By Mike Moritz
Jim Thome is the Manny Ramirez without steroids (or so we think) and in other words, The Ageless Wonder. Maybe the 8th wonder of the world? It is possible. I mean, you would be surprised too if a 40 year old baseball player whose legs can't really carry his own weight had an astounding .344 ISO and 25 long balls in just 276 ABs in 2010, wouldn't you? A rock solid batting average of .283 and an mind-boggling .412 OBP in 344 PA....at the age of 40. I'm sorry, but I just can not get over the fact that Jim Thome did this without steroids (or so we think) at the age of 40. I might as well write about how he is 40 years old and still PLAYING baseball for the rest of this post, let alone hitting them out of the park!
Thome's 2010 line for the Minnisota Twins was very good, as I mentioned in the rant right above: .283/.412/.627 with 25 home runs in 276 at-bats and 344 PA...at the age of 40. Ok, I'll stop with the whole "I-can-not-believe-this-guy-did-this-at-40-thing", but it's amazing!
Thome showed no signs of slowing down his career for the 2011 season.
His line drive rate, ground ball and fly ball rates were all just about average for his career in 2010:
2010: LD: 21.4%; GB: 40.8%; LD: 37.8%
Career: LD: 20.3%; GB: 39.1%; LD: 40.6%
If I did not know who I was talking about, just by looking at that line, I would think that it's a player in his prime, not a 40 year old Jim Thome.
So now that I have praised for the Ageless Wonder, it is now time to tell you why Father Time will finally catch up to him in 2011.
In the past three seasons, Thome's BABIP has been at least a decent amount below his career mark of .321, so that shows that maybe it's time to implode.
He can not really hit many doubles anymore as he smacked 16 two-baggers and was on pace for a decent 24. With out those doubles to back up his power, the home run numbers now lose its foundation and are now very prone to fall off.
His O-Swing% has been on the rise for 5 years in a row and in 2010, it cashed in at 22.2% compared to 17.9% that he holds for his career. After about 3 years of a declining stat, one would generally expect that player to fall apart in that stat in the following year. But Thome has kept this trend up for 5 seasons and is completely set up for that stat to implode.
Thome's HR/FB ratio was 33.8% in 2010 and in his career, it is 28%. Perhaps Thome actually got lucky with his home runs and is definitely subject to lose that power. The last Thome had a HR/FB rate of over 30% was way back in 2003...when he wasn't 40 years old.
So yes, it is amazing that he did this at the age of 40. But no, he can't sustain it. Jim Thome has always been a huge power bat as his 589 career homers show but I think it's time for Thome to actually have a bad year.
Projection: .240/.350/.450, 12 homers.
But let's be honest now, doing all that at 40 years old is pretty cool.
(Stats in courtesy of: fangraphs.com)