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Thursday Open Thread

Also learn about a player you probably didn’t know existed who got on base any way possible

Phillies Outfielder Thomas Photo by Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Well I tried. I realized, much too late, that it would be a good time for another round of Hall of Fame voting. Great idea. Except those posts take forever to write and I just couldn’t write it in time. I should have the first round of balloting tomorrow.

In the meantime, let me introduce you to a player who will be on tomorrow’s ballot who will get virtually no attention, but who fascinates me: Roy Thomas. Thomas played from 1899 to 1911, so there’s a rather good reason he’s not well known. He’s also not a Hall of Famer and I doubt you guys vote him in.

He didn’t debut until he was 25-years-old - he had a bachelor’s degree from an Ivy League school, the University of Penn - so he was already a rarity at the time. And let’s face, a rarity anytime in baseball history. In his first season he had 16 extra base hits total. But he was known for fouling pitches off - at the time of his rookie season, a foul ball did not count as a strike. He supposedly fouled off 27 pitches one time. He also made many, many bunt attempts. Again supposedly - because we don’t have statistics - he made as many as 200 bunt attempts a year, most of them trying for a hit.

In 1901, they enacted a rule, partially because of him, that a foul ball was a strike. Previously, a foul ball could not be strike one or strike two. This... did not affect his stats at all. He walked in 17% of plate appearances in 1900, and 16.6% in 1901. He walked a lot by the way. He knew the name of the game: get on base. By any means possible. He also got hit 17 times in his rookie season and 15 times in his sophomore campaign. He got hit a lot less the rest of his career, so that foul ball rule may have impacted that. Whether more pitches equals more opportunities to get hit or pitchers were just fed up with him and hit him. Little of column A, little of column B.

I’ll just post this excerpt for Sabr:

With his playing days finally over, Thomas left behind one of the most unusual statistical resumes in baseball history. His career fielding percentage of .972 was a National League record at the time of his retirement. According to Bill James, Thomas was the only major-league regular to score three times as many runs as he drove in. He also had the lowest ratio of doubles to total hits of any big-league regular, the highest ratio of singles to total hits, the highest ratio of on-base percentage to slugging percentage (.413 to .333, or 1.24 to 1), the highest ratio of walks to extra base hits (6.5 to 1), and the fewest career RBIs for a player with 1,500 or more hits.

Thomas was never around for the rise of on-base percentage as a stat, but he probably knew the importance of it way before anyone else did. Really cool player that I would not have discovered if not for these Hall of Fame ballots.