The Greatness of Frank Thomas

All the great players in the Hall of Fame have stories about them, anecdotes that capture glimpses of how they were exceptional, even among the already exceptional. Anecdotes developed in part out of exaggeration but largely founded on inconceivable truth. Here’s an old anecdote about Frank Thomas:

“We had this competition, even when he was a freshman, in which we’d wager a Coke on whether he could guess—within one mile an hour—how fast a pitcher was throwing. We had a radar gun. He’d call out the velocity. He was always on. Almost never fooled.”

It’s been my understanding that policemen are trained to do this with vehicles. Frank Thomas wasn’t a policeman, but he was sort of an officer of home plate in a way, and he was liberal with discipline. What was apparent, even early in college, was that Thomas had an unusually gifted sense of the zone. He went on to pair that with one of the best swings ever and now he’s on his way to Cooperstown, a part of baseball immortality. Pretty simple. Thomas was just one of the best at something, and also one of the best at a related something. That allowed him to be one of the best overall.

Even with first-ballot Hall of Famers, it’s been some years since their careers ended. And then the ends of those careers seldom resemble the starts and middles of those careers, so even though in this case, Thomas played as recently as 2008, it’s been a while since he was really Frank Thomas, the guy who earned this honor on the field. The more time that passes, the easier it is to forget about performances, to focus instead on what’s more recent. I think it’s helpful, then, in cases like this, to compare players to more recent players to lend greater perspective. Thomas hasn’t been at his peak for a while. But what did his peak look like? How can we explain him in more contemporary terms?

Thomas was drafted in 1989, and he was in the majors in 1990. He hit instantly, and he was consistently unbelievable all the way through 1997. Through that year — Thomas’ age-29 season — he posted a 177 wRC+, batting .330 while slugging .600. Through his own age-29 season, Albert Pujols posted a 169 wRC+, batting .334 while slugging .628. Over the past four years, Miguel Cabrera has posted a 176 wRC+, batting .337 while slugging .612. Frank Thomas at his best was Albert Pujols at his best and Miguel Cabrera at his best. And Thomas’ best lasted several seasons. He didn’t do much of anything in other areas, but he didn’t have to, being an all-time great destroyer of pitched baseballs.

Pujols makes for an interesting comparison, defense aside. One of the things that made Pujols so special was the way he consistently put the bat on the ball, striking out amazingly infrequently for a power hitter. Thomas, for his entire career, struck out in 14% of his plate appearances. The league average was north of 16%. Meanwhile, he walked in 17% of his plate appearances, and after his limited rookie season, Thomas didn’t strike out more often than he walked in a year until 2001. His career contact rate was 85%, against an 80% average. From 1991 through to the end, that mark never dropped into the 70s.

Let’s go back to Thomas’ peak for a minute. Since 1900, 1,248 players have batted at least 2,500 times through their age-29 seasons. We’ve already established that Thomas was incredible for the first half of his career, but just for fun, let’s look at the top of all those players when we sort by wRC+:

(1) 208 — Babe Ruth
(2) 193 — Ted Williams
(3) 179 — Rogers Hornsby
(4t) 177 — Ty Cobb, Frank Thomas
(6) 176 — Lou Gehrig
(7t) 173 — Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle

It’s not just Thomas among a group of Hall of Famers — it’s Thomas among a group of the absolute cream of the Hall-of-Fame crop. Those are the best players ever, and Frank Thomas, and Thomas did that in the 90s. It’s easy to forget, because people didn’t cover baseball the way they do now, and it’s been a lot of time. But Thomas’ numbers require zero massaging. He was one of the very best hitters in the history of the planet.

Thomas slumped at 30 and 31, where by “slumped” I mean he posted consecutive wRC+ marks of 126. But he did perform worse, as he played through some injuries and some personal problems, and the scene occasionally grew ugly at his own home ballpark. This was written in March 2000:

Thomas was once on a very fast and certain track to Cooperstown, there to join the two hitters to whom he was most often compared, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig, but today there is nothing either swift or sure about his journey to baseball immortality.

