Sunday, July 18, 2010

James Howard Thome: 1st Ballot Hall of Famer

I was looking at Sunday box scores earlier today and landed on Minnesota's come-from-behind win over the Whitesox. There he was, 39-year old Jim Thome, picking up two more hits. We're now in the Padding My HOF Resume portion of the big lefty's career.

Thome shouldn't have any problem getting in on his first try, five years from whenever he retires, and if he's had a decline I missed it. His 2010 slash line - .257/.380/.539 as a part-time player heading into Sunday's game - is excellent, and he's still hitting the ball out of the park and drawing walks (10 HR and 31 BB in 184 PA). Thome isn't one of the first names that fans think of when discussing first-ballot HOFers, but it should be.

Career statistics (through games of July 17, 2010)

BA/OBP/SLUG/OPS: .277/.404/.556/.960
OPS+: 146
HR: 574
BB: 1,650

Hang on, it gets better

OBP seasons of .410 or better: 9 (career high-.450 in 1996)
OPS+ seasons of 150 or better: 9 (career high-197 in 2002)
Seasons with 100 or more walks: 9 (career high-127 in 1999)

About that 2002 season

Any time you get close to a 200 OPS+ in a single season, something went Bizzaro Irabuian for you that year. Thome has had several outstanding seasons, but he went nuts in '02. His slash line of .304/.445/.677, OPS of 1.122 and the aforementioned OPS+, along with 52 home runs should've won him the AL MVP. But, wait: Miguel Tejada had 204 hits! And I'm assuming leadership! And was a great clubhouse guy! And gave Oakland Tribune beat writers bite size Three Musketeers bars before every game! And also had a WAR of 5.2, while Thome, who finished seventh in the balloting, had a WAR of 8.1. In fact, only Alex Rodriguez, who finished second, and Jason Giambi (fifth), had an argument to have finished ahead of Thome.

Let's see who else finished ahead of Thome in 2002:

* Alfonso Soriano and his .332 OBP, 23 walks and 4.7 WAR? That smells like Pavano, but Soriano finished THIRD.
* Garret Anderson and his .332 OBP and .871 OPS? That contains a pungent fragrance reminiscent of 1996 post-season Kenny Rogers, but Anderson finished fifth.
* Torii Hunter and his 3.0 WAR? That gives off an odor of Mondesi, but Hunter finished sixth and received 16% more of the vote than Thome.

This started as a tribute to the career of Jim Thome and quickly spiraled into MVP Voters Are Dunderheads and Yankees Whining, Part 37.

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