Has the Big Hurt done enough to make it to Cooperstown? If my calculations are correct, he will be eligible for his first ballot appearance in 2014.
He passes the eyeball test for sure. If you watched him play, it is easy to just say, “Yes, Thomas is a Hall of Fame player.”
He surely has very good numbers across the board, whether you grade him traditionally or using advanced metrics.
He is currently tied in the 18th position in home runs with 521 alongside Willie McCovey and Ted Williams, both of whom are in the Hall of Fame.
Thomas is 22nd on the all-time list in RBI with 1,704 and 21st in OBP with .419. He is currently 19th on the list in OPS+ at 156.
On the sabermetric side of the ledger he is in pretty good shape as well. Only four men not in the HOF are ahead of him in WAR. With a WAR of 75.9 he currently ranks No. 42. His WPA puts him at No. 11 with 60.17. The only player not in the HOF with a higher number is leader Barry Bonds.
It is always good to have some awards on your résumé when being looked at by the BBWAA. Thomas had back-to-back MVP seasons with the Chicago White Sox in 1993-94. Surprisingly to me, he was only on five All-Star teams in his 19 seasons in the majors.
Thomas also has three Silver Slugger Awards in his trophy case.
He won the AL batting title in 1997 with a .347 avg. He was the league leader in doubles once, in runs once, in BB four times, in OBP four times, in SLG once, in OPS four times and in OPS+ three times.
He hit over 30 HR nine times, five of which were over 40. Thomas knocked in over 100 runs on 11 occasions, eight consecutively. He also scored in excess of 100 runs nine times and batted over .300 in 10 seasons.
A .301 lifetime hitter, Thomas finished his career with 521 HR, 1,494 R, 2,468 H and 1,704 RBI.
All of this appears to make him a shoo-in. However, there are other factors.
From 2001 until his retirement in 2008, Thomas only batted .262 with a high of just .277, while averaging just 89 hits per year. He only averaged 22 HR and 65 RBI with an OBP of .376 during that span.
That slow burn at the end could be his undoing at the ballot box. Some great players in the HOF have had good streaks and bad streaks. Sandy Koufax comes to mind, as his career was a tale of two halves. He finished on such a high note that everybody forgot how rocky his first several years were.
Thomas never made it to the Fall Classic, but he did play in three postseasons. His .224 average with three HR and five RBI will hardly make the highlight reels.
If the voters are looking at the entire body of work, as they should, then I believe he is a Hall of Famer. If they are looking for a picture of consistency, they will be forced to look elsewhere.
Though he has never been linked to steroids, which I am aware of, he played in the era that is tainted. If he would fail to be elected, he would join Roger Maris and Dale Murphy as two-time MVP winners who were stopped at the gate.
Should he get in? What are your thoughts?