Thomas turned 32 during 2000, when he went deep 43 times. Since 1900, 357 players have batted at least 2,500 times onward from their age-32 seasons. Among them, Thomas ranks tied for 35th in wRC+, even with Tony Gwynn, right between Jeff Bagwell and David Ortiz. The late-career version of Frank Thomas was just as productive as the late-career version of Ortiz, who remains one of baseball’s most feared franchise icons. That’s notable because of how good Thomas was, and that’s notable because of how even that performance seemed short of what Thomas could’ve been. That was his decline.

When you add it all up together, Frank Thomas is unquestionably one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. He was, in a sense, close to perfect. That is, as close to perfect as humans can get as major-league baseball hitters. He walked all the time. He struck out less often than he walked. He hit the crap out of the ball, and didn’t waste his time with grounders; Thomas also has one of the lowest groundball rates in baseball history. He knew what he could do, and he did it, and his powerful uppercut was never exploited because it was effectively unexploitable. Thomas posted one double-digit wRC+ — a 90 in 2001, when he played 20 games. He was average in his final year, as a 40-year-old. Over time, Thomas regressed, from one of the highest levels ever.

If we’re going to talk about implications, Thomas was a pure offensive force who collected 57% of his plate appearances as a designated hitter. He made the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Edgar Martinez was a pure offensive force who collected 72% of his plate appearances as a designated hitter. Martinez wound up with a 147 wRC+, and a 66 WAR. Thomas wound up with a 154 wRC+, and a 72 WAR. Martinez isn’t close to making it in, based on current vote totals, but Thomas’ inclusion might represent the most promising step forward. If Thomas can make it in this easily, then Martinez shouldn’t be all that far behind. Shouldn’t be. Will be, but could make it yet.

The other implication is that Frank Thomas is becoming a member of the Hall of Fame. Thus completes his course as modern superstar — Thomas was once highly touted, then he was highly successful and highly beloved. Then he started to draw criticism, due and undue, so he had to overcome local adversity. Toward the end, there was pain and decline and departure. That was followed in time by forgiveness for any and all perceived sins by the original city. Now Thomas will represent that city and franchise in the Hall of Fame museum. In the little picture, it was easy for people in the late 90s to believe that Thomas had turned too much of his attention to his music business. In the big picture, Thomas spent 20 years in the game, many of them as the very model of a human sort of perfection.

Thomas hit well enough for the other stuff not to matter. Hitters better than this most assuredly do come around. Maybe a few times a century, or so.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Cuck City
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Damn shame we’ll never know how his 1994 would have finished up. What could ~40 more games have added to his total? He was already at 7 WAR through 113.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel
2 years 6 months ago

Same for Ken Griffey Jr.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel
2 years 6 months ago

Frank was sitting on an ops+ of 212 ha so

Mike B.
Guest
Mike B.
2 years 6 months ago

+ Jeff Bagwell. 7.8 WAR and .368/.451/.750 through 110 games. Damn.

Andrew J
Guest
Andrew J
2 years 6 months ago

June 12, 1994 Maddux (7.8 1994 WAR) pitched against Biggio (4.6 1994 WAR) and Bagwell (7.2 1994 WAR). Maddux pitched a complete game. Must have been a great game to see.

Carlos Baerga
Guest
Carlos Baerga
2 years 6 months ago

Unfortunately a pitched ball broke Bagwell’s hand right before the strike. I still remember Terry Collins saying that he hoped there wouldn’t be a strike, but if there is it needs to last 4 to 6 weeks.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel
2 years 6 months ago

Go look at Frank Thomas’ Slugging % in 1994 compared to league average and his BB/K was literally off the chart good.. he was a very patient hitter

Jeff Bagwell
Guest
Jeff Bagwell
2 years 6 months ago

Anyone who hit as well as I did deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, even if he didn’t have my value in the field and on the basepaths.

Fister Furbush
Guest
Fister Furbush
2 years 6 months ago

Maybe you should have spoke up when the guy across the diamond from you was destroying his life, but you didn’t and you probably joined him.

witesoxfan
Guest
witesoxfan
2 years 6 months ago

The media’s perception of Frank was so often that of a selfish, me-first, non-team player that I was honestly afraid it was going to take some time for him to be elected. While it’s true he was selfish – he wanted 500 home runs, he wanted people to know he was clean, and he wanted the Hall – those are not bad goals to have because they ultimately help the team win.

