Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bagwell's alleged power surge

Note: After posting this (Not Hank) Aaron pointed out that he had a nearly identical post two years ago. As hard as it may be to believe, I did not have his post in mind as I wrote this. Nevertheless, I'll leave my post up as an example of how easy it is to refute such easily researched fallacies.

At this point we all know that there is a non-insignificant block of Hall of Fame voters who will not vote for Bagwell because of suspected PED use. And we all know that this suspicion is backed up by no proof whatsoever. No failed drug tests. No mention in the Mitchell Report. No ties to Balco. No syringes in Diet Coke cans. Nothing. The only definitive mark against Bagwell is that he hit home runs in the 90's. To that point, a couple of the things I see consistently referenced as "proof" that he illegally bulked up is that he only hit 4 home runs in AA New Britain and that scouts didn't believe he had power potential. Let's address these two issues.

From 1983 to 1994, teams in New Britain played their home games at Beehive Field. Beehive is described as having an "expansive" outfield and thick air, due to having been built on a swamp, and was widely regarded as an extreme pitchers' park. The New Britain Red Sox averaged just 58 homers per season AS A TEAM during that time. In fact, from 1988 to 1991 the team fared even worse, averaging just 37 homers per season. Again, that's the entire team total. Even further, in 1990 the team hit only 31 home runs ALL SEASON. That's interesting, because that's the year Bagwell was in New Britain. His 4 home runs that season was actually second on the team, just one behind the team HR leader that season. From 1988 to 1991 not a single New Britain hitter managed double digit home runs. So, sure, Jeff Bagwell didn't hit home runs at AA New Britain. Neither did anyone else. What Bagwell DID do, though, is tie for the league lead in doubles with 34 and total bases with 220.

Now, about those scouting reports. If you're a long time reader, you'll remember a short lived series called Historical Scouting Reports. If not, just know that the HOF made thousands of historical scouting reports available to the public a couple years ago. It's too bad Bagwell isn't among those easily searched, free to read reports. I guess we'll never know what those scouts really thought. I guess we'll have to take those feckless reporters' word for it.

Oh wait, I found them!

In April of 1989 Padres scout Donald Labossiere said, among other things, that Bagwell had "Big strong legs" and "power to all fields." Then, later, he reiterates "His bat is what everyone likes because he can hit for ave. and power." Later that summer, Labossiere scouted Bagwell again. "He can hit for ave. and with power." In his summary he suggests that Bagwell's "bat alone will get him drafted." Also of note is that Bagwell's coach told the scout that "despite being the best player on his team, he had the best work habits."

Also in 1989, Angels scout Jon Neiderer saw Bagwell play and was even more impressed. Neiderer gave Bagwell a 60 PRESENT power grade. He described Bagwell as having a "compact, very muscular build. Big, thick shoulders and upper body. Stocky lower half - heavily muscled legs and butt."

Anyone else need a minute before continuing? That sounds like the beginning of some disturbing fan fiction!

Continuing on, Neiderer labels Bagwell as a line drive power home run hitter with a "smooth, fluid, powerful swing." In case I haven't proven my point yet, let's also note that Bagwell is described as having "explosive line drive power to all fields - balls he hits really take off." Neiderer sums up by saying "He's got a chance to hit .300 with power in any league, right up to the majors...everything he hits is hard."

Sadly, most people who are willing to judge based on rumors or suspicions without requiring a shred of evidence will dismiss the facts in this post. Hopefully one year from now we can be equally dismissive of them as we're booking our trips to Cooperstown for July of 2017.