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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

Season Team PA HR/PA BB/PA SO/PA TTO Avg TTO
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.