I mention this because Thomas did retire with a World Series ring, even if he only played 32 games that year. His sabermetric performance that year is forgettable – a meager 3.7 RAR due to the limited time – but he did hit 12 important home runs that year and celebrated with the team on the field after the game. Beyond anything, Frank wanted to win.

Feeding the Abscess
Guest
Feeding the Abscess
2 years 6 months ago

His 2006 season was pretty awesome. 39 HR, .926 OPS, 139 wRC+. More players should be selfish and be awesome in their age 38 season.

His age 39 season wasn’t half bad, either. 26 HR, .857 OPS, 127 wRC+.

Wally
Guest
Wally
2 years 6 months ago

That was a really fun year for A’s fans. It was truly amazing to see even the 38-year old version of Frank Thomas play everyday. And maybe he’d figured somethings out by then, but he seemed like a complete class act in dugout, on the field and in public that year. There might have been better players that year, but no player was more important to his team than Thomas to the A’s.

Chris
Guest
Chris
2 years 6 months ago

Agreed. That was one of my favorite seasons as an A’s fan.

Monty L Herr
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Monty L Herr
2 years 6 months ago

I have to agree with Wally and Chris. There was joy when The Big Hurt came up to bat.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 6 months ago

Glad you guys got to enjoy him as much as we did on the Southside.

witesoxfan
Guest
witesoxfan
2 years 6 months ago

Oh don’t get me wrong, he had a couple of really good years after he left the White Sox, and I honestly thought he could have been the MVP in Oakland that year too.

That’s just it – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a selfish player in baseball. So much of that game is stringing together individual events that are indepedent of each other, so if you’re selfish and hit 40 homers, nobody will be complaining.

Seattleslew
Guest
Seattleslew
2 years 6 months ago

Tell that to Albert Belle. One of the most consistent sluggers in his time. (No hitter had ever hit 50 homers and 50 doubles in a season and Belle did it in a strike shortened season.) Despite his greatness on the field Belle was traded several times because of his attitude off the field. To this day there are still writers who feel Belle should be tarred and feathered for his combative personality.

Balthazar
Guest
Balthazar
2 years 6 months ago

Thomas really wanted to win. He didn’t put up with a lot of BS, especially from media types, and that won him no friends. A real issue was that Thomas was in fact _overshadowed_ during most of the 90s by guys who were manifestly doping when there is pretty good reason to believe that Thomas played clean his whole career. With no steroids raging the game, Frank Thomas would have been obviously the best hitter in baseball for a decade, because her really WAS that good. His strikezone judgment ranks with the best ever to play, so despite being a huge guy he walk a tremendous amount. Thomas had legitimate lighttower power, yet he always hit for excellent average too. One only wonders what his ISO would’ve been if he wasn’t one of the slowest men in baseball even before leg problems made him completely immobile; lack of speed cost Thomas many, many doubles and triples other guys with his battting skills might’ve had.

And so here we have it, Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez as two of the finest hitters ever spent the prime of their careers been Page 2 items behind guys patently full of it. Edgar was, and is, such a humble guy that he didn’t really have anything to say about that. But the situation ground of Thomas. He knew who he was, and who those other guys weren’t. Well, now EVERYBODY knows who Frank Thomas was: a 1st ballot Hall of Famer who was the Loug Gehrig of our time as a hitter. I’m really happy about this outcome. Loved to watch Frank Thomas bat, and he’ll always have this moment of validation.

Matt W
Guest
Matt W
2 years 6 months ago

Thank you for this article. As a Cubs fan, I have this highly irrational dislike of all things White Sox: Hawk Harrelson, Ozzie Guillen, AJ spellcheck, the 2005 World Series, Steve Stone, US Cellular Field–did I mention Hawk (he gone) Harrelson. It wasn’t until Frank Thomas’ consideration and now election to the HOF that I began to understand his prowess as a hitter. Thank you for cutting through my fog of White Sox anti-bias and presenting a clear case as to how dominating the first part of Frank’s early career really was.

Tim
Guest
Tim
2 years 6 months ago

Who dislikes Steve Stone?

Careless
Guest
Careless
2 years 6 months ago

Cubs fans.

Johnhavok
Guest
Johnhavok
2 years 6 months ago

There’s absolutely nothing irrational about disliking Hawk Harrelson.

