Early returns put Frank Thomas on the Hall of Fame fence

Jonathan Daniel

One survey has the Big Hurt ahead of the curve, while another projection puts him well below the induction line

Over at Baseball Think Factory, Repoz does the yeoman's work of tallying Hall of Fame ballots as they roll in. For the candidate about whom we're most concerned, it's a good start.

However, if history is any indication, Thomas is going to have to hold that line, even though it's considerably above 75 percent. It's probably some form of selection bias, but the Repoz tally tends to overestimate vote counts for many players -- perhaps because the voters who make their ballots public are the ones who put the most thought into it.

(Plus, the Chicago Tribune makes all their ballots public, and I'd be really surprised if Thomas didn't get 100 percent there.)

On the flip side of the first Repoz report is the projection by Bill Deane, who has predicted Hall of Fame vote percentages for the last 32 years. In his 2014 edition, he predicts Thomas will fall short of induction, garnering just 63 percent of the vote on his first ballot.

But Thomas isn't alone. In fact, Deane predicts that only Greg Maddux will beat the 75 percent threshold, which would make the 2015 ballot even more problematic under the 10-player limit than this year's.

The good news -- as Chris Jaffe pointed out in the BTF thread, Deane's projections mean that the average ballot contains somewhere around 7.5 names, which would be the highest since 1983. If this ballot is a historical anomaly, any projections may not account for rare or unprecedented behavior.

I feel pretty comfortable assuming Glavine goes in with Maddux and Bobby Cox. It's too good of a story to pass up, especially since Glavine is a 300-game winner himself. I'm not quite as certain about the Big Hurt, so for the next several days, we're going to be laying out Thomas' Hall of Fame credentials, most of them beyond statistics. The numbers should speak for themselves. For instance, on Tuesday Jay Jaffe at SI.com threw Thomas through his JAWS system in his career overview, and he passes easily, even without defensive value.

But there's plenty else that's compelling about Thomas when you consider the official Hall of Fame voting criteria:

5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

The record and playing ability are covered, and "integrity, sportsmanship and character" could be clutch this year for Thomas, thanks to his longtime advocacy for stronger drug-testing programs.

But it's the last clause that gets my wheels turning, because while Thomas' contributions to the individual teams are vast, his contribution to the franchise is even greater. The start of his career coincided with a few other elements -- the new stadium, the new uniforms, other successful first-round draft picks -- that transformed the White Sox of the last 23 years into an entity completely unrecognizable for the first 90. It wouldn't be a stretch to divide franchise history into Before Frank and After Frank, and that's something that even lead-pipe lock, first-ballot Hall of Famers can't claim.

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