HOUSTON - APRIL 08: Former Houston Astro Craig Biggio looks on during batting practice before the game against the Florida Marlins at Minute Maid Park on April 8, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
For game seven on the season we'll be discussing one of the greatest Astro players in franchise history.
Craig Biggio did not start with the number seven; he actually started with the number four. He was forced to give up that number when the Astros traded for Steve Lombardozzi, before the 1989 season (McTaggart, 2008).
For the next 19 years of his professional career he wore number seven, and he'll be the last to wear it too.
There are two years which coincide with his jersey number: His final year, 2007 and his best year, 1997. I am confident everyone is familiar with the highlights from Biggio's final year: the quest for 3000, the last time he and Biggio stood together to be recognized by the fans, the final at bat in which he was thrown out by half a step. It was a bright spot in what was a disastrous year for Astro fans.
So I don't want to focus on Biggio's final year, Instead, I want to focus on his 1997 season; quite possibly Biggio's best year.
In the '97 season he lead the league in plate appearances, runs scored and hit by pitch. His adjusted on base plus slugging (OPS+) was 143. Clack recently had an excellent article discussing weighted on base average (wOBA), in that article he pointed out that a wOBA .400 is outstanding, Biggio posted a .410 wOBA that year
Biggio finished fourth in MVP voting, but according to FanGraphs, actually lead the league in wins above replacement (WAR). The MVP for that year is Larry Walker and rightfully so he posted a ridiculous .720 slugging percentage, leading to a league leading .494 wOBA. Walker finished tied for second in WAR with Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, all three finished the year with a 9.4 WAR.*
*I should not that a .3 difference in WAR is insignificant when debating who is a better player. Barry Bonds finished with a 9.2 WAR and could of easily been thrown into the conversation for best year by a position player that year.
Jeff Bagwell, posted a 8.3 WAR and a .428 wOBA, and actually finished third just ahead of Biggio in the MVP voting.
If you're wondering why Biggio finished ahead of sluggers who had a better wOBA than him, you'll need to look at Biggio's field rating which was a career high. Defensive metrics have not been kind to Biggio who has four gold gloves. In 1997, however, he must of sold his soul to the sabermetrics gods because he posted a 19 in totalzone rating (TZ). The year before it was 2 the year after it was -7.
For whatever reason he pleased the gods and this resulted in him leading the league in WAR in 1997. Again not that it makes him THE best player that year, but he's in the discussion and can be considered one of the top five players for the 1997 season.