Frank Thomas made the media rounds over the weekend. We talked about his general thoughts regarding the Hall of Fame and PEDs on Saturday. Here’s something else he had to say:
“I’ll be honest with you. It was a secret society,” Thomas said. “I had no idea. I think I was the one guy that when they were having that conversation they would stop quickly when I walked in the room. For many, many years I had a lot of teammates involved and I had no idea it was going on the way it was going on. There were always rumblings about one or two guys, but to know the numbers that really came out, I was really, really shocked.”
Thomas was always more outspoken than others about PEDs in baseball, even when he was still playing, and is typically described as a clean player by the media. Still, it would not shock me at all if some people still accused him of stuff, Bagwell-like, late this year when the Hall of Fame game returns to the news. You wonder if he knows that too and offers this kind of stuff as a preemptive measure to the inevitable “why didn’t you do more” junk people will try to throw on him.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.