Why Jim Thome Is the Perfect Postseason Bench Player for the Baltimore Orioles
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After yesterday’s impressive 6-3 win over the Boston Red Sox coupled with the LA Angels loss in their second game of a doubleheader to the Texas Rangers, the Baltimore Orioles (92-67) have clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the ’97 season.
Although they have only clinched a Wild Card berth, meaning they could possibly have to battle the Athletics for that one Wild Card spot before officially qualifying for the playoffs, they’ve still made it to the first barrier of the playoffs.
Making it this far has been a great accomplishment already, but the Orioles are not done yet. There have been a number of heroes this season for the Birds, but one of the most important players this postseason could be one of their most recent acquisitions.
Although he joined the team more than halfway through the year and recently recovered from a month and a half stint on the DL, veteran Jim Thome’s presence is appreciated.
The 42-year-old is in the midst of his 22nd major league season, and he’s played on some very prominent teams in his career, including the Cleveland Indians throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, among other playoff teams.
Thome might not be in the starting lineup for each playoff game (if the Birds advance that far), but he will be on the bench and available in high-pressure situations.
Check out these four reasons why Thome is the perfect bench player for the playoff-bound Orioles.
1. His Career Numbers Speak for Themselves
Photo courtesy of Mitchell Layton/Getty Images.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Everyone is aware of how powerful the left-hander from Illinois can be, and what type of numbers he can post, even though he’s been in the league since 1991.
Thome is a career .277 hitter with 612 home runs and 1,697 RBI over his 2539 games. Currently, he sits behind Ken Griffey Jr. (630) as seventh on the All-Time home run list.
There is no doubt that he is one of the greatest players in MLB history, and for the Orioles to be able to use him off the bench, they should feel very confident in his ability to help them advance.
In his hey-day with the Indians from ’95-’01, Thome averaged 38 home runs per season (304 over eight seasons). He smashed a career-high 52 bombs in his last season with Cleveland before heading to the Phillies in 2003.
Although he only spent a three seasons with Philadelphia, he made his mark on the city. He delivered 47 home runs in his first season, and followed it up with 42 in his next year with the Phils. Due to injury, he only played in 59 games in his final season in Philly and he finished that year with just seven home runs.
After leaving the Phillies in 2005, he spent the next three and a half seasons under Ozzie Guillen with the Chicago White Sox. Although his numbers tapered off a bit, he showed he could still crush the ball.
In his tenure with the Sox, he racked up 134 home runs and 369 RBI (an average of about 36 home runs per season since he spent some of 2009 with the LA Dodgers).
After leaving the Sox in ’09, Thome has bounced around since then. He made a quick stop with the Dodgers and helped them advance to the playoffs in 2010.
The next year, he found himself in a Twins uniform for about a year and a half before returning to the team where he began his illustrious career. Thome spent half of last year with the Indians and then made his second stop with the Phillies to start the 2012 season.
There is no doubt that Thome will someday be a Hall of Fame first baseman/DH and the fact that the Orioles have him on the bench should bolster their-already strong lineup.
With the Orioles this season, the lefty is batting .286 as he’s smashed three home runs and driven in 10 RBI, including a pair of RBI singles in the final game of the series sweep against the Red Sox this past weekend.
2. Immense Playoff Experience
Photo courtesy of Greg Fiume/Getty Images.
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Not only has Thome been one of the most prolific home run hitters of all-time, as he sits seventh on the All-Time home run list behind future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. (630), he has excelled in the playoffs over his long, intense career.
Back in the mid-to-late 90’s and early 2000’s, the Indians were one of the best franchises around baseball; each season they would be in the hunt for the AL Central crown and were a mainstay atop the division.
Thome was one of the reasons why they advanced to the playoffs each year from ’95-’99 and 2001, his second to last season with the club.
In his postseason career with the Indians, although he compiled just a .228 batting average (43-for-188), he crushed 17 home runs and 36 RBI over 55 games. Although his numbers are not outstanding, he delivered key hits for Cleveland.
In just his fifth year in the big leagues, he led the Indians to the Fall Classic in ’95 against the Braves. Although Atlanta eventually won the World Series, in his first postseason, he smashed four home runs and drove in 10 RBI.
In the ’98 ALCS against the Yankees, he jolted four home runs and eight RBI while batting at a .304 clip. A year later in the ALDS against the Red Sox, he posted four home runs and 10 RBI while batting at an even higher clip, .353.
From 2008 to 2010, he made it to the postseason with each team he was on at the time.
In ’08, he struggled in four games with the White Sox, batting just .125 with one RBI. In the next season with the Dodgers, he went 1-for-3 with a double. And, in his last year in the postseason with the Twins in ’10, he struggled as he picked up just one hit in 10 at-bats.
Although he has struggled in times throughout the postseason, he has also hit important home runs and drove in key runners. He is the most-experienced postseason player that the Orioles have and that will do them wonders throughout October.
3. Thome Knows What It Takes to Win
Photo courtesy of Jim Rogash/Getty Images.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Thome has been around the game for a long time and understands how to play the game of baseball. It’s no coincidence that he has been to the playoffs nine times in his career, including three of the last four seasons.
The left-handed power hitter is a winner and he knows what it takes to win. Although he has never been part of a World Series winning team, he has at least played in a Fall Classic, which is more than anyone on the team can say.
The Orioles went out and acquired veteran lefty Randy Wolf, who has the second-most playoff experience behind Thome, to bolster their pitching staff. However, the southpaw has been lost for the rest of the year after an ulnar collateral ligament tear in his pitching elbow.
Obviously, the Birds are a very young and inexperienced team since the organization has not been to the playoffs since the wire-to-wire ’97 season with the Yankees, much like this year.
That is one of the reasons why Dan Duquette and the Orioles’ front office went out and lured Thome to Baltimore. There must have been a reason why he wanted to come to the Orioles. Yes, the Phillies were in the midst of one of their worst seasons since he was with the team the first time.
Thome has more experience than anyone else on this team, and whether or not he is in the starting lineup, he will impact this team in the playoffs.
4. Thome as a Teacher
Photo courtesy of Mitchell Layton/Getty Images.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Obviously this is a season of firsts for the Orioles. Many of the longtime Birds like Nick Markakis, Adam Jones or even Matt Wieters, who have been around for the last three or four season, have never experienced playoff baseball.
This is Machado’s first season with the Orioles and he is already heading to the playoffs. No doubt, he will be extremely nervous, along with the rest of the Birds, but Thome will be there to help guide them.
Joe Saunders is one of the few Birds who has made it to the playoffs in his career. In fact, he’s made pitches in three different postseasons, ’08 and ’09 with the Angels and last year with the Diamondbacks.
However, he is one of the more experienced players in October. And, he has nothing on Thome and his playoff history.
Regardless of how many at-bats he gets throughout the postseason, Thome will have a huge impact on the Orioles and how far they advance this season. Just his presence in the clubhouse and locker room before and after games will help the Birds.
Thome is confident, yet subtle. He is calm, but at the same time very intense when he is out there competing. He is going to be such an important asset to the Orioles’ success if they advance deep into the playoffs.
Markakis might be back if the Orioles are able to advance past the first round, and that would move Chris Davis from right-field to the DH-role since he has been scorching-hot as of late as he has delivered four home runs in his last three games.
Either way, there will be a role for Thome this postseason, and he will fill that role very well and help lead the Orioles to their first postseason berth in 15 years.
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