September 9, 2007

Jim Thome? Not so fast.

***Note: I've since revised this thing (slightly) since it was written in September 2007. Please check out a fresher take HERE!***

So we’re living in a juiced ball era (alledgedly)…I can accept that.

By the time the curtain closes on this current season, we’ll have seen Barry Bonds set the new home run record, two players (Sammy Sosa and Kenny Griffey) eclipse 600 and potentially four (Frank Thomas, Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez) surpass 500.

By my count, we’ll have 24 members of the 500 club and of the Hall eligible, all but one (Mark McGwire) is enshrined and another (Rafael Palmeiro) will be the unfortunate poster child for the steroid era given he tested positive.

Over the next couple of years, more players will hit the 500 mark then every before, but it’ll drop off. It’s kinda like the early 80s when, if you sneezed hard enough, another veteran pitcher hit his 300th victory.

Milestones are milestones, and they’re great, but let me ask this…is the 500 home run mark watered down? More specifically…is someone like Jim Thome a Hall of Famer? Now, by living in the Midwest, I’ve had the conversation with my peers…I’ve heard it talked about on the radio. People LOVE this guy.

I’m not convinced. The guy hit a bunch of bombs in an era when EVERYONE did. Confused by that statement? Let me put it in perspective…Jim Thome has led the league in home runs ONCE. If anything, Thome is the Webster’s Dictionary definition of “consistent”…not dominant. Never once, have I thought of dominant first basemen and come up with the name “Thome”.

Jeff Bagwell…sure. Todd Helton…most definitely. Frank Thomas…without a doubt.

The case for Thome reads like this:


  • He is a prolific power hitter that could very well end up in the top 12 on the home run list by the time he retires.
  • Nine 100+ RBI seasons, six 40+ home run seasons.
  • Career on base percentage over .400…not too shabby.
  • While he has no Gold Gloves to show for it, this converted third baseman is VERY overlooked as a fielder. Thome has a career fielding percentage of .994 at first base.

The case against:

  • Less than 2000 career hits is VERY underwhelming. Edgar Renteria has more hits than Jim Thome.
  • No MVP awards, only one top five finish (fourth in 2003).
  • Third on the all-time strikeout list.
  • No rings in two World Series appearances...a career .229 post season batting average. Heck...he wasn't even the best player on the Indians during his days in Cleveland.
  • There will be FAR too many more qualified first time inductees by the time Thome becomes eligible.

There you have it...Thome is very good, not great. Hall of Famer? Perhaps…but not on the first couple of ballots. In short, we’ve got a guy who smacked the Hell out of the ball, but was never the most dominant, much less feared, player of his era. And because of that, he'll get lost in the mix. Also, a fifth of his games played have been as a DH…and ask Harold Baines how that has helped HIS case to get into Cooperstown without having to open up his wallet.



***Note: The "is Jim Thome a first ballot Hall of Famer?" poll garnered the following results...Yes-41% (23 votes), No-59% (33 votes). I guess a number of you agree with me!***


Ballhype: hype it up!

22 comments:

E said...

I'm glad you mentioned McGwire, because any argument you can make against McGwire, you need only substitute the name "Thome."

The only thing Thome has really got on McGwire is hits. But then, McGwire didn't get hits unless they left the park shortly after leaving his bat. And McGwire had one of those "injury careers," a problem that has not affected Thome that much.

However, if Thome can put together 3-4 more good years, and can match or surpass McGwire's HR total, I think his other stats would fall in line enough that he'd merit serious consideration.

Until then, I'd say he's a no-go.

Steven said...

I'm glad you mentioned McGwire, because any argument you can make against McGwire, you need only substitute the name "Thome."

Except that whole "obviously took steroids" thing... only that...

Jesus said...

How can you say that McGwire did or Thome didn't?

And...for the record, I think you are confusing HGH with steroids. When guys like Jay Gibbons are getting busted with HGH, it's not THAT hard to think that some of the big name power hitters didn't touch the stuff.

Anonymous said...

Todd Helton most definitely, and you are arguing against Thome? If Helton had continued on the career path he was on between 2000 and 2005, he would be a clear Hall of Famer. But Helton's back problems have turned him into a pretty average first baseman. Thome has had 12 seasons in which he has been a significantly above average first baseman, while Helton has had 7. And Thome has a reasonable chance to hit 100 more home runs in his career, something Helton is unlikely to do despite his being several years younger than Thome.

I wouldn't say Thome is an automatic HoFer now; he's on the borderline. But I think he will be a clear choice several years from now. And I don't think Helton will do much in terms of real value over the next few years, since over the last 2 seasons all he's been able to do away from Coors is post an OBP of ~ .375 and SLG of ~ .425.

Jesus said...

Good argument anonymous...FAR better than the fellas over at BBTF.

Re-read what I wrote though. I said that Thome is NOT a first ballot guy and that his HR numbers de-value the mystique that is 500.

Jesus said...

