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Jim Thome & top OPS+ seasons for a 39-year-old

Posted by Andy on August 18, 2010

Jim Thome is raking so far this year. Here are the only players (1901-present) to post an OPS+ of at least 150 in age 39 season, minimum 80 games.

1 Barry Bonds 169 126 2007 42 SFG 477 340 75 94 14 0 28 66 132 54 5 .276 .480 .565 1.045 *7/D
2 Ted Williams 190 113 1960 41 BOS 390 310 56 98 15 0 29 72 75 41 1 .316 .451 .645 1.096 *7
3 Barry Bonds 156 130 2006 41 SFG 493 367 74 99 23 0 26 77 115 51 3 .270 .454 .545 .999 *7/D
4 Willie Mays 158 136 1971 40 SFG 537 417 82 113 24 5 18 61 112 123 23 .271 .425 .482 .907 *83
5 Ted Williams 179 129 1958 39 BOS 517 411 81 135 23 2 26 85 98 49 1 .328 .458 .584 1.042 *7
6 Babe Ruth 161 125 1934 39 NYY 471 365 78 105 17 4 22 84 104 63 1 .288 .448 .537 .985 *97
7 Barry Bonds 263 147 2004 39 SFG 617 373 129 135 27 3 45 101 232 41 6 .362 .609 .812 1.422 *7/D
8 Jim Thome 163 81 2010 39 MIN 253 209 31 57 14 1 17 44 42 62 0 .273 .391 .593 .985 *D
9 Hank Aaron 177 120 1973 39 ATL 465 392 84 118 12 1 40 96 68 51 1 .301 .402 .643 1.045 *79
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/18/2010.

In fact, here are the top OPS+ figures (1901-present) for a player from his age 35 season onward, minimum 600 games:

Rk Player OPS+ G Age PA
1 Barry Bonds 221 986 35-42 4072
2 Babe Ruth 194 713 35-40 3066
3 Ted Williams 188 828 35-41 3230
4 Hank Aaron 150 1019 35-42 4052
5 Edgar Martinez 144 964 35-41 4085
6 Tris Speaker 144 757 35-40 3256
7 Frank Robinson 143 612 35-40 2387
8 Ty Cobb 141 865 35-41 3715
9 Jim Thome 140 627 35-39 2435
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/18/2010.

You go, Gar.

27 Responses to “Jim Thome & top OPS+ seasons for a 39-year-old”

  1. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    Notice that while Bonds is tops on this list, only he seems to be implicated in PEDs to make it. Maybe we are putting too much emphasis on the effect of PEDs on these records, and not enough of the genuine accomplishments. This shows me that my recent hesitation to put Bonds in the Hall might have been less than appropriate.

  2. Lee Says:

    Bonds had 100-110 WAR before the 1998 offseason, the alleged start of his use of PEDs. Only 25-30 players have reached 100 WAR, so he is definitely deserving of the HOF, even if you throw out everything starting in 1999.

  3. TheGoof Says:

    One stat really stands out for the "geezers" -- Mays' 23 steals. While they all hit for power and get on base, he was dangerous once on base.

  4. DaveHuemer Says:

    Mays was only caught 3 times.

  5. MikeD Says:

    Bonds was the best player in baseball before he started taking PEDs, and was regarded as probably the third greatest LFer ever. He then moved up to another league. All the other players on that list, while having great years, weren't doing things they hadn't been doing their entire careers. In some cases they were doing "lesser" things, but they were simply still very productive. Bonds got *better* at the age of 36, and by a lot. Even though he took PEDs, he should be in the Hall.

    Why is everyone so sure Thome is clean? I'm not.

  6. Zack Says:

    "Why is everyone so sure Thome is clean? I'm not."

    Bingo. And frankly, Edgar Martinez?

  7. DavidRF Says:

    I'm sick of PED's. Each discussion around here assumes we all want to levy huge penalties on PED users and some even want to give bonuses to those who were clean (aka the "Ray Schalk Bonus"). I don't care. Crazy stuff has happened in baseball history. Some eras had high offense, some low and this some players benefited in each era more than others.

