MLB History: Frank Thomas – Better Than We Remember

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MLB history is full of all types of players who performed in an elite manner and put up outstanding numbers. One of those players is the White Sox Frank Thomas, the Big Hurt. As the White Sox get into full spring training mode, it is a good time to look back at the amazing career of the Hall of Famer.

Frank Thomas is, without a doubt, the best all-around hitter to ever put on a White Sox uniform. The staggering numbers and remarkable consistency he displayed at the plate throughout his career also make him one of the best all-around hitters in MLB history. Let’s take a look at the career of this South Side legend.

MLB History: The Big Hurt-The Beginning

Frank Thomas was drafted seventh overall in the 1989 draft and began his MLB career on August 2nd, 1990. He hit an opposite-field triple against the Milwaukee Brewers in his first MLB game. Showing power to the opposite field was definitely a harbinger of what his Hall of Fame career would become.

In 60 games in 1990, Thomas hit .330, with an OPS of .983. He hit seven homers and had 31 RBIs. He showed the plate discipline that would become a hallmark of his career by walking 44 times in 240 plate appearances. That short rookie season was only the beginning of a truly remarkable career.

The Big Hurt: In Rarified Air

In 1991, Frank Thomas would begin a streak unmatched in all of MLB history. In his first full season, he hit .318, with 32 homers and 109 RBIs. He also posted an OPS of 1.006 and an OPS+ of 180. These last two figures led all MLB players. The 1991 season was only the beginning of a historical run.

From 1991 through 1997, Frank Thomas accomplished things that nobody else has ever accomplished. During that seven-year stretch, The Big Hurt hit at least .300, hit at least 30 homers, had at least 100 RBIs, 100 walks, and 100 runs scored. His biggest year, production-wise, was in 1996, when he hit .349, with 40 homers and 134 RBIs.

In that seven-year span, Thomas led all MLB players in OPS twice and led the AL two other times. In terms of OPS+, he led all MLB once, and the AL another two times. Thomas won the AL batting title in 1997, hitting .347. He also led all of MLB with an OBP of .456. He added 35 homers and 125 RBIs.

Thomas won back-to-back AL MVP awards in 1993 and 94. He finished in the top eight in the voting each season, including third place finishes in 1991 and 1997. He averaged .330 with 35 homers and 117 RBIs per season over the seven-year span. He also averaged an OPS of over 1.000 and OPS+ of over 175. Thomas went to five All-Star games between 1991 and 1997. Arguably, he had a seven-year period unmatched in MLB history.

The Big Hurt: The Rampage Continues

While those numbers were unsustainable over a long period of time, Thomas continued to terrorize American League pitchers. He would go on to drive in more than 100 runs in four more seasons, while driving in 90+ runs an additional two seasons. In 2000, while leading the White Sox to the playoffs, Thomas hit .328, with 43 homers and 143 RBIs. He deserved to win his third MVP award, but instead the award went to a player who later admitted using PED’s.

Frank Thomas left Chicago after the 2005 World Championship season. While he was injured much of the season, he managed 12 homers and 26 RBIs in just 34 games. He hit several clutch homers in helping the team get to the playoffs. He signed with the Oakland A’s after the 2005 season.

At age 38, The Big Hurt had an outstanding 2006 season with the A’s, hitting .270 with 39 homeruns and 114 RBIs. In 2007, at age 39, he hit .277 with 26 homers and 95 RBIs. These are pretty stout numbers for a man well advanced in age.

Thomas split the 2008 season between the A’s and Blue Jays, as a part-time player. However, that was the end of an amazing career. Father Time had finally caught up with The Big Hurt. What a career he had, one of the very best in MLB history.

MLB History: How Does Big Frank Measure Up?

In terms of raw numbers, Frank Thomas hit 521 homers, ranking him 20th all-time. There are seven players ahead of him who have acknowledged or have been alleged to have used PED’s. He collected 1,704 RBIs, ranking him 26th in MLB history. On the RBI list, there are five players ahead of him with PED questions. He also ranks 10th all-time in bases-on-balls.

In terms of OPS, Frank Thomas rates very well. Comparatively, he ranks 14th in MLB history. Looking at the list of those who played since 1950, he ranks fourth. Only Barry Bonds, Mike Trout, and Mickey Mantle are ahead of him. How about the OPS+ category? Again, since 1950, Frank Thomas is tied for fifth with Willie Mays and Dick Allen. He trails only Bonds, Trout, Mantle, and Mark McGwire.

Any way one looks at the numbers, The Big Hurt is one of the best hitters in MLB history. Since his first game in 1990, he was one of the most consistent right handed hitters of all time. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, his first year of eligibility. He is the best hitter in White Sox history, and will always be beloved on the South Side. Take a bow, Hurt, you were something special!

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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Mike Fisk is a lifelong baseball fan. For him, there is nothing like being at a baseball game, with the sights, the sounds, the smells. Writing about baseball is a bonus!