Someone over at BBTF questioned where Thome ranked compared to those 27 first baseman (28 if you include Thome) already in the Hall...well:

Games...20 out of 28
At Bats...21 out of 28
Runs...13 out of 28 (higher than I would have thought)
Hits...24 out of 28
Doubles...23 out of 28
Triples...28 out of 28
Home Runs...7 out of 28
RBI...17 out of 28
Average...24 out of 28
OPS+...9 out of 28.

Keep in mind that if you were to include Rafael Palmeiro, all of these (beside OPS) would be down another notch.

Let's be honest, fellas...Thome is very good, but not a first ballot Hall of Famer (as been my contention all along). And for those of you who believe "you either are or you aren't" then let's abolish the veterans committee AND not let people appear on the ballot after one try.

Mention that to Carlton Fisk and he'll bust you in the teeth.

E said...

Mention that to Carlton Fisk and he'll bust you in the teeth.

Yes, but I imagine your head would already be pretty smashed in by the time Jim Rice and Andre Dawson got done with you.

Anonymous said...

Are you PREDICTING Thome getting in not on the first ballot or are you ARGUING that he should not get in on the first ballot?

Jesus said...

I'm saying that right now...Jim Thome will not get in on the first ballot and I've cited my reasons why.

Anonymous said...

Do you think he should be a first ballot HOFer?

Jesus said...

As I wrote..."There you have it...Thome is very good, not great. Hall of Famer? Perhaps…but not on the first couple of ballots."

Thanks for playing!

Anonymous said...

The way I read it your post was that you were suggesting that Thome would not be voted in on first ballot ("perhaps...but not on the first couple of ballots."). That struck more as more of a prediction, which I basically agree with.

But do you personally agree with this potential future situation? In other words, if you had a HOF vote, would you vote Thome in when he first came up?

To clarify, for me:

I BELIEVE that Thome will not get in on the first ballot.
If I had a vote, I WOULD vote for Thome on the first ballot. I do not believe in the concept of denying votes to candidates on the first ballot.

Anonymous said...

I found this article in a google search and cannot believe what a poor article this is.

Hits? Ralph Kiner had 1,451. george Kell had 2,054. I could keep digging, too.

Juan Pierre has 1,546, and a career BA 21 points higher than Kiner.

You also argue his career count statistics aren't as impressive as they were in the past. Essentially, your point is because Sammy Sosa, Mark Mcgwire, and others juiced up, Jim Thome (who has NEVER had a credible accusation launched against him) should be punished. That's bullshit.

Maury Wills won an MVP. So did Justin Morneau. Carlton Fisk never won an MVP.

3rd in all time SO's.
1) Reggie Jackson
2) Sammy Sosa
3) Jim Thome
4) Andres galarraga
5) Jose Canseco
6) Willie Stargell
7) Mike Schmidt
8) Fred Mcgriff
9) Tony Perez
10) Dave Kingman
11) Bobby Bonds
12) Craig Biggio
13) Dale Murphy
14) Lou Brock
15) Carlos Delgado

So a point against Thome is that he ranks highly on a list that is filled with good players to legends of the game of baseball? Awesome point.

I may as well list some career stats of two 1st basemen right now.

Player 1:
avg: .297
obp: .408
slg: .540
HR: 449
Fielding % at 1st: .993
Range Factor / 9: 9.35

Player 2:
avg: .279
obp: .406
slg: .560
HR: 541
Fielding % at first: .988
Range Factor / 9: 9.30

Player 1 is Bagwell. Player 2 is Thome. Overall, about the same levels of ability. Why is one titleless player (Bagwell) a sure thing while another (Thome) isn't?

And comparing Thome (24.9% of games as a DH, 148 career OPS+) to Baines (60.8% of games as a DH, 120 career OPS+) is just a damn insult. Thome is a far better player than Baines.

Sure there's a case against Thome being a slam dunk Hall of Famer, but damn, do some real research and not just nitpick some random tidbits like strikeouts.

Brandon said...

The comparison of Thome to Bagwell is a fantastic one. I don't think many people would argue against Bagwell being a shoe in.

Simply put, just because the Author never considered Thome a "dominant first baseman" doesn't really mean he wasn't. He compares very favorably with the others mentioned (Bagwell, Helton, Frank Thomas.)

Jeff Bagwell was fantastic, but I do think he gets slightly over-rated at times thanks to his 1994 MVP season. That's not to say Bags wasn't excellent even not counting that, but if you take that season away his career reads a lot like Thome's, except witha higher batting average and less power. His OBP, Slg, and OPS+ are all very comparable. Both Bags and Thome led their respective leagues in Slugging and OPS the exact same number of times...once. Thome's offensive numbers for 2002 were the beast in the AL, even if he only finished 7th in the MVP Voting.

Todd Helton's career percentages look fantastic at first glance (.328/.427/.571), but he's very likely to end his career under the 400 homer mark. On top of that, his OPS+ for his career is actually LOWER than that of Jim Thome (141 to 147.) The thing that hurts Helton the most, though, is the fact that his Home/Away numbers are so drastically different. At home, his career line is damn studly (.361/.459/.648.) Away, his line isn't so "dominant" at .295/.394/.493. I would hesitate to elect a 1st baseman to the hall of fame who; 1) Showed very little longevity, 2) Played during an offensively heavy era, and 3) slugged under .500 in his away games. Helton was a very good player, but he was undoubtedly helped by Coors Field more than any other player, ever (excluding 1995's Dante Bichette, of course.)

