April 23, 2021

Just How Good is Jim Thome?

September 7, 2010 by · 5 Comments 

Jim Thome recently passed Mark McGwire for the #9 spot on the all-time home run list with 584 round trippers.  So, an obvious question arises: Just how good is Jim Thome?  Or, better yet, does his career really reflect Hall of Fame numbers?

The answer is Yes.  At the end of the 2009 season, Jim Thome had established HOF numbers according to the CAWS Career Gauge.  At that time, his numbers suggested that he had the #12 best career of any first baseman since 1920 (the modern era).

Bill James’ Win Shares system is the most comprehensive tool available to understand how good a season a player had.  It includes offensive and defensive contributions and adjusts for all relevant factors.  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.  That puts him just behind Hall of Famers Willie Stargell and Rod Carew and just ahead of  Lou Brock and Frankie Frisch.  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.  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 – CV)].  Bold print indicates the player is in the Hall of Fame.  Of course, all of these players have Hall of Fame numbers.

Player Years CWS CV CAWS
1. Lou Gehrig 1923-1939 489 384 410
2. Jimmie Foxx
1925-1945 435
3. Frank Thomas
1990-2008 405 301 327
4. Willie McCovey 1959-1980 408 285 316
5. Dick Allen 1963-1977 342 304 314
Eddie Murray 1977-1997 437 273 314
7. Jeff Bagwell 1991-2005 388 287 312
8. Johnny Mize
1936-1953 339 296
9. Harmon Killebrew
1954-1975 374 279 303
10. Mark McGwire 1986-2001 342 283 298
11. Rafael Palmeiro
1986-2005 387 257 290
12. Jim Thome
1991- 352 267 288

Here are a few notes about this list.

  1. 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.
  2. 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).  I think it is fair to think of Allen as baseball’s most under-appreciated superstar.
  3. Note how high Jeff Bagwell is ranked.  He deserves to be a first ballot Hall of Famer when he is eligible for induction.
  4. Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have been tarnished by the steroids issue and (I believe) will never be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  5. Albert Pujols has not yet completed ten seasons.  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.  That means that for his ten best seasons, he averaged 26.7 win shares per season.  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.  To average that number for your ten best seasons  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.  And Jim Thome is one of those players.  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 Hoban’s 100-page monograph: A HOF HANDBOOK: Who Belongs and Who Does Not,  just drop a note to mike_hoban@msn.com.


5 Responses to “Just How Good is Jim Thome?”
  1. Tom Zocco says:

    Jim Thome has been a designated hitter for each of the last five years. His totals from 2006-2010: 42, 35, 34, 23, 20. That is 154 home runs as a welfare case. If he had played the last 5 years in the National League those totals would have been far less. He played the last month of the 2009 season with the Dodgers and could only be used as a pinch-hitter. 17 at bats, 4 hits, none of them for extra bases. Thome is a good player but not a great one. However, he will probably be elected to the Hall of Fame, as the standards are not as high as they used to be(See Andre Dawson).

  2. Steve O says:

    @Tom Zocco

    Really, dude? You’re using a 17 PA sample size to bring down a guy with a career like Thome? That’s pretty weak, man.

  3. Mike Hoban says:


    I was surprised when you wrote that the “standards are not as high as they used to be.” When were they ever high enough? In fact, the standards for the Hall have never been as high as they should be.

    If we limit ourselves to just the major league players in the Hall, 61 of them (46 position players and 15 pitchers) do NOT have HOF numbers. And, Jim Rice and Andre Dawson are just the latest examples of such players.

    Mike Hoban

  4. Tom Zocco says:

    @Steve O@Steve O@Steve O@Mike Hoban

    If Thome had stayed in the National League this year, he would have less than half the home runs he has hit for the Twins. Some people have lower standards for Hall of Fame candidates. Thome is a good player but not a Hall of famer.

  5. Tom Zocco says:

    @Mike Hoban


    The standards keep getting lower. I am a Dodgers fan but will be the first to admit Don Drysdale and Pee Wee Reese do not belong. Someone has to get elected every year or there will not be much of a turnout in Cooperstown. That is why Andre Dawson was able to get in this year and Bert Blyleven will be voted in because it is his last year of eligibility.

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