'Big Hurt' even better than you think?

In Frank Thomas' first nine seasons, he was the closest thing we've seen to a right-handed-hitting Ted Williams. In those first nine seasons, Thomas

* won a batting title,

* routinely hit 40 home runs,

* drew about a million walks, and

* reached base 44 percent of the time.

Oh, and Thomas was probably the most feared hitter in the American League. After winning consecutive MVP Awards in 1993 and '94, Thomas was intentionally walked 29 times in 1995 and 26 times in '96.

In Thomas' next 10 seasons ... well, let's just say he wasn't quite Ted Williams. Instead he was sort of a right-handed-hitting, injury-prone version of Jim Thome.

So what do you do with half-a-Ted-Williams and half-a-Jim-Thome?

Why, you put him in the Hall of Fame of course.

Thomas scored more than 100 runs in nine seasons. He drove in more than 100 runs in 11 seasons. His .421 career on-base percentage ranks 21st in major league history. His adjusted OPS -- that is, relative to his times and accounting for his home ballparks -- ranks 20th in major league history. Essentially, Thomas grades out as one of the 20 most productive hitters that's ever played the game.

We haven't talked about the other stuff yet. We haven't talked about baserunning; Thomas stole 32 bases and hit 12 triples in 19 years. We haven't talked about fielding; Thomas was such a lousy first baseman that his managers shifted him to the DH slot as early and often as they could. Thomas cost his team runs when he ran and when he fielded (or didn't field). Those runs count, just like the runs he scored and drove home.

There just aren't nearly as many of them. In the end, all that matters are the runs, because runs lead to wins and that's entirely the point of the game. As a hitter, Frank Thomas generated something like 750 runs in his career. As a lousy baserunner and occasional fielder, he cost his team something like 200 runs. So what do all those negatives do to Frank Thomas?

They turn baseball's 20th greatest hitter into baseball's 45th greatest player, right in the same neighborhood with Pete Rose and Reggie Jackson and Robin Yount and Ken Griffey, Jr.*

Oh, and he's got a cool nickname.

* And in case you're curious, I'm not just making all these numbers up. I got them here.