Frank Thomas is a bit of a different case. His career isn't quite as comparable to Thome's, as Frank's career has really been based around a "peak" more than a "consistent level of production", if you will. That said I don't think I can argue against Thomas being more dominant than Thome, so I'll give you that one.

anyway, by the time Thome retires there's a realistic chance he'll have almost 580 home runs and closer to 2200 career hits. On top of everything else that's enough to get him my vote.

I do predict he wont make it on the first ballot, although I think it will be very, very close. I would personally give him my vote (as long as there weren't numerous better candidates, which I really doubt there will be...I can't say I know off hand how many players one of the voters is allowed to vote for each season, but I can't imagine Thome being not in the top 3 for whatever his elected year is.)

That said, Bert Blyleven still isn't in the hall, Tim Raines still isn't in the hall, and Jay Bell somehow got 2 votes last season. So really, there's very little rhyme or reason to how some of those idiots vote.

Jesus Melendez said...

I wrote this puppy nearly two years ago and, frankly, I still stand by what I said then...Jim Thome will not be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

I think his home run numbers (while incredible) will be watered down by the time he comes up for induction. Plus...he really doesn't have a defining moment on the field.

He was never his team's star. Never the MVP. Never "The Guy".

Considering he stands to, potentially, be up for election alongside guys like Pudge Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., John Smoltz and Tom Glavine...his numbers, while impressive, will be overlooked.

Brandon said...

This again goes back to the Anonymous poster's question of "Do you consider him a first ballot HoF'er?" versus "Do you THINK he'll be a first ballot HoF'er?", which are two entirely separate questions.

He will be overlooked for playing alongside some other fantastic players, notably on some of those hard-hitting Indian's teams of the 1990's. But to discredit his amazing ability due to the fact that he played alongside Manny Ramirez is silly. It will happen with HoF voting, most definitely, but it's extremely silly nonetheless. And I can't really tell what your stance on this is, as you've only repeated multiple times what you forsee happening, not what you believe SHOULD happen.

Your points about why we probably wont be a first ballot Hall of Famer are all good, though, and even if I don't personally believe that they are sound arguements that SHOULD prevent Thome from being a first balloter, I do agree that they most likely will keep him out of Cooperstown for at least one voting period.

Jesus Melendez said...

A Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer...no?

Is Jim Rice any less a Hall member than Rickey Henderson when both go in later this month? Both of their plaques go up on the wall, right?!?

Getting in on the first ballot has to do purely with who you are nominated alongside...not the worth of your career.

Brandon said...

Tell that to most of the guys who do the voting. They'll tell you that some guys are First Balloters out of principle, while others wouldn't get in on their first ballot no matter who they were against.

Regardless, I never really said otherwise. But tell me, honestly: do you consider Jim Rice the same caliber of player as Rickey Henderson? Both may be Hall of Famers, but that does NOT mean they are equal, by any stretch of the imagination. I am glad Jim Rice finally got in (and saddened by the fact that, due to all the offense in the game now, his numbers will never look as good as they "really were"), but he'll never be considered anywhere close to Rickey Henderson, even though both their plaques are in Cooperstown.

Jesus Melendez said...

Is Henderson the same caliber player as Ty Cobb? Is Pee Wee Reese or Bill Mazeroski the same caliber as Cal Ripken? The Hall is a crapshoot if you look at it that way.

To answer your question...I do not consider Rice and Henderson on the same level. Henderson is the epitome of "first ballot" (whatever that really means), whereas I can think of a number of hitters that I would put in BEFORE Rice.

And the "out of principle" thing is a travesty, really. I love that the writers have the say (I really do), but I hate that players that stack up favorably (ex. Albert Belle) don't see the light of day because they were not writer friendly.

Brandon said...

I agree entirely with that. If someone doesn't get in on the first ballot because there's "x" better candidates (although you have 10 votes a year, so I highly doubt there's really ever a case where there's 11 worthy people in a season, but I digress), than sure, that makes sense. To not vote for someone out of "first time principle" or for some other stupid reasons (IE Albert Belle) is pretty crazy. But when you consider some of the guys who vote for this stuff (Corky Simpson, for example, voted for 8 people in 2009 for the Hall, including Matt Williams, but failed to vote for Rickey Henderson, saying "he'd get him next year"...he didn't use up all 10 of his votes, so why not just vote for Rickey THIS YEAR? Crazy) stupid things are bound to happen, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Who did Thome play aggainst on the sox that was great not really anyone unless you count Mark Buerhle or Paul Konerko or Jermaine Dye. Sure two 300 home run hitters ya not spectacular. And a perfect game and a no hitter you cant compare pitching stats to batting stats. Oh well thome will be in the HOF no dobt Thome never used steroids either!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Well Thome surpassed the 600 HR plateau now. It would be a bit odd not having a 600-club member in there who has had no credible accusations of steroids against him.