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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Frank Thomas

eligible in 2014

DL from MN Posted: January 10, 2013 at 11:02 AM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. DL from MN Posted: January 10, 2013 at 03:48 PM (#4344423)
My 1B rankings

Gehrig, Lou
Anson, Cap
Connor, Roger
Foxx, Jimmie
Brouthers, Dan
Mize, Johnny
Greenberg, Hank
Bagwell, Jeff
Leonard, Buck
Start, Joe
McGwire, Mark
Suttles, Mule
Murray, Eddie
McCovey, Willie

Bagwell 66.0 2.4 3.9 75.7 46.2
Thomas 73.9 -1.9 -6.4 69.9 38

More bat for Thomas but a LOT less glove and worse baserunning.
   2. OCF Posted: January 10, 2013 at 04:42 PM (#4344483)
I still have the Bill James baseball book that came out after his 60 game rookie season. Basically, James said "That is really what his OBP is going to be." He didn't win the Rookie of the Year despite hitting like Frank Thomas from day one in the major leagues. (Technically, it took a couple of years for enough of his doubles to turn into HR to reach full value.) The 60 games, with a lot of the value tied up in OBP, didn't sufficiently impress that year's voters, and then he wasn't eligible the next year.
   3. Eddo Posted: January 10, 2013 at 05:22 PM (#4344522)
I still have the Bill James baseball book that came out after his 60 game rookie season. Basically, James said "That is really what his OBP is going to be." He didn't win the Rookie of the Year despite hitting like Frank Thomas from day one in the major leagues. (Technically, it took a couple of years for enough of his doubles to turn into HR to reach full value.) The 60 games, with a lot of the value tied up in OBP, didn't sufficiently impress that year's voters, and then he wasn't eligible the next year.

Growing up a Sox fan, I knew how awesome Thomas was.

But I went back to his B-R page today. Holy ####, was he an on-base monster. What a hitter.
   4. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: January 10, 2013 at 06:36 PM (#4344573)
I've never forgiven the Rangers for picking an all-conference cornerback and "great athlete" (Donald Harris) with the #5 pick in the '89 draft, letting an actual baseball player like Thomas fall to the #7 slot.
   5. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: January 10, 2013 at 07:51 PM (#4344629)
I remember Thomas hitting something like .600 in spring training in 1990, but he got sent down. I don't know if it had anything to do with it, but the Sox weren't supposed to be any good that year. They did stay close to the A's, and their weakest link was Carlos Martinez at first base. We all knew Thomas was going to be good and didn't know why he was in the minors so long. They won 94 games, but an additional four months of Thomas probably wouldn't have made up 9 games on the A's.
   6. OCF Posted: January 10, 2013 at 08:33 PM (#4344648)
What did Thomas's stats look like in college ball at Auburn?

He was drafted and signed in 1989. They started him in rookie ball: 17 games, .365/.470/.519. He then spent the rest of that year in A ball (Florida State League) and wasn't so awesome: 55 games, .277/.386/.399. So that's where he was going into spring training in 1990, which is what Rusty is talking about. In 1990, he got 109 games in AA, in the Southern League: .323/.487/.581. And the Southern League wasn't exactly a hitter's league, was it? Thomas's own stats don't show much that looks like a context change from Birmingham to Chicago.

Suppose you're picking an all-1990's team. You're permitted to move players from position to position, as needed, as long as they could handle it. You get to name one 1B and one DH. Candidates include Thomas, Bagwell, McGwire, and Edgar Martinez. Who's the 1B, who's the DH, and who gets left on the bench?

