The biggest loser at the hands of an over-saturated designated hitter market is none other than the Big Hurt himself, Frank Thomas. 40-years-old and finally removed from a nightmarish 2008 season, Thomas is recovering from a right quad strain that kept him out for the majority of the second half. Eric covered the corner outfield/DH types not too long ago, so how does Thomas stack up?
Last season was hardly the first time Thomas’ right quadriceps caused a stir. The same injury cost him a few weeks in 2006, which just so happens to be the renaissance of Thomas’ career. Recall that Thomas was in his first season with the Oakland Athletics on a contract suitable more for Charles Thomas than Frank. Not only did Thomas out earn his contract by 12 million, but he also earned himself a multiple year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, where again he would hit well enough to be worth eight-figures. Thomas and the Jays would have a falling out in early 2008, leading to his termination and return to the place of revival.
As an Athletic, Thomas saw his on-base percentage jump to .364, but still lacked the power that made him synonymous with homeruns in the 1990’s. As mentioned, Thomas’ quad would end his season early, but he still found a way to be worth positive value in 2008, finishing at 0.4 wins, or roughly 1.9 million.
Statistically, Thomas was fine. His line drive rates were in line with expectations, along with his batting average on balls in play, and walk rates. A slight increase in strikeout rates certainly was not to blame for his power collapse, so what gives? Thomas’ HR/FB percentage again declined, a trend that dates back to 2006. Down to 7.9%, Thomas would only hit eight homeruns, half of his total extra base hits.
Moving forward, the question is whether Thomas power was sapped due to his quad injury, or if this collapse is for real. It’s worth noting that this was the second worst offensive season of Thomas career behind 2001 which was also derailed by injuries. If teams feel comfortable placing the troubles on the big man’s right leg, which passes the logic test – Thomas leg-drive certainly plays a role in generating bat speed and power – Thomas can make a decent low-cost designated hitter option, capable of outplaying his paycheck.