Frank Thomas is the most underrated hitter ever

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Frank Thomas officially announcing his retirement has me thinking about his place in baseball history and preemptively worried that the Baseball Writers Association of America may not fully appreciate him when he appears on their Hall of Fame ballots in 2014.

Thomas was my favorite player growing up, which is admittedly an odd
sentiment for a Twins fan. However, when The Big Hurt was at his
baseball-crushing best my beloved Twins were finishing in fourth or
fifth place for eight straight seasons, so they were barely worth
following and the White Sox were on WGN just about every day when
baseball-watching options were limited.

A 6-foot-5, 250-pound mountain of a man who played tight end at
Auburn and was a massive slugger from the moment that he arrived in the
majors as a 22-year-old in 1990, the sheer magnitude of Thomas’
physical size and offensive numbers made a fan in me immediately.

And
now, two decades later, I’m here to tell you he’s the most
underrated hitter in baseball history. Seriously.

Because of what has happened to power numbers and power hitters
during the past decade or so Thomas is often talked about as just
another great slugger from this era, but that misses the boat in a big
way. Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball and surely everyone
would agree that at 29 years old he’s on track to be a first-ballot
Hall of Famer, but look at his numbers compared to Thomas’ stats at the
same age:

               G       PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     OPS+
Pujols 1399 6082 .334 .427 .628 172
Thomas 1076 4789 .330 .452 .600 182

Pujols has hit .334 with a 1.055 OPS, whereas Thomas hit .330 with a
1.052 OPS through the age of 29. Plus, Thomas’ twenties came in a
slightly lower-scoring era, which is why his adjusted OPS+ of 182 tops
Pujols at 172. Pujols has three MVPs and one batting title while thrice
leading the league in OPS. Before his 30th birthday Thomas had two MVPs
and one batting title while leading the league in OPS four times.

Frank Thomas was Albert Pujols before Albert Pujols. And while it
remains to be seen what Pujols does after turning 30, Thomas hit
.276/.389/.515 with 264 homers and a 134 OPS+ in 1,246 games. To put
that in some context: Jim Rice had a 128 OPS+ for his entire “Hall of Fame career.” Add his amazing twenties to his very good
thirties and Thomas is a career .301/.419/.555 hitter with 521 homers
and a 156 OPS+.

Thomas ranks ninth all time in walks, 18th in homers, 21st in RBIs,
25th in extra-base hits, 29th in times on base, and 37th in total
bases. Among players with at least 7,500 career plate appearances,
Thomas ranks 11th in on-base percentage, 17th in slugging percentage,
12th in OPS, and 13th in adjusted OPS+. He’s also one of just 11
players to win back-to-back MVP awards.

And now that he’s officially finished playing, Thomas becomes just the seventh
hitter in baseball history to retire with 500 homers and a .300 batting
average, joining Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jimmie Foxx, Ted
Williams, and Mel Ott. He also joins Ruth, Williams, and Ott as the
only players with 500 homers, 1,500 RBIs, 1,500 walks, and a .300
average.

Whether you choose to focus on peak dominance or career longevity
Thomas is quite simply one of the greatest 20 or so hitters in the
history of the sport and if that doesn’t get him into Cooperstown then
what use is there in even having a Hall of Fame?

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 15, Rangers 9: The Rangers took a 4-0 lead after one, a 7-1 lead after two and had a 9-2 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth before the Indians decided to wake up and score 13 unanswered runs. Francisco Lindor, Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana each had three RBI as the Indians scored a run in the fourth, four in the fifth, five in the sixth and added three in the seventh. Cleveland set their season high in runs and tied their season best with 19 hits. Every starter except Kipnis had at least two hits. They also regained first place in the central because . . .

Red Sox 4, Twins 1: Chris Sale outpitched Jose Berrios, allowing one run and striking out nine while working into the seventh inning. The Sox got to Berrios early with two in the first, including a Mitch Moreland homer. It was his third straight game with a dong.

Cubs 5, Nationals 4: It was only a 2-0 game heading into the ninth when the Cubs piled on three insurance runs. They needed all of the insurance as the Nats scored four in the bottom half. Close —Wade Davis had to struck out Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end the game — but no cigar. Willson Contreras hit a leadoff homer. Catchers don’t lead off that much. Jason Kendall used to do it a lot. Kurt Suzuki and John Jaso have. I feel like Russell Martin did a fair amount. But it’s not common. You could probably take all of the catchers who have batted leadoff more than ten times a year in the past 25 years, put them in a Volkswagon Vanagon with the Westphalia camper mod and still have a lot of room leftover for bikes and stuff.

Diamondbacks 6, Phillies 1: Zack Greinke wasn’t efficient — he needed 102 pitches to make it through five innings — but the Phillies got bubkis off of him regardless. Left fielder Chris Herrmann homered and walked with the bases loaded to drive in two. Daniel Delscalso drove in three with a pair of RBI singles.

Cardinals 8, Reds 2: Randal Grichuk homered for the second straight game. He had been in the minors until this past Sunday, spending about a month down there after being demoted for poor play. In his two games since coming back up he’s 4-for-10 with two homers and four RBI. Jedd Gyorko homered too. Michael Wacha, who has been terrible recently, allowed only one run on five hits in six innings. The Reds bein’ kinda interesting and frisky seems like a million years ago.

Yankees 6, White Sox 5: The Yankees had a 6-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. They held on to win, but the Sox made it interesting, scoring four runs off of Chasen Shreve — who gave up a three-run shot to Tim Anderson — and Aroldis Chapman, who gave up an RBI double. Tyler Austin homered and the bottom third of the Yankees order — Chase Headley, Austin Romine and Ronald Torreyes — each knocked in a run.

Giants 9, Rockies 2: San Francisco snaps a five-game skid overall and a nine-game skid against the Rockies as Jeff Samardzija struck out five and worked into into the seventh. Buster Posey hit an RBI double. Brandon Belt and Denard Span each hit RBI triples. Colorado now, just recently the talk of the league, has dropped six straight. They’ve been outscored 57-17 in those losses.

Angels 4, Dodgers 0: Another skid was snapped: the Dodgers’ ten-game winning streak. Doing the snapping was Ricky Nolasco, who snapped a winless streak of ten starts. Nolasco shut out the Dodgers into the seventh inning, only to be knocked out by a comebacker that hit his shin. He’s fine. For the Dodgers, the silver lining here was that Rich Hill pitched seven innings. He lost, but it was the first time he made past five innings all year.

Rockies acquire Zac Rosscup from Cubs

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The Rockies announced a minor swap of relief pitchers on Monday evening. The Cubs sent lefty Zac Rosscup to the Rockies in exchange for right-hander Matt Carasiti.

Rosscup, 29, was designated for assignment by the Cubs last Thursday. He spent only two-thirds of an inning in the majors this year and has a 5.32 career ERA across 47 1/3 innings. Rosscup has spent most of the season with Triple-A Iowa, posting a 2.60 ERA in 27 2/3 innings.

Carasiti, 25, spent 15 2/3 innings in the majors last year, putting up an ugly 9.19 ERA. With Triple-A Albuquerque this season, he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 43/13 K/BB ratio in 30 1/3 innings.