   7. Chris Cobb Posted: January 10, 2013 at 09:04 PM (#4344656)
Re an all-1990s team: Bagwell plays first. With his good defense, he has as much value on a per game basis as McGwire or Thomas if they are at first base, and they don't lose value because of below-average fielding if they are DHing. Choosing between the two of them for DH, it's basically a question of durability vs. peak ability. McGwire was a better hitter at his best, but he had trouble staying in the lineup. Overall, Thomas created a lot more runs in the 1990s than McGwire, but McGwire's OPS+ peak was even higher than Thomas's. I give the nod to Frank Thomas. Edgar was a great, great hitter, but he was still a notch below The Big Hurt and Big Mac in the 1990s
   8. DL from MN Posted: January 10, 2013 at 09:15 PM (#4344664)
Thomas over Edgar every day. McGwire versus Thomas? I'd need to know who is pitching. Bagwell plays 1B.
   9. OCF Posted: January 10, 2013 at 11:01 PM (#4344719)
Since I knew that I actually wrote up an all 1990's team at the time, I just went back to do some old file archaeology in the dustier corners of my desktop. There are some file compatibility issues, but I found what I was looking for. Of course, at the time, there was no bb-ref and no BBTF, and while there was an on-line community, I didn't know of it. My stats seem to be cobbled together from print encyclopedias (I think I was probably using Total Baseball) and USA Today. While I knew that park factors existed, I don't seem to have been making any consistent quantitative use of them. I also don't really seem to have been adjusting for league context, or year-by-year context. I was aware that later in the decade was higher scoring than earlier in the decade, and I mention that in discussing players like Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, but I didn't adjust for that systematically. My only take on defensive stats was range factor and I didn't have consistent sources for that, so I was winging it and going by reputation.

Anyway, what did I do about 1B and DH? I had McGwire at 1B and Thomas at DH. Oh, well.

My oddest leap in that document: Looking at Alomar and Biggio (and Knoblauch) at 2B versus Ventura and late-career Boggs at 3B, I wound up saying "If Biggio could learn to play 2B, he could probably also learn to play 3B." I probably should have taken notice of what has been mentioned in the Jeff Kent thread - 2B isn't exactly what it used to be on the defensive spectrum.
   10. Howie Menckel Posted: January 10, 2013 at 11:10 PM (#4344723)

I have some pals who ask about whether Frank Thomas is a "real first ballot Hall of Famer," which is fine - we don't obligate anyone to spend too much of their free time on a hobby.

But when they get the stat list, there's no need for sophisticated metrics. A 10+-year absolute beast of a hitter. You don't have to be a HOF analyst to realize that nobody, without an outside scandal, gets denied when you hit like that.

   11. smileyy Posted: January 11, 2013 at 12:10 AM (#4344746)
There's some....special...votes in the 1997 AL MVP balloting.
   12. OCF Posted: January 11, 2013 at 12:46 AM (#4344763)
There's some....special...votes in the 1997 AL MVP balloting.

From the old file archaeology referred to above, I found my 1997 post-season all-star team memo. Here's one paragraph from that:

"In the AL, my MVP vote would be: 1. Clemens. 2. Griffey. 3. Thomas. 4. Randy Johnson. 5. Ivan Rodriguez. 6. Nomar Garciaparra. The only plausible MVP candidates are Clemens, Griffey, and Thomas. Griffey will probably get it, and I won’t consider that to be an injustice. Thomas is a better offensive player than Griffey, but he has very little defensive value whereas Griffey is a competent centerfielder. My decision comes down to the following calculation: Griffey was about 60 runs better than the average centerfielder, Thomas was about 60 runs better than the average first baseman, but Clemens was more like 80 runs better than an average starting pitcher. "

I named a 25-man roster for each league (with 15 position players and 10 pitchers, which hasn't been the 25-man composition for a long time, but whatever). Tino, who was 2nd in the MVP vote, didn't make that 25-man roster. The reserves at "bat" positions were Jim Thome, Mo Vaughn, and Manny Ramirez, all of whom I took ahead of Tino. (The starters at the "bat" positions: Greer in LF, Justice in RF, Thomas at 1B and Edgar at DH.)
   13. OCF Posted: January 11, 2013 at 01:15 AM (#4344776)
So after I found my 15 year old file and put it into post #12, I then went and looked at bb-ref.

Tino ranked fourth in WAR among Yankees, behind Pettitte, Cone, and Bernie.

Thomas was only 6th in the league in WAR. Ahead of him: Clemens (way out in front), Griffey, Pettitte (?), Randy Johnson, and Justin Thompson (who?)

