Monday, November 29, 2010

Does Bagwell belong in the Hall of Fame?

Brian McTaggart has an article today on Bagwell's candidacy for the Hall of Fame - as this is his first time on the ballot. If you ask any Astros fan whether or not Bagwell should be enshrined in Cooperstown, we can guarantee you that he would meet the required 75% to get in. But Base Ball (yes, two words) Writers aren't typically Astros fans. So we must think about this objectively.

First, some stats. Bagwell basically played from 1991-2004. He played in 39 games in 2005, but that doesn't really count (too much, anyway). So here's what you get in those 13 full seasons - counting 1994 as a full season.

2111 games, 7697 ABs, .297/.408/.542, 446 homers, 1510 RBI, .948 OPS, 149 OPS+.

Rookie of the Year in 1991, MVP in 1994. Four-time All-Star. Top 10 in MVP voting six times. Top 5 in MVP voting three times.

Baseball-Reference's Gray Ink test gives Bagwell 157 points. The average Hall of Famer has a Gray Ink score of 144. B-R's Hall of Fame Monitor gives him 150 points, where a "Likely Hall of Famer" comes in at 100. And B-R's Hall of Fame Standards scores him a 59 (36th-highest of all time), where an Average HOFer is set at 50.

So by those standards, sure. How about Similarity Scores? The players Bagwell scores most similarly to is, in order, Chipper Jones, Carlos Delgado, Frank Thomas, Fred McGriff, Andres Galarraga, Willie Stargell, Vladimir Guerrero, Orlando Cepeda, Jason Giambi, and Jim Thome. Of those ten, Stargell and Cepeda are already Hall of Famers.

But the problem is the era in which he played, and it's an era that is basically denoted with an implied asterisk. Anyone who put up big numbers from 1991-2004 (and whose body subsequently broke down fairly rapidly) is looked at with one eyebrow at half staff.

Still, if you're of the opinion that he should be considered innocent until proven guilty (which would be mighty American of you. Well, 1791 American. Not necessarily 2010 American), then he needs to be considered against other 1Bs of his time. So let's look at that:

Scratch that. I had a table all put together comparing Bagwell's Avg/OPS/SLG and OPS+ to all MLB 1Bs but it was such a large set of numbers that it was actually much more difficult to read. The important thing to note is that Bagwell's OPS+ was higher than the average for MLB 1Bs from 1991-2003, and his 115 OPS+ in 2004 was just a tick lower than the average tOPS+ for MLB 1B of 116.

Career WAR of 79.9 is 57th of all-time.
Career OBP of .408 is 40th of all-time.
Career SLG of .540 is 35th of all-time.
Career OPS of .948 is 21st of all-time.
Career OPS+ of 149 is 37th of all-time.
Finished in the Top 10 in OPS+ nine times (including eight in a row from 1993-2000)
Career 1788 Runs Created is 37th of all-time.
Career 619 Adjusted Batting Runs is 21st of all-time.

Now, you can make statistics say whatever you want them to say, but in just about every offensive facet of the game - even when taking the era into account - he was among the best first basemen in the game for 13 years.

Honestly, did you really think you would read an Astros blog that said Bagwell didn't belong in the Hall of Fame? Of course, "Does he belong?" and "Will he belong?" are two totally separate questions.