Bagwell and the HOF: Once more into the breach

So, here’s what I wrote last year about Jeff Bagwell and his Hall of Fame candidacy. The stats are the same — Bagwell hasn’t reached 500 homers since last December — and he’s still languishing in the mid-50s when it comes to percentage of Hall voters who have a clue.


Old News

So, I’ve been spending a little time at BBTF watching the vote totals change as more and more ballots have been published by the BBWAA voters. And the 800-plus comments — most of which breaks down in to categories like anger over The Big Unit not getting 100 percent, marveling at Pedro’s career, discussion of how Smoltz compares to other starters who spent time as a closer, and a whole lot of talk about steroids — are a rambling mess that have one stat that seems to run through them all like a thread: WAR.

Wins Above Replacement, whether you like the Baseball Reference version or the Fangraphs incarnation, it’s a stat that basically compares players’ over time, whether it’s a short WAR period like a single season or a long one, like a player’s peak.

If you read BR’s explanation of WAR, you’d need either a degree in advanced math or some good 80s style hallucinogens. But basically, WAR for position players is calculated through six categories: Batting Runs, Baserunning Runs, Runs added or lost due to Grounding into Double Plays in DP situations, Fielding Runs, Positional Adjustment Runs, and Replacement level Runs (based on playing time). You can read the equation at Wikipedia, but I only had two years of college calculus, so I don’t know if I can explain it further.

That said, WAR is the go-to stat for the conversation on the Hall. After all, different players at different positions will have different expectations of home runs, batting average, etc., but WAR is WAR. And there’s some pretty basic levels that scream Hall of Fame.

For example, Bagwell has a 79.6 career WAR on BR. That ranks 63rd overall and ahead of players such as Pete Rose, Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson and Frank Thomas (cough, cough). The only players with higher career WARs than Bags that are NOT in the Hall of Fame are people not yet on the ballot or ‘Roid suspects such as Bonds and Clemens.

Biggio, as a catcher and second baseman, is not expected to have quite as high a WAR because of the positions he played, but his 65.1 WAR is right there with Ryne Sandberg (67.5) and Roberto Alomar (66.8). And Biggio ranks higher than Hall of Famers such as Yogi Berra (59.3) and Harmon Killebrew (60.3)


New News

Yes, Bagwell is worthy. And that brings me to a piece of news I unearthed today. The guy behind Baseball Think Factory’s Ballot Collecting Gizmo, Ryan Thibs, has been collecting those published ballots again. It’s still early, but here’s what he’s got so far.

Everyone loves Ken Griffey Jr. Literally everyone. He’s got 100 percent of the 78 ballots published thus far. Mike Piazza has 71 of those votes, and close behind in third place is good ol’ No. 5, Jeffrey Robert Bagwell with 65 votes: 83.3 percent.

Yes, that’s nice and all. And it’s also a small (and early) sample size. But the interesting thing is that 12 of those from voters who left Bagwell off their ballots last time around. Without those 12 ballots, Bagwell gets 53 votes or just 67.9 percent.

So, we’re looking at a 15 percent jump in new votes, putting Bagwell at the 70 percent level if the trend holds.

One other factor for this year is the BBWAA is dropping some old voters off the rolls (apparently the BBWAA is not based in Chicago). Considering so many geezer voters who hadn’t actually covered a game since the leagues went to three divisions were not Bagwell fans, that could reduce some dead weight from the denominator.



So, what do you think Bagwell’s chances are?

Is Griffey the closest thing to a lock this side of The Big Unit?

Does Mike Piazza get that last push needed?

Will someone please recognize that Tim Raines is the second-best lead off hitter in history, and that’s Hall-worthy?

Does Billy Wagner deserve more than one trip to the Hall ballot?


58 comments on “Bagwell and the HOF: Once more into the breach

  1. Maybe some new ground is being broken. Griffey getting 100% is revealing because of the guys who don’t vote anyone in the first time. Maybe those stupids are gone. Isn’t it refreshing that Junior, after playing so many years and in different towns, has no haters. I like that.
    Something tells me Bagwell might get there. Maybe it’s because Biggio was so classy last year, and brought so much to Cooperstown that the shadow over Bagwell has faded away. I sure hope so. I personally don’t think I have seen a baseball player quite like Bagwell in all my days of following the sport.
    I would not be surprised to see all three of the top vote getters make it in this year, because I think the Association has made it clear they are cleaning house and the writers need to get their act together or disappear.
    I like Wagner but I’m not certain he is worthy of the HOF. I need to study his case more and do the comps.


