Thome run vs right-handers is impressive

Our weekly statistical take on some recent moves by major league teams

How good of a hitter is Jim Thome against right-handed pitching?

Jim Thome


Historically he’s among the best of the best, and statistically speaking, he’s a needed fit for the Minnesota Twins, who re-signed him earlier this week.

Last year, Thome proved he still had his magic touch against right-handers, batting .302, with a 1.154 OPS against them. The only hitter in the American League who was better was Josh Hamilton (1.163).

Rank the top 50 seasons of OPS against right-handed pitching since 1974 and two names show up more frequently than any others. One is Barry Bonds (seven times). The other is Thome (six).

Best OPS vs RHP Past 5 Seasons

Of the top 15 seasons in the American League in that span, Thome has five of them.

Amazingly, last season was one of the best in Thome’s career by that measure. Baseball-Reference.com has a means to compare a player’s performance in a split-stat (such as versus right-handers) to the rest of his league, adjusting for ballpark.

Thome’s OPS+ against right-handers was 204. The only season in which he rated higher was in 2002, when he hit 40 home runs against righties.

Last season, with Thome’s help, the Twins rated fourth in the American League in OPS against right-handed pitching. They jumped seven points (from .768 in 2009 to .775 in 2010) despite a) moving into a less-hitter-friendly home ballpark and b) it was a season in which most offensive performance declined.

It was their highest AL rank in OPS against right-handers since being third-best in 1992. The last time the Twins were even in the top five in the AL in that stat was in 2003, when they rated fifth.

-- Mark Simon

Balfour not so bad

Newest Oakland Athletics reliever Grant Balfour finished the season in the Tampa Bay Rays’ bullpen with the seventh-lowest FIP (an ERA estimate based on strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed) of any American League reliever at 2.68, even lower than former teammate and now New York Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano.

Grant Balfour

BalfourThat’s due primarily to his better strikeout rate (9.1 per 9 innings, compared to Soriano’s 8.2) and a lower rate of home runs allowed per nine innings.

Left-handed hitters may have hit .267 against Balfour last season, but his ability in those three FIP stats, was a match for his performance against right-handers (who hit .174 against him). Of note: Of the 100 lefties he faced in 2010, he yielded only one home run.

Balfour rated at 1.2 Wins Above Replacement in 2010, according to Fangraphs.com, a match for both Jonathan Papelbon and Scott Downs, both of whom will make considerably more than the $4 million Balfour will be paid in 2011.

-- Ben Duronio

Did You Know?

Farnsworth's unusual 2010 skill

Kyle Farnsworth may not be the most obvious choice as a shutdown reliever for the Tampa Bay Rays, but last season Farnsworth was able to raise his game when facing the toughest lineups.

Against the teams that finished with a .500 or better record, Farnsworth finished with a 2.09 ERA, .611 opponents OPS, and a 5.3 strikeout-to-walk rate.

Against teams with sub-.500 marks, he had a 5.19 ERA, .670 opponents OPS, and 2.23 strikeout-to-walk rate.

-- Katie Sharp