Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ten Thoughts on Thomas

Here are ten thoughts on new Hall of Famer Frank Thomas:

1. During The Big Hurt's incredible ten-year run from 1991 through 2000, he walked 363 more times than he struck out. When he peaked during his back-to-back MVP seasons of 1993-1994, he slugged 79 home runs while fanning only 115 times.

2. I'm amazed at how consistent his runs scored totals stayed during the '90s. In his eight straight seasons with over 100 runs from 1991 through '98 he scored between 102 and 110 runs, scoring 106 in back-to-back seasons ('93 and '94) and 110 in consecutive years as well ('96 and '97).

3. Thomas's on-base percentages are just off-the-charts. He was well over .400 in each of his first eight seasons--when his OBP was over .450 every year but one--and 11 times in all. He peaked at .487 in 1994, led the league four times and had four other top-four finishes. His .419 career mark is the 19th highest of all-time and second only to Barry Bonds among players who began their careers in the last 60 years.

4. Like Duke Snider, Thomas managed five 40 homer seasons but never exceeded 43 in any season. What's even more astonishing is that despite five 40 homer seasons, four others with more than 30 and 521 for his career, Thomas never led the American League in long balls. He was runner-up four times, third once and fifth twice, but never tops. It's also just as amazing to me that he knocked in over 1,700 runs and enjoyed 11 seasons with more than 100 but never led the league, despite driving in 125 or more four times including as many as 143 in 2000.

5. It blows my mind that a player who averaged 36 homers, 118 RBI, and a .330 batting average for eight years not only never won the Triple Crown, but came away with zero home run crowns, zero RBI titles and only one batting championship. That's all he would win in a career that produced 521 long balls, 1,704 RBI and a .301 batting average. The '90s were just a different time.

6. I find it pretty amazing that even as a full-time designated hitter at age 39, Thomas still managed to stay on the field for 155 games, blast 26 home runs and drive in 95. It's almost as amazing that the next year he was done at 40, posting the worst OPS of his career and not even playing half a season. When players lose it, especially at that age, it often happens overnight.

7. Funny how his career paralleled that of Ken Griffey Jr. Junior debuted in 1989, one year before Thomas, and both were first round draft picks. They dominated the American League throughout the 1990s, when they were perennial All-Stars and won three MVP awards between them. They had their last truly great season in 2000 before injuries ravaged the second half of their careers, limiting them to sporadic success in their thirties. Both retired following their age 40 season.

Griffey '90-'00 6,813 PA 1,102 R 1,763 H 774 XBH 1,209 RBI .299/.384/.579 65.3 oWAR
Thomas '90-'00 6,799 PA 1,083 R 1,755 H 715 XBH 1,183 RBI .321/.440/.579 65 oWAR

8. One can pretty much draw a dividing line in Thomas's career at the 2000 season. In his 11 seasons before 2001 he bettered a .300 average and .400 OBP ten times and had nine seasons with at least 100 runs, RBI and walks. After 2000 he never again batted .280, scored 100 runs, or made an All-Star team and had only one season with a .400 OBP. He actually became a better slugger in the second half of his career, averaging one home run per 15.4 at-bats after age 32 compared to one every 15.9 before. A career .321 hitter through age 32, he batted just .262 over his final eight seasons and nearly lost his lifetime .300 average a la Mickey Mantle.

Thomas '90-'00 .321/.440/.579 1.018 OPS 169 OPS+ 835/1188 K/BB 15.9 AB/HR 58.7 bWAR
Thomas '01-'08 .262/.376/.507 .884 OPS 130 OPS+ 562/479 K/BB 15.4 AB/HR 15 bWAR

9. I'm shocked that Thomas made only five All-Star teams. How he didn't make it in 1991, when he led the majors in walks, OBP, OPS, and finished third in the AL MVP voting is beyond me. Or how about 1992, he he led the majors in doubles and American League in walks, OBP, and OPS? Or in 2000, when he was MVP runner-up. Thomas did not make an All-Star team in any of his 11 final seasons, even though he eclipsed 100 RBI four times, had a pair of 40 homer seasons and another with 39, and five times posted an OPS over .900.

10. The 1990s had so much power/home runs that Thomas had to slug .729 just to lead the league. He slugged over .600 five other times and never led the league in any of those seasons.

1 comment:

  1. I live in Pittsburgh and in those early years we had a slugger of our own, but after "His Grace" left the Pirates after 92, Thomas was the man I idolized. He was so big yet swung the stick like Gwynn or Boggs. One of my good friends was a lefty and he loved Griffey and we had soooo many debates over who was better. Griffey hit more homers and obviously had a superior glove, but Thomas was so much more at the plate. I don't chastise the steroids era as much as others but your column here just shows how it changed baseball. Thomas is a Hall of Famer, but hes kinda lost in a sea of power during that time. Take away Sosa, Big Mac and people like Brady Anderson and Luis Gonzales hitting 50 or even Jay Bell Tallying 40 and Thomas would have been a 90s version of what Miggy is today.