In the sixth inning of last night's Twins/Tigers contest, Jim Thome flicked a Rick Porcello fastball over left field wall. One frame later, he went to the opposite field again on a Daniel Schlereth curveball, joining Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa in the 600 home run club. Not bad for a former 13th-round pick who signed for the equivalent of about $27,000 in present-day dollars.
While Thome has pulled his share of moon shots to right field, last night's history-making homers highlight his all-fields slugging. Thome has the second-highest slugging percentage and second-most homers on pitches hit to the opposite field since 2002, according to Fangraphs, with Thome trailing only Ryan Howard in both categories. To center field, Thome has the third-best slugging percentage (behind Howard and Barry Bonds) and has the fourth-most dingers (Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Howard are one through three).
All of those homers hit to center and the opposite field are a product of Thome's ability to thump pitches thrown down the middle and on the outside corner. Since 2008 (the first year for which we have data), Thome has the third-best slugging percentage in the game on middle and away pitches:
Thome's .577 slugging percentage on middle and away pitches from 2008-2011 is bested by that of just Adrian Gonzalez (.587) and Pujols (.608).
Any time a player hits a nice, round milestone, talk tends to turn to his Hall of Fame prospects. The truth is, Thome didn't need to pass the 600 HR threshold to bolster his Cooperstown Credentials.
Thome has been a patient, powerful force at the plate for more than a decade and a half, and his career 71.1 Wins Above Replacement place him between Johnny Bench and Paul Waner for 45th all-time among position players, according to Baseball-Reference. Dozens of guys ranked lower on the list have been elected to the Hall of Fame. When Thome does get the call, his all-fields power will be a major reason.