Happy Hall of Fame day to all those still paying attention to baseball a month and half out from pitchers and catchers reporting for duty.
We've gotten some really great articles posted the last few days discussing the Hall of Fame and our beloved Astros. Coincidentally enough we have two horses in the race for the Hall of Fame Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, both had fantastic careers and are locks to get in in the future. A majority of writers agree with me as the latest ballot polls show Biggio and Bagwell as the leading vote getters. Unfortunately for Biggio and Bagwell, a majority of writers writing your name on the ballot doesn't get you elected, 75% does. And while Biggio and Bagwell are the leading vote getters it appears they'll just make it or fall just short of induction into Cooperstown.
The first, is that Biggio and Bagwell were overall pretty terrible in the playoffs:
Craig Biggio, .234/.295/.323 in 40 playoff games.
Jeff Bagwell, .226/.364/.321 in 33 playoff games.
Now, 185 plate appearances (PA) for Biggio and 129 plate appearances (PA) for Bagwell are a great example of the term small sample size, or SSS for short. Small sample size essentially means there's not enough data to make a definitive conclusion about a players ability. For hitters, 500 plate appearances is the ideal sample size for analysis, at 500 PA most hitting statistics have stabilized. Biggio and Bagwell for there careers have over 21,000 PA from which to analyze how good they were as players, yet, some use less than 200 PA to make an argument against their inclusion into the Hall of Fame.
I understand it's the playoffs and maybe we should give playoff appearances a little more weight even then there's still a huge gap in sample size. I'm all for giving extra credit to Jack Morris or Curt Schilling for 10 shutout innings or a dominating outing that includes bloody sock. It is the Hall of Fame not the Hall of Statistics, I get that, but giving extra credit doesn't mean it should define the argument for or against their inclusion into the Hall of Fame. So unfortunately Biggio and Bagwell's playoff career is a negative, that's fine because we're still only looking at one side of the argument.
During the Killer B era the Astros played in the playoffs:
The St. Louis Cardinals twice in the National League Championship Series.
And the Chicago White Sox once in the World Series.
Instead of addressing each individual series lets focus on the five times the Astros faced the Braves.
The first three series with the Braves (1997, 1999, 2001) Biggio and Bagwell struggled to hit for a .200 batting average which is bad, in fact it's really bad, but you have to take into consideration who they were facing. Astros hitters faced Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. I'm not trying to make excuses for Biggio and Bagwell, they should have hit, but when everything is taken into consideration there is a reason why they didn't hit. Taking on perennial Cy Young candidates is no east task and many hitters would not have fared much better against that trio of pitchers.
The two years that Biggio and Bagwell had success against the Braves in the playoffs (2004 and 2005) only John Smoltz was still with the team and he was in the bullpen. Biggio and Bagwell's playoff record should certainly be taken into consideration but only with the correct weight and context.
The other argument against I want to address only deals with Bagwell and has a small link to suspicions surrounding his use of PEDs. In 1990 Bagwell hit only four homruns for the Red Sox at AA New Britain. In 1991 he hit 15 homeruns in 100 more plate appearances with the Astros. Was it PEDs? Or could it have been the ballpark he was playing in? Bagwell's four homeruns for New Britain was second on the team to Eric Wedge, who hit five.
Bagwell's 880 OPS with New Britain led a team which was averaging a .649 OPS. Among Eastern League hitters Bagwell's 880 OPS was second in the league to Mitch Lyden's .896 OPS. All hitters in the league were averaging a .662 OPS. New Britian, and for that matter the Eastern League itself, was a pitchers haven. Bagwell was already a very good hitter and one of the league leaders offensively before he was traded to the Astros. Simply comparing Bagwell's four homeruns in the minors to his 15 in the majors and accusing him of PEDs is misguided and flat out wrong.