By the way, my gut feeling about the currently posted WAR is that it feels like it overrates pitchers compared to position players. I did have Pettitte, Thompson, and Cone as the #3, 4, and 5 starters on my all-star team.
   14. DL from MN Posted: January 11, 2013 at 10:09 AM (#4344898)
I love the statements about "contemporary opinion" in post 12. This is why I want to do the modern MMP vote yearly.
   15. OCF Posted: January 11, 2013 at 10:39 AM (#4344930)
Ah, yeah, decade and a half old documents are fun. Among other things, I argued the Piazza versus Walker case for NL MVP which included a crude attempt to park-adjust Piazza to Coors (my son who was in high school at the time did the calculations for that). Came up with a .426 BA and 61 HR. In retrospect, that may be an over-adjustment. Here's the NL MVP paragraph:

"In the NL, my MVP vote would be: 1. Piazza. 2. Walker. 3. Maddux. 4. P. Martinez. 5. Bagwell. 6. Bonds. Bonds has now reached the point of not even getting a lot of respect. Once again, he has failed to produce in the post-season, and in the long run, that continued failure may depress his reputation as one of the greatest. On the other hand, Bonds was red-hot as the Giants overtook the Dodgers for the division title. I know that RBI have always been put on an unreasonable pedestal, but I just can’t stomach the extent to which Jeff Kent’s 121 RBI has been interpreted as “He’s the most valuable Giant, the one who has carried the team.” instead of “He’s the lucky stiff who got to bat behind Barry Bonds.” Batting behind someone with a .446 on base percentage has distinct advantages."

I just rechecked that on bb-ref WAR; that says 1. Walker. 2. Biggio. 3. Piazza. A lot of that has to be defense. I was making defense and position adjustment between Walker and Piazza a wash; I guess it's not. And I completely missed Biggio as a plausible MVP candidate, although I did have him as the starting 2B on the all-star team.

I had a paragraph comparing Nomar Garciaparra (who was RoY) with Alex Rodriguez. For some reason, I thought that Nomar was a better SS defender than ARod and ARod was shaky for even being a SS. I really don't know where I was getting that from - probably raw RF and DP. I talked about ARod as having had a "sophomore slump" year with the bat (I had thought he should have been the 1996 AL MVP.) I mentioned that Rodriguez was younger. I closed with this: "To be honest, I expect both of them to have Hall of Fame careers. And if it weren’t for those two, we might notice what a wonderful young player Derek Jeter is. There was a golden generation of shortstops rising in the early 80’s: Yount, Ozzie, Ripken, Trammell, Dickie Thon. We seem to have a new such generation rising now."

I mentioned that the Astros and Giants missed their pythag records by 10 games each, in opposite directions. I discussed offensive levels. And I will claim credit for this sentence: "These remain offensive times, and Maris’s home run record remains under threat."

I closed with a long comparison of Griffey to Mays, Aaron, and Frank Robinson at the same age. I did conclude that Griffey was inferior, age-for-age, to either Mays or Aaron. I said this: "I don’t see Griffey as one who can go on and on and on as a great player in his late 30’s the way Aaron did - for one thing he doesn’t at this age stay in the lineup as much as Aaron did and he doesn’t have the kind of unnatural steadiness from day to day and year to year that was so much a part of Aaron." I did give him better than even odds of surpassing F. Robby's 586 career HR (he did do that) and said he was a real threat to hit 700 (he didn't). I also mentioned Juan Gonzalez, who was the same age as Griffey and had also hit a lot of HR. I said, "However, compared to Griffey, Gonzalez is slower, has less defensive value, and has a worse injury history, all of which leads me to project a shorter career for him that for Griffey. Gonzalez’s dramatically lower on base percentages give him substantially less overall offensive value than Griffey, and that also will limit the length of his career. For all of those negatives, I still say Gonzalez is about 50-50 to hit 500 career HR." He didn't of course, because he completely fell apart with injuries. But in all that talk about career HR, I didn't say a thing about Bonds.
   16. DL from MN Posted: January 11, 2013 at 11:35 AM (#4344978)
I still don't trust BBREF WAR when it comes to catchers.
   17. OCF Posted: January 11, 2013 at 12:45 PM (#4345039)
What I said in that old message about park factors was that games in Coors field over that last two years had had 168% of the run scoring as in other stadiums and Dodger Stadium had 79%. I think we basically took the square roots of those numbers and used park factors of about 130 or 132 for Coors and 90 for Dodger Stadium. What bb-ref lists for one year park factor is 122/123 for Denver and 92/93 for LA. I think what we were missing at the time is that the Rockies, on average, played their road games in pitchers parks and the Dodgers played their road games in hitters parks. So the park factor adjustments shouldn't have been quite as extreme as we were making them. Still, even 122 is a spectacular park factor. Piazza certainly could have hit .400 had he been a Rockie.

