Congrats Jim Thome

Jim Thome did this last night: 3-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI in a 9-6 Twins victory over the Tigers at Comerica Field. That second home run, a three-run opposite field shot off Daniel Schlereth that provided the margin for the Twins, just happened to be the 600th of his career. He joins Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays (my favorite player of all time, and who I stood like 5 feet from at my college graduation), A-Rod, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa, who seems like a jokish afterthought now, but his 2001 .328, 64 HR, 160 RBI, 1.174 OPS season (no, I didn’t need to look those up), tainted as it was, was insanely exciting to watch. As a Cubs fan, at least. I shelled out for mlb.tv on my comp., and structured my studying around Cubs games, even if I had a paper due the next day. It was magical. Stats for those eight individuals are available at baseball-reference.com; I won’t list them, because if I do, I’m going to end up looking up stats for five hours.

Back to Thome. I’ve always had a lot of respect of Jim Thome, even when he played for the hated White Sox. I’ve always thought he has one of the most recognizable home run stances in baseball history, and as a fellow Illinoisan (he’s from Peoria and grew up a Cubs fan), always sort of felt a connection with him. For most the two decades he’s played, he’s sort of been in the shadows of players (at the time) considered greater, players like Griffey, Bonds, McGwire, A-Rod. Speaking of Griffey (still easily the most electric player of the past twenty years in his prime), I always associated him and Thome, at least since I’ve been old enough to think about the game. Both down-to-earth men who wreaked havoc on opposing pitchers from Bret Saberhagen to Rick Porcello. Griffey would have been on par with Ty Cobb, Ruth, and Mays as one of the all-time greats had injuries during his time with the Reds not cost him many games and slowed him down. Thome was never going to be on that list. But, as his teammates will tell you, he’s one of the hardest workers in the game, a team player, the exact opposite of Carlos Zambrano or a sulking Bonds.

His numbers will tell you the same thing (okay, these I did have to look up):

Career: .277, 600 HR, 1662 RBI, .403 OBP (seriously), .961 OPS, only one season after 1993 with an OPS under .847 (and that in an injury-shortened 2005 season in Philadelphia in which he played only 59 games and had only 193 ABs). Last year, he was quietly one of most dangerous hitters in the entire league, quietly putting up a .283/25/59 line with an OPS of 1.039 and an OPS+ of 177, which would have been good for second in the AL behind only Miguel Cabrera’s 183 had he had more than 276 at-bats. Extend that line out to 500 ABs, and it turns into .283, 45, 109 line. That’s an MVP candidate year. Yeah Thome’s only hitting .254 this year, but with a .359 OBP and an .856 OPS, he’s still clearly a formidable hitter, and has helped shore up a Twins lineup that’s been without Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau for most of the year, and neither one has been 100% clearly. When Michael Cuddyer (nothing against him or any of the piranhas by the way) is your offensive leader with a .295/18/61 line and a .360/.845 OBP/OPS… wait hold on… that would seem to suggest that Jim Thome is the best hitter in the Twins’ lineup this year. Identical OBP practically, slightly better OPS. Difference being Cuddyer’s 421 ABs to Thome’s 185.

Get this man more at-bats! He might not be an everyday player anymore, but c’mon Twins — this is clearly not your year. At 53-67 you’ve probably overachieved given Mauer and Morneau’s troubles and a fairly weak staff — Liriano isn’t ever going to be who he was before Tommy John, no-hitter aside. The fans love Thome, you have that beautiful new park (which I haven’t been to yet, but believe me, it’s on my to-do list), and a first-ballot Hall of Famer who seems to have a decent amount left in the tank. I almost never criticize the Twins, as their management and manager do more with less than any other club outside of Tampa Bay, but let him play!

Update: Forget to mention, a lot of what I wrote about Thome, aside from numbers of course, was based on an excellent Tim Kurkjian column on ESPN summarizing Thome’s career. I’m not usually a Kurkjian fan, but he clearly has a lot of respect for Thome. It’s a very good, insightful, and revealing column well worth reading.

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~ by Benji on 16 August 2011.

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