  2. Sorry about the off-topic but Drellich’s article in the spit about the Astros bullpen is fascinating:
    * Luhnow calls the 8th inning of game 4 an inning with a thousand times more leverage than any other inning of the year. But that inning starts off with an exhausted Will Harris on the mound and he gives up hits to the bottom of the order. Then an overused Sipp comes in and he has a weird string of events follow including a huge two run error by CC to knot the game.
    Gregerson doesn’t come in until there has been five hits and an error and gives up the lead run on a groundout.
    My hope is that Luhnow doesn’t think that adding one reliever in December can seal the deal next October because that is not the answer. The answer is to get big-time minor league arms into high leverage situations in the upper minor leagues early and then add them to the bullpen in the majors toward the end of the year so that you have young arms ready to get outs in the playoffs instead of worn out guys that the league has seen and gotten used to.
    Adding Giles will help, but having a hurt Neshek taking up a spot in that playoff bullpen, combined with the lack of vision on Luhnow’s part not to have any of his young AA and AAA arms get any bullpen experience set up last year’s bullpen for failure. He needs to stop using all these tandem starters and get some power arms into minor league bullpens and actually use them as relievers, not as rotating starters.
    * I like the comment that WAR doesn’t always determine a players value, especially as it pertains to Fields. Fields is not the guy I want in there in a high leverage situation because his 95 mph fastball is flat and his curve is not dependable and a playoff team is going to hit that kind of pitcher. Remember that Fields gave up the two-run homer in the ninth inning to seal the Astros’ fate in game 4.


    • Hinch allowed Harris to give up four consecutive singles in that 8th before finally bringing in Sipp to face the lefty. Their splits indicated Sipp might have had as good, if not better luck against the righties.

      I’m with you on the minor league bullpen guys. I think the loss to KC was a big reason Minaya was protected. They will have him, Gustave, and our favorite, Hoyt to try out in the pen at various times this year.


  3. So, what do you think Bagwell’s chances are?
    The numbers you are quoting for him remind me of the numbers Biggio had the year before he made it – when he was so close but no cigar. I think Bags misses, but closes the gap this time and gets voted in next year.

    I also agree with old pro that Bags was special, even unique. One of the best right handed 1B’s I ever saw, one of the best at throwing people out, one of the best base runners I ever saw – certainly the best 1B I ever saw on the bases. He was the greatest Astros hitter ever. Could hit for power and average and was just plain scary.

    Is Griffey the closest thing to a lock this side of The Big Unit?
    Yes – it helps that he was basically a skinny non-steroidal looking guy his whole career. It does not mean he didn’t do “stuff” but impressions are important.

    Does Mike Piazza get that last push needed?
    Yes, probably. The LA, NY, Chi guys start from an advantage point to begin with. He may have been the best offensive catcher ever and will probably be the worst defensive catcher in the Hall of Fame.

    Will someone please recognize that Tim Raines is the second-best lead off hitter in history, and that’s Hall-worthy?
    Rock Raines was terrific – not sure what holds him back.

    Does Billy Wagner deserve more than one trip to the Hall ballot?
    Look at his numbers and how he was consistently very good to great over a long career. I know that saves are to baseball like passes received are to football (stats that are watered down by the way the game is played) but he is 5th all time in saves. His career ERA was a sparkling 2.31. My gosh at age 38 he had 37 saves and a 1.43 ERA. Yes he should be on the ballot for a while.

    And he was a 5′-10″ fireballer – that was impressive.


    • Good points on Wagner. Consider he finished a ton of games that were not save opportunities too. He should get credit, in my opinion, for not taking the night off when there was no chance at glory.

      On Bagwell, I think it should be noted he moved off third base not because of defensive deficiencies, but because he was a special hitter who forced his way onto the team. Wonder where we could find more guys like that…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Aaiieeee now I’m stepping in to uncharted territory and slightly disagreeing with Dan. I did the numbers a while ago and I reckoned that Berkman was a slightly better hitter than Bagwell. He hit for power and he hit for average and he also hit in the postseason. I vaguely recall (typing this on an iphone) that he hit .385 for us in the WS and an otherworldly .427 for the Cards in the WS. I know BA isn’t everything but numbers that big are eye-catching. From a non-numbers basis I would guess he wasn’t as good a fielder and nowhere near as good a base runner but he hit and walked a shade better than Bagwell at least until their terminal years ….