I also did something very weird in there in that I put Martinez ahead of Maddux in my hypothetical Cy Young vote but Maddux ahead of Martinez in the hypothetical MVP vote. I'm not going to quote my explanation for that because it doesn't make sense to me now, other than that I thought the two were very nearly tied.
   18. bjhanke Posted: January 11, 2013 at 02:50 PM (#4345154)
RE: #4 (Pt Rapper) -

Fifth wasn't the only spot that passed on Teh Hurt when they should not have. The Cardinals had the #6 pick that year and narrowed it down to Thomas and a kid named Paul Coleman, a 5-tooler who had destroyed a very low level Texas high school league, but who had probably never seen a decent curve ball in his life. The Cards made the decision to pick Coleman because they were afraid that Frank would lose all defensive value in a few quick years, and the NL had no DH to hide him. This was the first incident that caused me to think that the dominance of the AL in the All-Star game was due to the AL having all the old sluggers who couldn't field any more. They got to call them "first basemen" for the All-Star game and pinch hit with them, too. I realized that this was not going to stop; it was going to get worse. And so, the AL "first basemen" were generally going to be better hitters than the NL 1B, because the AL would be drawing from a larger pool of "first basemen", Big Papi. This has proven to be true.

Paul Coleman never got past AA ball, because, according to my sources, he could not learn to hit a curve ball. The team even tried to convert him to a pitcher, because he had a strong arm, but he couldn't find the plate, either.

As for HoM rankings, I agree that Thomas should go in, and I'm quite sure he will, but I will probably have another non-consensus ballot or two, since I take monstrous deductions for playing DH. I use Win Shares for this, and in the WS system, the zero point is half the league ERA (which is why I use WS. I get a good, solid, concrete number for what absolute zero is - a negative number whose absolute value is half the league's scoring rate). I use that monstrous deduction, which is, I would think, the most deduction anyone takes. But that's what a DH is contributing on defense - absolute zero. Now, I only apply that to the percentage of league fielding that is attributed to the league's 1B in that year, because that would be where the DHs would be playing if they had to take the field. But still, it takes a lot away from the offensive contribution. So, just as I was with Rafael Palmeiro, I will probably be the last vote for inclusion, or might even not vote for Hurt at all before the HoM elects him.

Right now, I have McGwire as one of the five best 1B of all time, basically because of his peak, prime and records, which I think are legitimate, from the Rookie Homer Record down to the 70 in 1998. He obviously has a shorter career than most of the DH crowd, but he played little DH, finishing his career in STL. So he gets almost no DH defense deduction. That moves him well up the list. I'm not arguing here with people who have him ranked lower. I'm just trying to explain that I do have a system, and it's going to produce quirky results when compared to systems that don't crush a DH's ranking because he had no defensive value.

PS - Right now I would rather be in the HoM project than have a BBWAA card. The writers have embarrassed themselves badly, and are in denial about it. This place is MUCH better, and so is its Hall. - Brock Hanke
   19. tfbg9 Posted: January 12, 2013 at 08:46 PM (#4345865)
What did Thomas's stats look like in college ball at Auburn?

Frank in the SEC:

1986: .359/.457/.718/1.175
1987: .385/.500/.648/1.148
1988: .403/.559/.801/1.360
   20. Ray (CTL) Posted: January 13, 2013 at 11:50 PM (#4346549)
I support him, obviously. Too bad he couldn't have had a better second half to his career -- not that his second half was bad, of course. A 182 OPS+ from ages 22-29 (~1000 games; 45 WAR), and a 134 OPS+ from 30-40 (~1250 games, 25 WAR).

Like Maddux, hurt by the strike in 1994, as he was having his best season and a historic one with the bat.

Getting to DH improved his value. Despite playing until age 40, only 2322 games. Four lost seasons.
   21. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: January 14, 2013 at 01:48 AM (#4346574)
Too bad he couldn't have had a better second half to his career

I'll always be grateful for his 2006 with the A's - the one guy I thought really brought them TEH FEAR between Jason Giambi and, now, just maybe, Cespedes.
   22. bookbook Posted: January 14, 2013 at 01:48 AM (#4346575)
Bagwell could play 3rd for the 90's team
   23. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 14, 2013 at 08:44 AM (#4346623)
i will never forget frank double clutching on a roundhouse curveball thrown by scott karl and still hitting into the left field seats at county stadium

i thought bob was going to lose his mind on the radio. frank started his swing. stopped. then swung, arms only, and hit the ball 370 feet.

that was impressive
   24. John DiFool2 Posted: January 14, 2013 at 09:39 AM (#4346648)
...since I take monstrous deductions for playing DH.