Garys of Olde
Member
Member
Garys of Olde
2 years 6 months ago

This is exactly how I feel. After he’s inducted I’ll go back to pretending the Sox don’t exist. Too bad the Cubs barely exist…

On a side note I used to love Steve Stone, I grew up with Steve Stone, and now hearing him just makes me sad.

Rodney King
Guest
Rodney King
2 years 6 months ago

A policeman with a baseball bat? Scary…

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
2 years 6 months ago

It’s called a baton.

Anon
Guest
Anon
2 years 6 months ago

Pujols makes for an interesting comparison, defense aside.

Why do people always ignore the defense of Thomas. Fangraphs ranks him as one of the worst fielders in the league before he was switched to full time DH.

As for the Pujols comparison, every Pujols season from 2003 to 2009 was higher WAR than any Thomas season.

http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?players=1177,255,1744

Spencer D
Guest
Spencer D
2 years 6 months ago

He was pretty good, that guy.

craigws
Guest
craigws
2 years 6 months ago

yes, because of his defense, which sullivan specifically put aside for the sake of comparison.

Heinie Manush
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Okay

minstrel
Guest
minstrel
2 years 6 months ago

People don’t ignore the defense of Thomas. Sullivan was saying they make an interesting comparison offensively…he left defense aside, because they don’t make an interesting comparison there–Pujols leaves him in the dust.

Not sure how that was hard to understand.

Anon
Guest
Anon
2 years 6 months ago

It is not hard to understand. My point is the hypocrisy of how Fangraphs consistently points out how defense and baserunning are undervalued and then ignores them when looking at Thomas. Think of the Trout vs. Cabrera debates of the last two years. Fangraphs does not compare them after saying ‘defense aside’ and completely ignoring baserunning. It looks at total value.

The problem I have is the intellectual dishonesty it takes to only analyze defense when it supports the conclusion.

Michael
Guest
Michael
2 years 6 months ago

he didn’t say that Frank Thomas was a better player than Pujols… he said they hit similarly.

garrett hawk
Guest
garrett hawk
2 years 6 months ago

This article is celebrating Thomas’s election to the HOF. It isn’t a direct comparison of his career to the career of Albert Pujols. The writer is indeed implying that Pujols is superior BECAUSE of his defense…because, when it comes to purely “hitting,” Thomas was actually better than Pujols. Which is saying something. Which is why he said it.

Pujols is a superior all-around player, and that’s why he’ll go into the Hall with about a 95% vote tally, as opposed to Thomas’s 83%. But the reason WHY Thomas is today being celebrated as a first-ballot HOFer? His hitting.

joser
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joser
2 years 6 months ago

This picture (when he heard the news) makes me happy.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel
2 years 6 months ago

“The Big Hurt” was one of my favorite players

FMelius
Guest
FMelius
2 years 6 months ago

Mine, too. I collected dozens and dozens of Big Hurt baseball cards; probably better pick up a new Beckett (or whatever they’re using these days) and look up their value in light of yesterday’s announcement!

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 6 months ago

What are the odds a guy who got a football scholarship to Auburn University was introduced to steroids. Frank Thomas was a monster among even the known steroid users in the 90’s. Surprised he passed the scrutiny of the morality police

TT
Guest
TT
2 years 6 months ago

I think it’s two things that work in his favor besides being so outspoken against steroids. One, he was 6’5 so it was natural to think he would be a power hitter. Second, he broke down and wasn’t anywhere near as good after age 32 going from .321/.440/.579 to .262/.376/.507 which makes his career look more natural. Does that mean he was juicing in the 90s and then stopped, who knows, but that’s apparently how the voting works now.

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Thomas has always been an ardent critic of steroid use – he was advocating for drug testing as early as 1995, and he was the only active player who interviewed for the Mitchell Report. He was huge, yeah, but it would still surprise me greatly if he were a user.

Nathan
Guest
Nathan
2 years 6 months ago

Palmero was pretty adamant to congress…

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

True, but the only reason he was testifying before Congress in the first place was because there were real allegations against him – and then, of course, he failed a drug test.

