Like I did last week with Craig Biggio, this week I'll be taking a look at Jeff Bagwell partly because some members of the BBWAA didn't watch enough baseball and partly because the world would be a better place with more Bagwell GIFs.
I found quite a few highlights of Bagwell hitting a home run, naturally, and I even found one of him stealing a base, but what I was unable to find was some of his outstanding defensive plays. He only won one Gold Glove award in his career, however, the three years we have of advanced defensive metrics on Bagwell, at the end of his career, had him as above average at first base. That was with a degenerated throwing shoulder. Make no mistake the numbers and eyes of those who watched Bagwell say he was a fine defensive player.
Jeff Bagwell the base stealer
I lead with this because one of the aspects of Bagwell's game that gets overlooked was his ability to steal bases. He was not a fast guy, but he was intelligent and in 1997 he became the first full-time first basemen to steal 30 bags and hit at least 30 home runs (he hit 43 home runs that year).
Bagwell stole 202 bases in his career.
Jeff Bagwell the unorthodox
Another thing that made Bagwell unique was his batting stance.
Crouched wide and low, Bagwell would take a might swing and hit the ball a very long way.
Broadcasters would talk about Bagwell's stance as a "what-not-to-do" example for kids learning to play baseball. Bagwell even recognized that it was unorthodox and not something you want to teach kids. Like every other Astros fan, this, of course, didn't stop me from trying the stance in softball. I was what you would call a singles hitter.
As you can see, he didn't use his legs a whole lot as he swung and relied more on his upper body strength. What's even more mind boggling is that he had a hitch in his swing and still managed to get hit after hit. 2314, to be exact.
Jeff Bagwell the hitter
Watch this next GIF closely and tell me what you notice.
Pull, opposite, pull, opposite. Bagwell could hit it to the left side, the right side or even up the middle. Over his career Bagwell racked up 1528 RBI. Good for 47th all-time. He's also 30th all-time in wRC+.
Jeff Bagwell the home run hitter
Of course you already knew that Bagwell hit a lot of home runs, but did you know that he hit three home runs in a game three times. He first did it against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994 and then again in Chicago in 1999 and 1999. First he did it against the Cubs on April 21
and then again on June 9 against the White Sox.
Jeff Bagwell the legend
Over his career Jeff Bagwell his 449 home runs, which is tied for 36th all-time, but home runs aren't the only thing that define him. He was a good defensive first basemen, an intelligent base stealer and an even better teammate. His 79.5 rWAR ranks 37th all-time, behind Charlie Gehringer and just ahead of Dan Brouthers. Both players are in the Hall of Fame. Frank Thomas, whom Bagwell shares a birthday with, breezed into the hall this year with a 73.6 rWAR. Thomas rWAR ranks 51st all-time.
Here's Bagwell hitting his 400th home run in Cincinnati:
If you have or know of any other video footage I can use for Jeff Bagwell please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org