Thomas himself took monstrous deductions while playing DH:

1B: .337 .453 .625
DH: .275 .394 .505

Granted, a larger chunk of his DH days took place after his peak, but even on a season-by-season basis the splits are usually pretty stark. This of course is nothing new-many players are unable to remain the same hitters as DH's that they are as position players (c.f. Reggie Jackson). This is why I don't have much of a DH "penalty" as other people do.
   25. bjhanke Posted: January 16, 2013 at 11:00 PM (#4348710)
John - This is why I don't want to argue about Thomas. People have different views on the DH and what it does. Your opinion, bearing in mind that you are here to defend yourself if I got it terribly wrong, is to start by saying that the DH is hitting at a lower level than before, so you want to take a lesser defensive deduction from what he was fielding when he could still play the field. My viewpoint is that a good, much less Thomas-great, hitter with a bad glove is going to decline due to age to the point where he must be replaced on defense well before he reaches that point as a hitter. Yes, Thomas as a DH didn't hit as well as when he was playing first base. But if there were no DH rule, he would not have been hitting anything at all, except for bench-warming pinch-hitting. The decline in defense and offense are linked in my mind. By the time Thomas had reached the point where he was "only" a .275/.394/.505 hitter, which is still well above replacement rate, he had also reached the point where he could not play first base at all in the Majors. So I start with saying that any value Thomas accrues at all as a DH is value that he would not have accrued had there not been a DH rule. If the defensive deduction actually were to erase all the hitting value (which it can't possibly do), I would just say, "Well, those were the characteristics of Thomas at the time."

So, essentially, I'm starting with viewing him as a zero as an all-around player, because he could not have played at all in a non-DH league (except as a bench-warming pinch-hitter), while you are starting with his offense when he could still play defense, and noting that his offense has already taken a shot. Different starting points, different results. Nobody can claim to have "solved" this, because it's dependent on your starting viewpoint. I ain't complaining about your deductions, and I hope you won't complain about mine, because I don't want to argue a point that I think cannot be resolved. - Brock
   26. theorioleway Posted: January 26, 2013 at 02:44 PM (#4355583)
Not that it's relevant to the HOM, but do you think Thomas being on the ballot will help or hurt Martinez, since Thomas also played DH more than he played the field?
   27. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: November 27, 2013 at 11:47 PM (#4607132)
   28. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: November 27, 2013 at 11:47 PM (#4607133)
   29. BurlyBuehrle Posted: November 30, 2013 at 10:25 PM (#4608039)
Choosing between the two of them for DH, it's basically a question of durability vs. peak ability. McGwire was a better hitter at his best, but he had trouble staying in the lineup.

Obviously, the nod goes to Thomas in terms of durability during peak (and perhaps overall, though Thomas had his own issues staying in the lineup as his career wound down).

However, I'm not so sure that "McGwire was a better hitter at his best" is an obviously true statement. If you compare 7-year peaks (admittedly, arbitrary number, but appears to best encapsulate full seasons of consecutive domincance), McGwire's runs from 1992 to 1998 and Thomas's 1991 to 1997.

Just glancing quickly at the six years their peaks overlap (92-97), Thomas never OPS+'d below 170. His OBP was north of 450 5 of those 6 years. McGwire gets him in SLG, but not every year. And McGwire couldn't stay on the field in 93 or 94.

I think Thomas had a more productive peak than McGwire -- and it isn't all due to injury. I suppose that is a bit different than "McGwire was a better hitter at his best."
   30. The District Attorney Posted: December 04, 2013 at 01:27 AM (#4610261)
do you think Thomas being on the ballot will help or hurt Martinez, since Thomas also played DH more than he played the field?
I don't think it will affect Edgar, because I think that while the writers may or may not associate Thomas with DH, they think of Edgar as The DH. They probably know that Thomas played a lot of DH, but I bet most of them will be moderately surprised to discover that he played the majority of his games there.

It's a double-edged sword for Edgar, because although I think being a DH costs him a lot of votes, I also think he gets a lot of support for being the "best ever DH."

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