Thomas' hitting prowess is worth his wait

INSIDE PITCH

June 05, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

Frank Thomas is such a huge physical specimen that's it's almost impossible to overlook any aspect of his game.

jTC But there is something about his manner at home plate that is taken for granted and thus not given due consideration in analyzing the White Sox first baseman's awesome offensive ability. It's something that every hitter, big or small, could emulate.

You don't have to be 6 feet 5, or 260 pounds, to have patience. And, by Thomas' own assessment, that is vital to his success.

Because of his enormous size, Thomas offers one of baseball's biggest strike zone. That would figure to make it easier to find a weakness, but if so, it has yet to be discovered. Especially by the Orioles, a team he has worn out since breaking into the American League in 1990.

"I'm getting great pitches to hit because I'm patient" is how Thomas explains his phenomenal success. In other words, he's not too proud to take a walk.

It is rare to find a hitter with the talent of Thomas, 26, who has as much discipline in the batter's box. Having hitters the caliber of Julio Franco and Robin Ventura behind him helps, but there is no question which of the three commands the most attention, and respect, from opposing pitchers.

They know that on any given at-bat, it will take more than one "pitcher's pitch" to get Thomas out. His hitting philosophy is basically very simple. It's based on the theory that somewhere along the way he'll get a pitch to hit -- and he has the patience to wait for it.

"Right now I'm swinging the bat good, and it doesn't matter who's pitching," said Thomas. "When you're going like this, you just want to ride it as long as you can. I want to keep it up because this team has a chance to be something special."

There doesn't appear to be a good "book" on how to pitch to Thomas. One reason is that he is so disciplined. For a big hitter, he strikes out infrequently (25 times as opposed to 56 walks in 236 appearances), an indication of his knowledge of the strike zone.

Thomas is the type of hitter Ted Williams would love to watch because he'll wait for a pitch in the "happy zone." When he gets one, he doesn't miss often.

"I think this is as patient as I've ever been," said Thomas. He has the rare combination of power and patience young hitters rarely display.

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