    If people are worried about putting PED guys in the HOF or bestowing other honors on them, then make them ineligible so they can be filtered out independently. But mixing PED-speculation with stats discussion takes the fun out of discussing the stats.

  8. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    OUCH ! "Geezers", Goof? I can remember thinking of Mays, "This kid looks like he's gonna be the next Ken Williams". Was that all that long ago?

  9. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    DO me a favor -- don't answer that. I just figured just how long ago it was that Mays was the Say Hey Kid -- and right in the middle of it, my teeth fell out. Maybe it WAS that long ago.

  10. Pageup Says:

    About Bonds and PEDs I will say this, he used them at a higher level than anyone else did or could...

  11. Hartvig Says:

    While it's a given that Bonds was juicing from ages 35 to 42, it's pretty darned unlikely that Thome is this year.

  12. Richard Says:

    That is a really strange year for Mays as someone pointed out 23 steals but only caught 3 times. He had a couple of years when he was younger when he was caught often, so he was running smarter at 40. And the truly amazing thing, I think, is 112 walks! By far, the highest total of his career (30 more than his next closest season) and he only played 136 games. It's like he knew there's no way he could drive everything anymore so he decided to be more patient.

  13. Richard Deegan Says:

    An honorable mention.
    I remember both Teddy Ballgame and Stan the Man having off-years in 1959, and all the experts saying they both were toast. Ted, of course, came back with a bug season to make this list, but Stan had two more good ones left, including .330 .416 .508 .924 137 OPS+ in 1961 at 41.
    As for Willie, he was always a joy to watch, even with the Mets, until he suddenly turned into Damn Yankees' 60-year-old Joe Hardy rounding third base in 1973.

  14. pzwqas Says:

    So Bonds should be in the HOF because he was the only one on the list to do steroids? What? And we can't be sure that Thome didn't do steroids (even though there is no evidence that he did), but we can be sure that Bonds (a guy who admittedly did steroids and tested positive for amphetamines) didn't do steroids before 1998. Are you guys related to Barry or something?

  15. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    To Pzw...

    No, I am not saying that he should be in the HOF because of his juicing. I am saying that hos PED use should not disqualify him, any more than Gaylord Perry should be disqualified for using more vasoline than a porn star, or Whitey Ford should be ignored for his well-known file/wedding ring.

  16. Zack Says:

    That so many discussions turn to PEDs is an indication of the collective frustration with what PEDs do to our beloved stats. I don't even know that I care about the PEDs so much, but it does diminish the fun of the numbers.

    Sure, other eras had high offense or killer pitching and the numbers varied, so we all learn to balance incompatible decades. Jimmie Foxx and Ray Schalk and Dale Murphy and Nap Lajoie weren't benefited outside the normal bounds of their eras, and this allows their stats, however skewed next to neighboring decades, to be interesting and relevant.

    PEDs put a funhouse mirror on some players' stats, and it ruins (for me) any chance of appreciating whatever some player has allegedly accomplished.

    Thome? Fun to watch and that's great. A great masher, and I loved his career. But his 570+ homers or any other stats he's ringing up? I have no context yet, in my own generation. For me, even comparing Thome to other 90s-00s players means little, since we'll never really know who was clean and who was not.

    So I just assume they're all dirty. Like an Andy posted in the Thome HOF thread, the pressures to PED would so outweigh the reasons not to PED, that I just figure they all were PED'ing to some degree. And that allows me to just watch the game and enjoy whatever happens. (And anytime someone says how player X was definitely clean... c'mon. Really?)

    Because of this unknowability, PEDs cannot factor into HOF.

  17. Gerry Says:

    "All the other players on that list, while having great years, weren't doing things they hadn't been doing their entire careers." Well, Aaron's career best OPS+, 194, came in his age 37 season. His previous best was 181.

  18. Mike Felber Says:

    Still that was nowhere near the improvement that Bonds made. For year after year past 39.

    He was good enough to make the Hall absent PEDs, but does it not seem that the degree of advantage he & others took was larger by far than doctored baseballs? Continuing in the face of all the outcry & investigations, & lying about it, including in official investigations, whenever he could. With something that so dramatically effects the integrity of baseball, its records, W-L/champions...Does this not meet the criteria for invoking the ethical standards clause for HOF voting? At least until he admits all & expresses contrition.