      • I think you have a very good point about Berkman – my only complaint about him was that he was pretty weak when he batted from the right hand side. He definitely was better in the post season


      • They both played 15 years with almost identical slash lines:
        Bagwell: .297 / .408 / .540
        Berkman: .293 / .406 / .537

        When you look at some of the sexier stats it gets a little less murky:
        Bagwell: 2314H 1517R 488 doubles 449 HR 1529 RBI 202 SB 102 SF
        Berkman: 1905H 1146R 422 doubles 366 HR 1234 RBI 86 SB 54 SF

        Some other interesting stats are that they were intentionally walked about the same: 155 and 160 respectively. When it came to HBP, Bagwell was plunked twice as often 128 to 66.

        Throw in the awards (one MVP and ROY for Bagwell) and it is kind of difficult to make an argument that Berkman was better aside from the post-season performance. With the exception of Chipper Jones, I think Berkman was perhaps the most valuable switch hitter with true power in the last fifty years…so I don’t mean this as a knock on him.


      • Thanks Devin for looking some stuff up that I couldn’t do on my iphone whilst typing a comment (because I am iphone-basic, not that it isn’t there!)

        It made me go back to the spreadsheet that I made a while ago to look at some basics, after Jeff B retired but before Lance B did. I was scaling up things to equalise for ABs. At that time, when Lance had played in 1507 games, he was still shading Jeff on BA, OBP, SLG and OPS. I guess it shows what a terminal decline he had those last four years (apart from 2011). But I think that Jeff also had a bad last few years.

        So what I tried to do was equalise out, now that they have both retired, for PA (which I think is the right thing to do, rather than AB), because you are right that they both played 15 seasons but for reasons (there must be several) Lance had a lot less PAs (9431 vs 7814). And I think all these stats are regular season only.

        No one would quibble I think that Lance played much better in the Postseason than Jeff did.

        And similarly no one would quibble that Lance was a better complete player than Jeff (he wasn’t the super fielder or the brilliant baserunner or the complete leader). But I come back to the pure hitting, and it surprised me how good Lance was. Here are some equalised numbers for PA, Jeff then Lance:

        Runs : 1517 – 1383 (clearly worse for Lance by some rough 10%)
        Hits : 2314 – 2299 (basically the same)
        2B : 488 – 509 (better for Lance by some rough 5%)
        3B : 32 – 36 (basically the same)
        HR : 449 – 442 (basically the same)
        RBI : 1529 – 1489 (basically the same)
        TB : 4213 – 4206 (basically the same)
        BB : 1401 – 1450 (a touch better for Lance)
        SO : 1558 – 1569 (basically the same)
        SB : 202 – 104 (clearly much worse for Lance, but we are a touch off hitting now)

        To me it looks like they are basically the same hitter, really, so I wasn’t quite right (forgetting about the terminal decline).

        I guess we should be thankful that we had two such mesmerising hitters.

        It was always a pleasure to watch them both, but for me a particular pleasure to see Lance in the two WS (it was .423 not .427 I notice). I am not a fan of the cards but that 2011 WS was pretty amazing and Game 6 was astonishing.

        Anyways, on to the HoF for Jeff please. And an honourable mention in a few years for Lance but he doesn’t have those extras or that longevity.


      • Aaiieeee I knew I would type something wrong: And similarly no one would quibble that *JEFF* was a better complete player than *LANCE* (he wasn’t the super fielder or the brilliant baserunner or the complete leader).


  4. As an ‘old timer’ I would love to see Jeff Bagwell join his old pal Craig Biggio in the Hall of Fame. But I do not expect it to happen, and if it doesn’t happen I will not lose any sleep over it. I will just consider it a bigger part of what I see as a serious franchise credibility problem rather than either an insult to Jeff Bagwell personally or a part of anything having to do with ‘the PED era’.

