the current embodiment of what the “Cardinal Way” should be.
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