HOUSTON - JULY 23: Houston Astros hitting coach Jeff Bagwell looks on during batting practice before the Houston Astros play the Cincinnati Reds at Minute Maid Park on July 23 2010 in Houston Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
The day of reckoning is upon us and sadly it appears we're in for a bit of disappointment today. Astros County has been tracking all of the yay and nay votes for Jeff Bagwell, which currently sits at 60.3%. Chris Jaffe at The Hardball Times recently made his annual prediction on Bagwell's percentage which he predicted would be 54%. So there you have it a small bump from last year but not quite there yet.
Today on a day when we should be honoring those that do get in I wanted to do something a little more fun. So, this isn't another piece about the travesty of Bagwell not being elected to the Hall. Nor is it an article bemoaning the inconsistencies of BBWAA writers. No, instead I want to take a different more entertaining approach to Bagwell and the Hall. I wanted to compare him to the other Killer B's in the Hall of Fame.
What I did was look for all Hall of Famers with last name's that started with B. In all, I collected 19 Killer B's currently in the hall, and since I found this information via Baseball Reference we'll be using their their Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic. In terms of WAR Bagwell comes in 5th with 79.9 right behind Dan Brouthers (83.7) and ahead of Johnny Bench (71.3). The top three Killer B's starting at number three is George Brett (85), Wade Boggs (89) and Bert Blyleven (90.1). It took the top Killer B in terms of WAR 14 tries to get into the Hall of Fame; and we complain about Bagwell not getting in on his second try.
I next decided to breakdown the offensive numbers that so many voters tend to look at and compare. This obviously eliminated pitchers Blyleven, Jim Bunning (60.1), Mordecai Brown (56.1) and Chief Bender (38.5) from the discussion, but it also eliminated one position player, Willard Brown.
Now I didn't want to just gloss over Williard Brown who only produced -.8 WAR, so I did a little research. If you haven't guessed by now Brown was a Negro League player. He helped the Kansas City Monarchs to six pennants between 1937 and 1946. He spent two years in the Army during World War II. His -.8 WAR came from 1947 when he batted .179/.179/.269 in 21 games for the St. Louis Browns.
He was a star in the Negro and Puerto Rico Winter League, dubbed Home Run by Josh Gibson and earning the nickname Ese Hombre (The Man) in Puerto Rico. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Negro League Committee in 2006. If you want to read more on Willard Brown I've included the sources for this information after the jump and at the bottom of the article.
Back to Bagwell, let's look at hits next, which seem to be the flashiest statistic for offensive Hall of Fame players. George Brett takes the top spot with 3154 hits followed by Boggs (3010), Jake Beckley (2934), Jesse Burkett (2850), Ernie Banks (2583) and then Bagwell (2314). Craig Biggio, when he makes it into the hall, will be seated comfortably in the second spot. I should note that Jim Bottomley only had one less hit than Bagwell with 2313 and Brouthers had 18 less hits with 2296.
It seems to me that the hit statistic is the premium stat for Hall of Famers with homeruns coming in a close second. Maybe at one point homeruns were the premium stat for Hall of Fame candidates but I think the steroid era has reduced the impact it may have once made. Of course it also depends on what type of player a candidate is, but if you had 500 you were a lock. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore with Mark McGwire and Rafeal Palmerio, but I bet Palmerio get's in before McGwire does because he also has the distinction of passing the 3000 hit mark.
Ernie Banks is the only Killer B with more than 500 home runs, with 512. Bagwell comes in a close second (by Barry Bloom standards) with 449. Johnny Bench (389), Yogi Berra (358) and George Brett (317) are the only other players with more than 300 homeruns.
I want to make note of one other player, Home Run Baker who had 96 home runs. How does a guy get the nick name Home Run with less than a 100 home runs? Lead the league in home runs four years in a row, obviously. Baker lead the league in home runs from 1911 to 1914, his totals were 11, 10, 12 and 9. Ya, different era, his OPS+ for that time frame was 160. Bagwell had a similar OPS+ from 1995 to 1998 with 163. In that four year period he smacked 129 home runs but never lead the league.
That does it for the two more talked about statistics when discussing offensive Hall of Fame candidates, but why stop there. In walks Bagwell ranks second with 1401 just behind Boggs who has 1412. The only other two players above a thousand are Brett (1096) and Burkett (1029).
In runs Bagwell is just four ahead of Boggs with 1517, but ranks 5th behind Burkett (1720), Beckley (1602), Brett (1583) and Brouthers (1523). In stolen bases Bagwell ranks 6th, with 202, behind Burkett (389), Beckley (315), Brouthers (256), Baker (235) and Bresnahan (212). It's interesting note though that all five players ahead of Bagwell all wrapped up their careers before 1925. So in terms of the modern era Bagwell would lead all Killer B's in the hall, notable George Brett who has 201 stolen bases.
I ran into a bit of an issue comparing stolen base percentage, due to the fact that the caught stealing statistic wasn't recorded regularly before 1925. So, I wasn't able to include the top 5 base stealer's in terms of stolen bases. Again Bagwell leads the modern era Killer B's in stolen base percentage with 73%. And again Brett comes in second with 67% followed by Johnny Bench with 61%.
So compared to other Killer B's already in the Hall of Fame Bagwell stands up well. He doesn't lead in either of the flashy categories but I think you get a sense of his worth when taking into account all the other statistics. In fact his OPS+, which takes OPS and adjusts for ball park factors, ranks second behind only Dan Brouthers who has an amazing 170. Brouthers played his ball before the 1900's though, so among modern day players Bagwell has the leading OPS+ and it's not even close. The modern era player behind Bagwell, was George Brett with 135.
Here's the list, and spreadsheet I worked from, of Hall of Famers whose last names start with the letter B.
Hall of Fame: http://baseballhall.org/hof/brown-willard
Negro League Baseball Players Association: http://www.nlbpa.com/brown__willard.html