I can't think of a hitter in the last 10 or so years that has been more fun for me to watch than Thome, #1 on my now-two-man list of tolerable White Sox. He turns 39 today, and is in his nineteenth season in the major leagues. (Incidentally, his 20th seems at least somewhat likely to come with his fourth different ballclub. Maybe the Mariners?)
Three quick things about Thome:
(1) If he wants to, he's now almost a lock to top 600 homers. He's not the hitter he once was, with a 124 OPS+ in 2008-09 after a 154 OPS+ from 1995-2007, and he has to rest or miss games to injury a lot more than he used to, but there has got to be at least one AL team (like, say, the Mariners) who can use 120 games of a .250/.370/.500 DH. He'll come close to 30 homers again this year, but even if he doesn't hit another one this year and falls off precipitously after that, all he needs is 18 homers a year for two more years. If he's healthy and wants to play, it's almost impossible to see him not managing that. Maybe once he's the eighth to hit #600 (only six right now, but A-Rod will almost certainly get there first), people will start noticing him a little.
(2) He's got close to the most extreme splits of any Hall of Fame hitter ever. He's hit a Bondsian .294/.430/.616 (1.046 OPS) vs. RHP, and a Todd Zeilean .239/.342/.423 vs. LHP. In fact, there's little doubt that, just as is the case with Ryan Howard (more on that in the coming weeks, probably), for most of his career it would've made sense to platoon him, if not for the fact that his performance against righties (who are, after all, something like 70% of MLB pitchers) is so great that his overall line gives him a reputation that prohibits it.
Thome's OPS against lefties is just 60% of his overall OPS. That's kind of amazing (though since I brought him up, Howard's is 58%). Obviously most lefties have a hard time hitting lefties, but consider some of the other all-time elite lefty hitters of the retrosheet era: McCovey, 75%; Reggie, 83%; Helton, 75%; Mathews, 70%; Bonds, 87%; Yastrzemski, 65%; Griffey, 85%; Mauer (couldn't resist), 72%. Yaz was actually pretty dreadful against lefties, too, but even he had less extreme splits than Thome, and none of these other guys is anywhere close. Which kind of draws attention to how incredibly awesome he's been in those other 70% of his PAs.
(3) He's really quite funny in fictional, all-caps chatroom form.
3 hours ago