I don’t think anyone has found evidence linking Frank Thomas to steroids. And, as mentioned, he didn’t just deny use – he was actively pushing for testing in the mid-90s. That would be a spectacularly dumb thing to do if he were himself using PEDs.

witesoxfan
Guest
witesoxfan
2 years 6 months ago

Thomas was “present” at those hearings too. This goes under the radar quite a bit, but he was on Canseco and Schilling’s side of removing steroids from the game of baseball. He was in via teleconference though because he couldn’t fly as he’d just had surgery on his ankle and the prolonged flight would have worsened the condition of his foot.

He has always been an outspoken about his hatred for steroids and has advocated having them removed from the game. He famously organized the 2003 White Sox to all refuse to take the drug test so they’d all test positive, thus requiring the test itself. He was always a behemoth of a man, from his first snap and at bat at Auburn (as an 18 or 19 year old?!) to the last time he stepped up to the plate.

Frankly, Thomas is the only person I have absolutely do not doubt from that era, with Griffey and Thome incredibly close behind that.

semperty
Member
semperty
2 years 6 months ago

Lance Armstrong was probably the most outspoken person in cycling about drug testing…look how that turned out.

John Thacker
Guest
John Thacker
2 years 6 months ago

Not true, that would be Greg LeMond, who was dismissed as a jealous crank for many years because of it.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
2 years 6 months ago

You are allowed to think whatever you want and it is hard to prove anything on anybody, but Thomas was outspoken against steroids from day one. He was one of the White Sox players that recommended that they all refuse the voluntary drug tests, because then they would be counted as positives when a certain percentage of positives would lead to mandatory testing. Maybe it is all bravado and bluff but maybe not.

When asked, he has recommended people look at the rest of his family. Unless they are all juicing despite not being professional athletes, he is pretty representative of the Thomas breed.

Yinka Double Dare
Guest
Yinka Double Dare
2 years 6 months ago

He actually has mentioned how when he first showed up at Auburn they showed everyone a (presumably gross scare-job) video of what nasty things steroids can do to you and it made him never want to go near the stuff. He was huge because he was a football-sized guy who was used to football-style lifting workouts, and continued doing that even when he stopped playing football.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 6 months ago

You know with only 7 Latinos in the HOF I am for the first time wondering if there is not a bit of an anti-Latino bias among HOF voters. If Thomas makes it in on the first ballot how the heck could Edgar Martinez not even get close?.

Borat
Guest
Borat
2 years 6 months ago

Kazakhs are woefully underrepresented, too!

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 6 months ago

Edgar Martinez: 65.6 WAR
Frank Thomas: 72.4 WAR

While I feel Edgar should get in the hall personally, The Big Hurt has about a 7 WAR advantage, which isn’t insignificant, especially since DHs seem to have a lot harder time getting into the hall. Edgar should still get in, though.

NEPP
Guest
NEPP
2 years 6 months ago

I dont agree with these reasonings but I’m listing them because this is how I think the voters think:

1. Thomas, at his peak was the best hitter in the game for an extended period (8 seasons approximately). Martinez cant ever say that…he only ever led the league in OPS 1 time

2. Thomas hit the magic 500 HR/1500 RBI number and is reputed to be clean…voters love round numbers like that.

3. Thomas has a natural looking decline statistically while Martinez peaked in his early 30s during the height of the steroid era…I’d imagine there is some suspicion there especially as he’s a Latino players and some of the writers seem to think Latinos are more likely to juice (pathetic I know). Martinez through Age 29: 133 OPS+, Age 30-41: 150 OPS+

4. DH penalty…Martinez played DH for 71.7% of his career while Thomas played it for just 56.5%. Voters are penalizing Edgar for his lack of playing both sides while rewarding Thomas for being a terrible 1B for nearly half his career.

The absolute ridiculous peak along with those round numbers and a clean reputation made Thomas a shoo-in and all of those things hurt Edgar.

Again, I don’t necessarily agree with that rationale but that’s clearly a big part of why his vote total is so low.

TT
Guest
TT
2 years 6 months ago

I think number 3 is the biggest thing with Thomas and Griffey for that matter. They were two of the best hitters of the 90s and they fell apart later on for various reasons. It doesn’t mean they didn’t have any good seasons, but they couldn’t stay healthy and they couldn’t do it consistently.