    It is unfair to assume all cheated. For many the "reasons" not to cheat weigh very heavily: not wanting to be a fraud/cheater/liar/having self respect, whatever the risk of being caught. We cannot know for sure if anyone cheated, but when can penalize players who either likely would not have been good enough absent body & play transforming drugs, or damaged the reputation of the game & cheated other teams/players of victories/opportunities, & still show no remorse.

  19. Scott Says:

    Actually Griffey was widely considered the best all around player in baseball in the 90's, not Bonds. However, Bonds was clearly one of the best in the game before he took anything, he was already a Hall of Famer before he used roids and therefore should make it in.

  20. Basmati Says:

    As someone who wasn't following baseball in the 90s, how are people so sure when Bonds started using PEDs? Judging by some posts on this thread people seem convinced he only started using them some time well into his career?

  21. Zack Says:

    Basmati - Bonds' PED use is alleged to have started following the 1998 season, all based on anecdotes about a specific conversation Bonds had with Griffey and a few others at Griffey's house in the off-season.

    One recounting of the story:

  22. Basmati Says:

    Thanks, an interesting read. One of the things I hate about PEDs in all sports is the doubt it has created. Even sports which have a rigorous testing procedure and strong sanctions, you can't be sure if anyone is completely clean.

    One of the other thins I'm curious about on the PED subject is people always talk about Bonds, McGwire, Canseco, A-Rod etc. How do we know Aaron wasn't using something? Is he free from suspicion because he played pre 1990?

  23. John Bateman Says:

    The only reason Bonds OPS+ is so high is because of the amount of walks he had.

    At age 39 Bonds had 45 Hr and 101 Rbi and Aaron had 40 hr and 90 Rbi - Bonds played with the new RAWLINGS Ball that was introduced in 1994 and in a more offensive era. From 1993 on Baseball became more of a walk and HR league (getting closer to Softball status)- smaller stadiums and a rapid ball lead to an offensive outburst. Now some of the newer staduims and the Humidor in Colorado (plus a little less rabbit ball) has cause the stats to come down

  24. D J Jones Says:

    Anyone needing proof of the effects of peds need only to look at the periods before during and after their use to show how much they effected the game offensively. Lets just use 50 home runs in a season as a yardstick. Prior to 1991 which means 119 years there were just 17 times in which a player hit 50 or more home runs the Babe , Mic and Willie accounted for 8 of those times. 1991 to 2009 a period of 19 years which is 100 less there have been 22 players accomplish this feat and none since 2007 when the steriod ----hit the fan. These numbers speak for themselves.

  25. BalBurgh Says:

    While we're at it why don't we ponder what kind of totals Bonds might have racked up with another couple of limited years in the OF, or less limted ones as a DH, which he didn't get because he was blackballed while all the other PED users that were young enough played on. It's lonely at the top, eh?

    And more, he could have played another couple of years in some capacity bewcause he didn't break down like McGwire and others, PEDs or no (Griffey?). He just outworked a lot of people (on top of growing up with pro players all around and possibly just being a genetic freak born to an already gifted father/player). Again, PEDs or no.

    Finally, per 23, there must be something to the stadium effect, not to mention expansion in 93 and 98.

    Yeah, Bonds probably did it knowingly, and his buddy in jail must be awating a serious payoff, but I just can't get worked up about it either way.

  26. We’re Going Streaking! Jim Thome is mashing his taters | jZINE| Get Ripped | Get Huge | Get Sports News Says:

    [...] my boy, Blue!: Thome currently has the sixth-best OPS+ for a 39-year-old ever, notes Andy at Baseball-Reference, and the ninth-best career OPS+ from age 35 onward. He was very good for the [...]

  27. The Doc Says:

    D J Jones,

    There was a huge jump in power numbers MLB-wide starting 1993-1994. Which do you think is more likely - that a change in the baseball was responsible, or that every power hitter started taking steroids that year and not before?