    The big questions in my mind for the Astros franchise, you see, are all about the future, not about the past. And unlike others, my focus is really not on 2016, but on building a dynasty for the decade beyond. My hope is that, as we start to string together years with winning records and regular playoff appearances, this time the opportunity will not be wasted with profit-taking and myopic thinking. The relationship between the franchise and the community needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. A winning team – hopefully including a return to the playoffs in 2016 and the franchise’s first WS championship in 2017 – would provide a window of opportunity. Our ‘community’ – which includes not just the people of the city of Houston but also all of South and Central Texas, the state of Louisiana, the country of Mexico, and the Caribbean nations, has by and large has lost respect for and interest in the Astros by reason of the mistakes the previous regime made the last time we put a winning team on the field. This franchise should be a flagship for a huge region and multiple millions of families – but for that to happen our owners will have to start thinking on a much more populist instead of elitist level and plan on a much more long term success that short-term profit basis.


  5. Meanwhile, in the Dominican Winter League . . .

    It is the last day of the ‘regular’ season, and two of the top teams are Estrellas de Oriente and Tigres del Licey.

    Astros No. 28 prospect Tyler White has been the driving force for Estrellas de Oriente [W 29 – L 20], pacing all qualified hitters in the league with a .918 OPS, seven home runs, 30 RBIs, 76 total bases and 32 walks.

    The Tigres del Licey [ W28 – L 21], on the other hand, have also been led by an Astros farmhand – No. 22 prospect Andrew Aplin (.818 OPS).

    The playoffs start this Sunday. Both teams have qualified.


      • Exactly, OP1. Tyler has played now in 44 games, in which he has 190 PAs. He has 47 hits, has walked 32 times, and has only struck out 37 times. His OBP is .421. He leads the team in BBS, doubles [10], HRs [7], and RBIs [31]. He is, however, 0-1 in steal attempts.


      • Bill, one other thing I have noticed about the winter leagues is that most of the pitchers White is seeing are only staying in the game for one run through the lineup. Most of the time White is facing 3 or 4 different pitchers in each game which is not conducive to rhythm and definitely not normal.


      • Which I think explains why Tyler’s BA is only .297 [very low for him], and why for the first time in a long time he has actually struck out a tad more than he has walked.


  6. Not a fan of WAR. Every team finishes with a positive one. Not sure it meets the intent of what people might assume it means. Regardless, Bagwell has a lot of whatever flavor of stat you prefer.

    National media probably suspects he used. I suspect he used, but I suspect that Caminiti was right and most of baseball in the 90s used. I’m a fanboy, I think he is the most impactful Astro of all time (sorry Biggio, Scott, Ryan, Cedeno, etc.), but I think the national media is just prickly about steroids, like they have a vendetta against it, and will hold him out again, even without evidence.


    • Steven, if you look at some of the votes that have been made public, some of the writers actually voted for all the PED suspects and didn’t vote for Bagwell. So, apparently, the guys who don’t care about cheating won’t vote for Jeff because the cheaters have much better numbers. And the guys who care about cheating, didn’t vote for Bagwell because of their suspicions, even though they don’t have anything to base their suspicions on. What a world!


    • I’m going to agree with Steven. If I wasn’t a biased Astros fan and I looked at Bagwell’s lack of power in the minor leagues, his body transformation and huge power numbers in the majors and his shrinking body formation post-career I would be suspicious of his possible PED usage. I know this won’t sit well with most here, but I’m also suspicious about Piazza. With that being said I also agree that Bagwell was the most complete player to wear an Astros uniform and I think he should get in the HOF.


  7. If a person is going to vote for/against based upon stats for players in the same period of time – that makes sense to me. If a person wants to dismiss or skip a player or three because of what “might have happened” then you go down a crazy road.

    Does someone skip the entire two decade period or just the first or last years? Was it only the hitters that used PEDs? Then why Clemens? What about Pettitte and others that were probably juicing and pitching against those hitters. Do we split the stats for ARod because he was great before and average after? Do we put in Conseco, not because of his stats but because he made MLB face the facts? Why is what Pete Rose “may have done” worst that any of these? And why is Marvin Miller not voted in by the players, all of which are now millionaires because of him and Curt Flood?

