Just How Good is Jim Thome?
Jim Thome recently passed Mark McGwire for the #9 spot on the all-time home run list with 584 round trippers.Â So, an obvious question arises: Just how good is Jim Thome?Â Or, better yet, does his career really reflect Hall of Fame numbers?
The answer is Yes.Â At the end of the 2009 season, Jim Thome had established HOF numbers according to the CAWS Career Gauge.Â At that time, his numbers suggested that he had the #12 best career of any first baseman since 1920 (the modern era).
Bill Jamesâ€™ Win Shares system is the most comprehensive tool available to understand how good a season a player had.Â It includes offensive and defensive contributions and adjusts for all relevant factors.Â The CAWS Career Gauge (Career Assessment/Win Shares) uses win shares to measure how good a career a player has had.
According to the CAWS Gauge, as of the end of the 2009 season, only ninety-seven (97) position players (not pitchers) in the modern era have put together obvious HOF numbers during their playing careers.
Jim Thome has the #65 best career numbers of any position player since 1920.Â That puts him just behind Hall of Famers Willie Stargell and Rod Carew and just ahead ofÂ Lou Brock and Frankie Frisch.Â Jim Thome has really had an outstanding career.
Here is a list of the top twelve first base careers in terms of the numbers the player produced at the major league level.Â The first number is career win shares, the second is core value (the win shares for the ten best seasons) and the third is the CAWS score [CAWS = CV + .25(CWS â€“ CV)].Â Bold print indicates the player is in the Hall of Fame.Â Of course, all of these players have Hall of Fame numbers.
Here are a few notes about this list.
- Frank Thomas played more games at designated hitter than at first base and so may not be considered to be a first baseman by some fans.
- Dick Allen is the position player with the best numbers (since 1920) who is not in the Hall of Fame (with the exception of Pete Rose).Â I think it is fair to think of Allen as baseballâ€™s most under-appreciated superstar.
- Note how high Jeff Bagwell is ranked.Â He deserves to be a first ballot Hall of Famer when he is eligible for induction.
- Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have been tarnished by the steroids issue and (I believe) will never be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
- Albert Pujols has not yet completed ten seasons.Â When he does so at the end of 2010, he will rank just behind Gehrig and Foxx on this list.
You will note that Jim Thome has a career core value of 267.Â That means that for his ten best seasons, he averaged 26.7 win shares per season.Â To put that into some sort of perspective, consider that in 2009 only six American Leaguers and seven National Leaguers had 27 or more win shares.Â To average that number for your ten best seasonsÂ is a truly outstanding accomplishment.
As mentioned above, in the past ninety years, only ninety-seven (97) position players have put together Hall of Fame numbers during their big-league careers.Â And Jim Thome is one of those players.Â Given his accomplishments over his twenty years in the major leagues, he definitely deserves enshrinement in Cooperstown.
If anyone would like to get a free e-copy of Professor Hobanâ€™s 100-page monograph: A HOF HANDBOOK: Who Belongs and Who Does Not,Â just drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.