Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Return of the Big Hurt

Some of you may not have noticed this, but Frank Thomas is having an excellent year. He has homered in six straight games and has 10 HR & 25 RBI in his last 17 games. On the season, he's hitting .283/.396/.566 with 36 HR and 98 RBI in just 120 games. This from a guy nobody thought would stay healthy enough for 300 AB all year.

Thomas signed with Oakland in January, almost as an afterthought. Nobody else wanted him, and the A's had picked up Milton Bradley, which seemingly left no place for Thomas to play. But they decided he was worth the risk: just $500k guaranteed.

Thomas has so far earned $2.2M in incentives and appears likely to earn another $400k. All total, Thomas will make $3.1M for a year in which he posts an OPS around 1000 and drives in over 100 runs. Not too shabby for Oakland.

The odd thing is, in late May the contract looked for all the world to be a lost gamble. On May 21, Thomas was hitting .178/.300/.373 with 7 HR and 20 RBI in 118 AB. Oakland was 22-21 (.512) and were averaging 4.5 runs per game.

At that point something changed: the Big Hurt returned. Since May 22, the Big Hurt has destroyed opposing pitchers to the tune of .325/.433/.644. He's added 29 homers and 78 RBI in just 292 AB. Oakland has been a .600 team (60-40) and upped their scoring to 4.8 runs/game.

We're basically talking about the 2000 version of the Big Hurt: that year he hit .328/.436/.625 with nearly an RBI per game on a 95-win team. Man, does that sound familiar or what? Thomas finished second in the MVP voting that year in a tight race with Jason Giambi.

Thomas is 16 homers shy of 500. He's basically a lock to be the seventh playe ever with 500 homers and a .300 average. The way he's hit this year, would anyone be shocked if he made it to 600 HR?

It's silly to discuss Frank Thomas's Hall of Fame credentials. At this point, the only question is where the Big Hurt places in the pantheon of hitters.

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