I also think people forget how crazy Thomas’ career was early on. The whole 100R/100RBI/100BB/.300avg/20+HR, he did that 7 years in a row and 8 total. All those years but one he had over 30 hrs. For comparison, Edgar did it 3x, Bagwell 4x, Pujols 3x, Miggy 0x, Manny 0x.

Jake
Guest
Jake
2 years 6 months ago

2011 Miggy did it.

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Let’s list some eligible Latino players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame but probably should be:

1. Minnie Minoso
2. Luis Tiant
3. Edgar Martinez

That’s pretty much the whole list, and all three have extenuating circumstances. Martinez was a DH. Minoso’s career was shortened by segregation, and the Hall doesn’t have a great track record of properly honoring such players. Tiant happened to hit the ballot just before a massive wave of Hall of Fame pitchers, so his case never really got off the ground.

I don’t think there’s been any particular anti-Latino bias. I think the issue is that we haven’t seen a ton of great Latino candidates for the Hall of Fame thus far. That’ll change soon – Pedro Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero, Mariano Rivera and Ivan Rodriguez will all hit the ballot within five years, and Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre and others are working on their cases right now. Plus there’s the aforementioned Pujols.

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 6 months ago

Minoso and Bobby Grich are the two most under-the-radar HOF-worthy players out there, IMHO

Anthony
Guest
Anthony
2 years 6 months ago

Your kidding right?

Ian R.
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Grich is another good one. I’d also include Lou Whitaker, Rick Reuschel, Dwight Evans and Ted Simmons in that category.

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 6 months ago

By under the radar I mean guys who even get ignored by folks like us. That means getting even less attention than say Evans or Simmons (who were two of Bill James’ favorite HOF proposals) or Whitaker (who has gotten attention for his overall excellence since WAR was first developed).

Reuschel is another good under-the-radar guy. From what I can recall, he had just as much reputation as a staff “ace” as Jack Morris did, but got stuck pitching for some horrible Cubs teams.

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
2 years 6 months ago

Tiant was a lot better pitcher than Jack Morris too.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 6 months ago

Well that is hardly a bar worth mentioning, Kevin Appier was much better than Morris too and no one is saying he is a HOF.

Dano
Guest
Dano
2 years 6 months ago

El Presidente?

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 6 months ago

That’s Spanish for “Rick Reuschel”

Dan LeBatard
Guest
Dan LeBatard
2 years 6 months ago

Frank Thomas over Barry Bonds?

Lol.

henry chinaski
Guest
henry chinaski
2 years 6 months ago

Dick Allen>Frank Thomas.

NEPP
Guest
NEPP
2 years 6 months ago

No.

Visitor
Guest
Visitor
2 years 6 months ago

I know hardly anyone will feel the need to point it out, but “The Big Hurt” is truly one of the great nicknames in the history of sports as well.

Dano
Guest
Dano
2 years 6 months ago

Craig Grebeck-L’il Hurt.

sopcod
Member
sopcod
2 years 6 months ago

I was going to mention that; one of the few good things Hawk has done as a broadcaster.

Anthony
Guest
Anthony
2 years 6 months ago

Probably the most patient hitter of our time. He earned his walks. He used to kill my beloved Orioles! The O’s organization was real happy when he retired. I think we all knew this guy was a HOFamer when we were watching him.

Bill
Guest
Bill
2 years 6 months ago

It seemed he owned Mussina. Moose lost his ML debut 1-0 on a Thomas homerun. Of course, Thomas could have been an O, but tthey Ben McDonald instead.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
2 years 6 months ago

Top right handed hitters of all time by OPS+ according to Baseball Reference:

1) Rogers Hornsby 175
2) Albert Pujols 165. Haven’t seen all his “decline” phase yet. Likely to fall.
3) Pete Browning 163. 19th century.
3) Jimmy Foxx 163
3) Mark McGwire 163. Yeah, I know.
6) Dave Orr 162. 19th century.
7) Hank Greenberg 158
8) Dick Allen 156
8) Willie Mays 156
8) Frank Thomas 156

So definitely one of the top 10 right handed hitters in the history of baseball. If you exclude Pujols because his career is not complete and we don’t know if his decline will drag him down farther, McGwire for the same reason the BBWAA has and the two 19th century players, he’s tied for fourth. Even if you don’t exclude those guys, that’s still pretty incredible.

henry chinaski
Guest
henry chinaski
2 years 6 months ago

Probably should have posted my comment here. Why can’t the world see that:
Dick Allen>frank thomas
Put Mr. Allen in the HoF.

jruby
Member
Member
jruby
2 years 6 months ago

Right away, I see Thomas: 72.4 WAR, Allen: 61.3 WAR. I know that’s only one sliver of the story, but if you’re going to order Allen over Thomas, you’re going to need to overcome a WAR difference of 11.1. Flat assertions probably aren’t going to convince anyone on a post called “The Greatness of Frank Thomas.”

