Jim Thome: First and Last Three Outcomes Hall of Famer

Jim Thome was elected to the Hall of Fame on January 24th.  Given my recent obsession with the three true outcomes, I immediately recognized the significance of this event.  I believe Jim Thome is the first, and likely the last three true outcomes Hall of Famer.

Table 1 shows Thome’s home run, walk, and strikeout rates along with his three true outcomes rate for each season.  The final column is the MLB average three true outcomes rate for the season.  Thome was a three true outcomes machine from 1996 until his retirement in 2012.

Table 1. Jim Thome, Three Outcomes Hall of Famer

1991 Indians 104 1% 5% 15% 21% 26%
1992 Indians 131 2% 8% 26% 35% 25%
1993 Indians 192 4% 15% 19% 38% 26%
1994 Indians 369 5% 12% 23% 41% 27%
1995 Indians 557 4% 17% 20% 42% 28%
1996 Indians 636 6% 19% 22% 47% 28%
1997 Indians 627 6% 19% 23% 49% 28%
1998 Indians 537 6% 17% 26% 48% 28%
1999 Indians 629 5% 20% 27% 53% 28%
2000 Indians 684 5% 17% 25% 48% 29%
2001 Indians 644 8% 17% 29% 54% 28%
2002 Indians 613 8% 20% 23% 51% 28%
2003 Phillies 698 7% 16% 26% 49% 28%
2004 Phillies 618 7% 17% 23% 47% 28%
2005 Phillies 242 3% 19% 24% 46% 27%
2006 White Sox 610 7% 18% 24% 49% 28%
2007 White Sox 536 7% 18% 25% 49% 28%
2008 White Sox 602 6% 15% 24% 45% 28%
2009 2 teams 434 5% 16% 28% 50% 29%
2010 Twins 340 7% 18% 24% 49% 29%
2011 2 teams 324 5% 14% 28% 47% 29%
2012 2 teams 186 4% 12% 33% 49% 30%

Thome was part of a small group of specialists with multiple dominant three true outcomes seasons.  Table 2 provides a list of players with 4 or more of these dominant seasons.  I consider a season with at least 170 plate appearances and a 49% three true outcome rate as a dominant season.  The casual three true outcomes observer will recognize the players on this list as notable specialists.  Rob Deer, of course, is the iconic three true outcomes hitter.  I used Deer’s career three true outcomes rate of 49% and 4 dominant season to construct the table.

Table 2. Dominant Three True Outcomes Specialists

Player Career Seasons
Jim Thome 1991-2012 10
Adam Dunn 2001-2014 9
Russell Branyan 1998-2011 8
Mark McGwire 1986-2001 6
Jack Cust 2001-2011 5
Chris Carter 2010-2017 5
Rob Deer 1984-1996 4
Chris Davis 2008-2017 4
Alex Avila 2009-2017 4

Thome’s 10 dominant seasons are more than any other player.  He is also the only Hall of Famer on the list.

Maybe Mark McGwire should be in the Hall of Fame (depending on your PED era position).  Already past eligibility to be inducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), perhaps he will have a chance in the future with the Veterans Committee.

Adam Dunn will be on the 2020 ballot.  He was a consistent three true outcomes specialist, but we will see if the BBWAA consider him a dominant player over the course of his career.

Russel Branyan and Jack Cust are interesting players to see on this list.  Branyan makes the list because of my 170 plate appearance requirement.  Cust was a dominant three true outcomes hitter for five straight years, 2007-2011.  Neither are on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Carter and Avila do not have contracts for 2018, but could land somewhere.  Davis is signed with Baltimore through 2022.  Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge are two young hitters in the three true outcomes mold not yet on the list.  So maybe it is too soon to make a judgement on the Hall of Fame potential of three true outcomes hitters in the future?

But I am going out on a limb to say that despite the trend towards three true outcomes baseball, we have seen our first and last three true outcomes Hall of Famer in Jim Thome.

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I think it is really hard to be that good as a tto guy. Your power just has to be so good. Basically you need 80 power to make it work and still you need to keep the K rate in check. Thome was able to keep it in the mid 20s while dunn also started there but went up to 30+ after some years and became bad.

Thome was consistent for a long time which is really amazing because those extreme tto guys have so little margin for error. Ks just increase a little and you hit .200. Hr drops to mid 20s and you are useless.

The high walks help but they couldn’t save dunn.thome was just able to stay at 25% and 40+ hr forever which few can do, most of the tto guys will go from 40/25% to 25/30+% and then they are done(dunn) in their early 30s.


If you don’t adjust for the league, and current trends continue, there will almost surely be guys with 4 49% seasons end up in the Hall of Fame. On the other hand, if you are adjusting for era, you might want to consider Babe Ruth, possibly the very first TTO player. Ruth’s career TTO of 38.6% is pretty normal by today’s standards, but it stands out in the era he played. From what I can tell, Jimmy Foxx is second among players with 5000 PAs prior to 1950, at 34.1%. I believe Mickie Mantle (40.2%) was the player that finally broke Ruth’s all time TTO record, decades after Ruth had retired.


Mcgwire would have been a hofer without the steroids though.


Well, he’d have been a HOFer if he never got caught using steroids. It’s impossible to know what effects the steroids had on his career (good and bad).


Sure, only if he did the same stats, which he might not have done.


It is hard though. Maybe someone like judge with a earlier breakout could do it running high HR and babip numbers. Problem is that you would need monster raw power. You would need to elevate the ball some to hit the homers but if FB rate gets too high that hurts babip. You would also need to hit balls out to all fields. For power pulled flyballs are most productive but the specialize on pulled FB approach like Bautista or Dozier usually leads to low babips.

So you basically need to hit 45+ homers with about an average (low 40s) pull rate and low 40s fb rate. Judge did it this year but most guys who hit 40+ hr have to do it with higher pull and fb rates which hurts the average.

So it really is a lot to ask

-walk a lot
-hit 40+ homers without having too extreme (but high enough- Mauer or hosmer low liner the other way approach won’t work either) pull or fb rates
-hit lots of liners to all fields
– keep the Ks somewhat in check (mid 30s+ is critical even With the best profile)
-stay healthy and do the above for 12 years

Can it be done? Maybe but it is super hard to do. We always dream about the off the charts quality of contact tto hitter that beats the system and maintains a 370 babip with great power and for stretches we have seen that but over multiple years with pitchers making adjustments and hitter re adjusting that is hard to do.