Homers not the only reason for Thome's enshrinement

Consistency, discipline frame slugger's elite HR rate

Alex Hooper
July 29, 2018 - 1:14 pm
Jul 28, 2018; Cooperstown, NY, USA; Hall of Fame Inductee Jim Thome arrives at National Baseball Hall of Fame.

© Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

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Jim Thome is a Hall of Famer.

The Cleveland Indians legend is such for many reasons, but statistically, the case for the slugger was easy. Merely every milestone of counting stats was surpassed over a career that spanned 10,313 plate appearances over 2,543 games.

Thome’s 612 career home runs sit 8th, with oft-injured 35-year-old Miguel Cabrera the only active player with both 50% of Thome’s total and a realistic chance to make up the ground. 28-year-old Giancarlo Stanton is the next closest on the list under 34, yet only has 291 longballs.

While dingers will forever be remembered as the reason Thome found his way to Cooperstown, his offensive prowess should never solely be defined by those results.

For example, among players with 9000 plate appearances, Thome’s 16.9% walk-rate ranks him 6th of all-time behind four of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen: Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle.

(With all due respect to “The Walking Man” Eddie Yost, 4th on the list, being known for not swinging alone does not warrant placement among a quintet with a combined 3,145 career homers.)

Between all of the trots to first base, or all the way around to home, Thome of course racked up incredible on-base and slugging numbers – 51st and 18th all-time in those numbers, respectively.

The lefty combined the two en route to a 147 adjusted OPS+, the best statistic to compare across eras because of its ballpark and league adjustments. That 147 OPS+ is 42nd in baseball history, tied with fellow hall-of-famers Willie McCovey, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, Sam Thompson and (potential) future hall-of-famer Edgar Martinez.

Thome’s .402 career on-base percentage places him 21st among those with 9000 PAs, despite having the lowest batting average in that group by .021.

According to JAWS a Hall of Fame deservedness scale developed by renowned sabermatician and writer Jay Jaffe, Thome ranks 10th among first-basemen, with eight of the nine players ahead of him already in the hall. Albert Pujols is 2nd on that list, and will obviously be enshrined in his first ballot.

His JAWS score rank him above the likes of McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Eddie Murray, Hank Greenberg and Harmon Killebrew at the position.

Thome’s 72.9 career WAR rank him 9th among first baseman, a full 6.5 (otherwise known as one MVP-caliber season) above the Hall’s average.

His best seven WAR seasons amount to 41.5, just 19th at the position, which speaks more to the slugger’s consistency and longevity. While his best seasons were not among the elite, he reproduced them often. Thome posted nine seasons of 4.5-or-more bWAR, and 11 of 3.5-or-more.

For a player so hampered by his base-running (-27 career runs) and positional adjustments (-45), Thome’s offensive production could perhaps be framed and even elevated by those detriments. Had he been just net neutral in those regards, his numbers would have wound up Top-6 at the position.