JimNYC
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Just as an aside, Dave Orr is the only player in history (min 3000 pa) who hit over .300 in every season of his career.

Wayne LaPierre
Guest
Wayne LaPierre
2 years 6 months ago

I think we’re really forgetting the Big Hurt baseball game that came out for SNES.

Roto Wizard
Member
Roto Wizard
2 years 6 months ago

I think denial is more appropriate.

Seattleslew
Guest
Seattleslew
2 years 6 months ago

I know many great players are passed by teams in the draft every year but how can a team pass on a 6’5 guy who smashes the ball, has a great swing, and takes walks???

I know many teams prefer to draft players out of HS (extended control rights), based on their specific roster needs but to me it would make more sense to draft the best hitter.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 6 months ago

Teams often shy away from bat only prospects at the top of the draft. Guys like Thomas have to hit above average to ever provide MLB value. The risk is higher than taking a good defensive SS, 3B, or CF.

sopcod
Member
sopcod
2 years 6 months ago

Larry Himes was on B&B yesterday talking about drafting Frank. Dan tried to pin him down on the sabermetric side of things but I don’t think he really understood what Dan was driving at. Larry said that their scouts saw him as a really polished hitter with power and excellent strike zone judgement. He didn’t say “draw walks” specifically but they felt that his ability to recognize pitches, which is something that they normally spend a lot of time developing in the minors, was already there and wouldn’t require much work.

But the power was evident from the very beginning, according to Himes, so I don’t know what other team’s scouts saw or didn’t see.

804NatsFan
Guest
804NatsFan
2 years 6 months ago

Great blog post at Washington Post about Mike Rizzo (then a scout for the White Sox) pushing hard for Frank Thomas:

804NatsFan
Guest
804NatsFan
2 years 6 months ago

… and since I’m obviously HTML-impaired, you’ll just have to copy/paste the link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/wp/2014/01/08/frank-thomas-becomes-the-first-hall-of-famer-mike-rizzo-signed/

Palehose
Guest
Palehose
2 years 6 months ago

As a White Sox fan it is hard to over state this. Despite a history in MLB of over 100 years the White Sox do not have a legacy of developing dominant players. The Yankees have Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle etc. We have Frank Thomas. We scouted him, drafted him and developed him. He is the greatest home grown White Sox player in history. His selection to the HOF validates our rooting interest in a franchise that does not often give its fans all that much to cheer. I only wish he had had more of an opportunity to participate in the 2005 World Championship. Paul Konerko became the face of that team. But the Big Hurt was the player who gave you that sense of invincibility that only great ones can do.

Cory Settoon
Member
2 years 6 months ago

That 2000 White Sox team was something else on the offensive side. Big Hurt was Big Hurt. Add in Magglio Ordonez, Paul Konerko, and Carlos Lee–that’s just not fair. Five guys had 100+ runs scored.

Seattleslew
Guest
Seattleslew
2 years 6 months ago

Jose Valentin also had a very good year for the white sox in 2000.

Del B. Vista
Member
Del B. Vista
2 years 6 months ago

If you think Frank Thomas was terrifying as a big league hitter, you should have seen him in college. I did, and I feared for the lives of third basemen and pitchers with that big dude waving a metal stick and smoking line drives.

Peejsox
Guest
Peejsox
2 years 6 months ago

You failed to mention that he got a ring as a member of the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox.

Big35Hurt
Guest
Big35Hurt
2 years 6 months ago

There’s not many players in the history of sports that I would literally change the channel to watch them perform even if I wasn’t watching the game at the time. The Big Hurt was one of them. He was “must see TV” every time he was at the plate. He’s my favorite athlete of all time. THANKS for the memories Big Hurt!

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