January 8, 2014

WHAT DID THE BASEBALLS EVER DO TO HIM?:

The Greatness of Frank Thomas (Jeff Sullivan, January 8, 2014, FanGraphs)

All the great players in the Hall of Fame have stories about them, anecdotes that capture glimpses of how they were exceptional, even among the already exceptional. Anecdotes developed in part out of exaggeration but largely founded on inconceivable truth. Here's an old anecdote about Frank Thomas:

"We had this competition, even when he was a freshman, in which we'd wager a Coke on whether he could guess--within one mile an hour--how fast a pitcher was throwing. We had a radar gun. He'd call out the velocity. He was always on. Almost never fooled."

It's been my understanding that policemen are trained to do this with vehicles. Frank Thomas wasn't a policeman, but he was sort of an officer of home plate in a way, and he was liberal with discipline. What was apparent, even early in college, was that Thomas had an unusually gifted sense of the zone. He went on to pair that with one of the best swings ever and now he's on his way to Cooperstown, a part of baseball immortality. Pretty simple. Thomas was just one of the best at something, and also one of the best at a related something. That allowed him to be one of the best overall. [...]

Thomas was drafted in 1989, and he was in the majors in 1990. He hit instantly, and he was consistently unbelievable all the way through 1997. Through that year -- Thomas' age-29 season -- he posted a 177 wRC+, batting .330 while slugging .600. Through his own age-29 season, Albert Pujols posted a 169 wRC+, batting .334 while slugging .628. Over the past four years, Miguel Cabrera has posted a 176 wRC+, batting .337 while slugging .612. Frank Thomas at his best was Albert Pujols at his best and Miguel Cabrera at his best. And Thomas' best lasted several seasons. He didn't do much of anything in other areas, but he didn't have to, being an all-time great destroyer of pitched baseballs.
Posted by at January 8, 2014 4:54 PM
  
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