    All I can say is that if I were ever on trial for something serious, I would not want any HofF voter on the jury. They might send me to prison, not based upon the evidence, but because people from my neighborhood are always guilty or because I wear a 7 3/4 hat (which I actually do).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Will Bagwell get in? Maybe, someday
    Will Wagner get in? Probably not…relievers rarely do.
    Will Piazza and Griffen get in? YES.
    As long as there are biased narrow minded, suspicious sports writers, who listen to “rumors”…… Bagwell will not be inducted. That goes for select fans as well…….


  9. I am curious. I like Scott Kazmir for one year – and would understand taking a chance for two. But Scott will be 32 by the time the season starts next year. And after last year’s collapse down the stretch when we needed him most [remember, what he gave us was a 4.17 ERA and a 1.439 WHIP, an average of less than 6 IP per start, and he made a couple of game-blowing errors defensively], does anyone here seriously believe that Scott still has even four, much less five, MLB rotation-quality years left in him? Aren’t we really just talking about back-loading/deferred comping a contract for one or maybe two actual years? If we sign him for more than two years, aren’t we shooting our 2018 and 2019 – and possibly 2020 – teams in the foot budget wise just to roll the dice that we’ll see some of the ‘good’ Scott Kazmir for the first half of one or possibly two years?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a tough call. Is he as bad a fielder as he showed or was he expecting a real catcher to field those dinks hit out in front of the plate that Conger couldn’t?
      Can he hold runners better than he showed, or was there no chance his catcher would ever throw out those runners? Is his age responsible for the late season woes or does he need to get in better shape? If the Astros don’t strike out so much and actually score some runs other than bombs, can he relax and pitch when his club can get a lead and not have to pinpoint every single pitch, resulting in his going less than six innings?
      Astros management has figured his worth, gotten rid of his bad fielding catcher and have the answers to these question. We’ll see soon what they think.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. In 1966, there were 302 votes cast. Ted Williams received ONLY 282. His career slash line is .344/.482/1.116. If one wants to talk about character, Williams fought in two wars and missed a lot of career time. He worked tirelessly for the Jimmy fund. His only detractors were the press. So 50 years ago there were 20 jerks. Same as today.

    In 1969 Musial got 317 out of 340.


  11. speaking of starters, using the 40 man roster, ours are:
    Keuchel L
    McHugh R
    McCullers R
    Feldman R
    Fiers R
    with Wojo, Straily and Peacock as backup. (without an exceptional spring i don’t think any of the younger guys start the year on the major league club)
    looking at that it sure seems as though we will sign a FA starter or trade for a young starter with team control somewhere. (cleveland?)
    for relievers
    Giles R
    Gregerson R
    Nesheck R
    Harris R
    Fields R
    Sipp L
    the only other lefty available is Chapman. looks like there is need for another lefty even if just a LOOGY.


  12. I’m not an expert but I was looking back at Bagwell’s baseball cards and almost all of them say 6’0″ and 195. The one thing I did look at was his arms. I remember the sports guys saying he was a scrawny kid when he burst on the baseball scene with the Redsox. He looked anything but scrawny to me. His arms were pretty good size already. And from what little I know about working out, if you are dedicated to it you can bulk up pretty quick with a routine regiment. My point is I’m tired of the steroids cop out by sports writers and others. The guy could flat play ball and his being the “complete player” convinces me beyond the shadow of a doubt. I sure didn’t see his head swell three sizes, his eyes turn yellow, or what ever else is attributed to steroids. I don’t know for sure whether he took PED’s or not but neither does anyone else or at least nobody can prove it. My point is he belongs in the HOF so you sports writers wake up, smell the coffee, and vote Jeffrey Robert Bagwell in.
    I’ll get off my proverbial soap box now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The sports guys, as usual, are idiots who have a revisionist version of history. When he came up as a rookie in 1991 his arms were already impressive. His torso, was pretty lean though. Go look at his 1992 baseball cards – you can see his frame looks ready to support weight / muscle that isn’t there yet.

      I’m not interested in getting into conjecture about whether he used something he shouldn’t have. What I’ll say is to look at this HR totals:
      15 – 18 – 20 – 39 (age 26) – 21 – 31 – 43 – 34 – 42 – 47 (Enron Park opens) – 39 – 31 – 39 – 37 – 3

      That’s not unrealistic performance – it’s consistency.


    • Good!! He did what was asked of him, and excelled!! OP….. Kazmir is holding out for a 4yr contract. I hope Luhnow passes on that, he didn’t show me all that much this year.


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