Frank Thomas was not only a talented hitter, but a smart hitter when he came up as a 22-year old in 1990. His maturity in his hitting was well beyond his age. He spent 8 years as the best hitter in baseball. His first season he came up and it wasn’t a full season. He was in the top 3 in on base average plus slugging all 7 years finishing first in four of the years. His Ops plus was over 170 each of these years. This meant he was 70 percent better than the average player.
During these years he was my favorite batter to watch bat. He seemed to be the only batter to have the advantage over the pitcher. Since he had an on base average at about .450 most of the years, this was almost true. I used to try to watch White Sox games to see him bat. I saw him play in person a few times.
However, in 1998 at the age of 30 things changed. He was still a great hitter. His bat speed slowed down. The umpires didn’t seem to give him the corners as much. Thomas argued with the umpires about this, which didn’t make the problem go away. He still was a very good hitter and had a couple of great seasons in 11 seasons he had left, but he wasn’t the great Frank Thomas his first 8 years. You still wanted to face him in a key situation, but he didn’t to have the advantage any more. He wasn’t as much fun to watch anymore.
The thing was he wasn’t ever a good baserunner or a good fielder. He should have been a DH but hit better when he played first base. It was worth it when he was the best hitter in baseball. It became less worth it as his career went along. Still he had good enough years to be one of my 100 top players, I just wish he would have kept going like his first 8 years.