HOUSTON - AUGUST 30: Houston Astros hitting coach Jeff Bagwell #5 looks on from the dugout at Minute Maid Park during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals on August 30 2010 in Houston Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
In looking back at these pieces, it's not surprising that this is the fourth time Jeff Bagwell has popped up. He's been profiled for his game-winning hit in '05 and twice for his excellent slugging percentage. This time, he's here because he drove in 120 runs in 1996.
That's significant because it kicks off a run of six straight years where he drove in at least 100 runs and scored 100 runs. But, the reason it stuck out to me is that it may have been the first season he showed that he could be historically great.
Now, it seems silly to say that, because Bags had already won an MVP award by that point along with a Rookie of the Year award. He had also been listed on the MVP ballot basically every season since his second season. Still, his numbers seemed to go from very good to great in this one season.
For one thing, it was the first time he posted a weighted On Base Average of .400 or more in a full season. It was the second time he'd played in all 162 games (and kicked off a stretch where he played in 324 straight games from 1996 through 1997). His walk rate went from very good to outstanding, as he posted a career-high 18.8 percent rate.
His batting average and on-base percentage both reached career highs this year, as he also posted his highest batting average on balls in play this season. It was the first of five straight years when he posted isolated power averages over .250. Oh, and he probably should have posted his career-high in fWAR, but for a sudden drop in his Fielding Runs total that season. In the year before and the year after, he posted Fielding Runs at 8 or more. In 1996? It was down to 2. That deflates his very high fWAR of 7.7, which is still his fourth-highest total in his career.
Did I mention he hit 30 home runs and stole 20 bases? That was a career high in steals and the first year he broke 20 steals in a single season. Oh, and he also led the league with 48 doubles. Yet, he finished just ninth in the MVP voting because the Astros team disappointed a bit down the stretch and finished outside the playoffs.
Oh, one more historical tidbit. Only 10 players in the history of the game have gone 20-30-40 with steals, home runs and doubles while also posting an OBP over .400. Bagwell did it twice, both in '96 and in '97. He is the only player in MLB history to do it twice.