The other day, I realized I only have 2 pieces of signed MLB memorabilia. Both of which, are from legendary Astros second basemen. I grew up in the era of Biggio and Bagwell, and more than anything Biggio is a reason I am a fan of the Astros. But I have to admit, Altuve has become the face of the Astros and my favorite player across another legendary stretch of baseball. This is obviously not a new discussion, but with the MLB lock-out still dragging on, I decided to put the two legends head to head and then ask TCB readers to choose between the two beloved icons.
Altuve just finished his 2021 season at 31 years old, having played in 1,437 games. Biggio started later than Altuve and had completed 1,379 games through his age 31 season which seemed close enough to make the fun comparisons.
Happy birthday, Craig Biggio!— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) December 14, 2020
The Hall of Famer is one of the best to play 2B. pic.twitter.com/hEa80XrKp9
Altuve: .308/.360/.462 - 164 HR, 340 2B, 29 3B, 639 RBI, 261 SB, 125 OPS+
Biggio: .288/.377/.426 - 116 HR, 282 2B, 36 3B, 545 RBI, 268 SB, 123 OPS+
The first thing I noted were how remarkably similar their stat lines have been through this point in their career. While Altuve has always hit for a better average, Biggio more than compensated for that with his ability to get on base. The power differential is notably in Altuve’s favor but the fact that Biggio had ~400 less plate appearances and played in the Astrodome off-sets that to me.
Altuve: MVP, 7-time All-Star, Gold Glove, 5x Silver Slugger
Biggio: 6x All-Star, 4x Gold Glove, 4x Silver Slugger
Although I hate awards as they’re more of a popularity contest than truly reflective of value, I know a lot of people put weight on them. Altuve clearly has more accolades than Biggio, with the MVP win carrying a lot of weight (closest Biggio came was 4th place). I will say Biggio’s 4 consecutive gold gloves are more impressive when you consider that Catcher was his natural position.
Altuve: 40.3 fWAR, 41.6 bWAR
Biggio: 42.4 fWAR, 44.6 bWAR
From a WAR perspective, Biggio outpaced Altuve to this point in their careers on both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference’s iterations of WAR. What may surprise is that Biggio’s most valuable season (1997) resulted in a monstrous 9.3 WAR, which outpaced Altuve’s 7.6 WAR MVP season 20 years later.
Honestly, these numbers were a lot closer than I expected them to be. The differential in power is overstated as the Astrodome was truly a nightmare to hit in. Biggio had two more elite seasons remaining at this point, adding another All-Star, Silver Slugger and two additional MVP vote getting seasons. His performance began to trail off giving more of league average production, which was likely somewhat boosted with the transition to Enron Field instead of the cavernous Astrodome. Biggio did transition full-time to the outfield for a few years to make room for Jeff Kent.
As for Altuve, there were worrying signs in the 2020 season that age may have come for him. Luckily, it seems that the strange 2020 season were more of a fluke and a product of the craziness of the scandal, personal issues, and just a weird season. His 2021 season resulted in a 130 wRC+, 5.2 WAR, and a return to the elite play we’ve come to expect of him. His projections into 2022 look strong with a 125-133 wRC+, and 3.9-4.8 WAR. Hopefully we will one day see Altuve enshrined in the Hall (although, the Hall itself is a joke at this point). Additionally, bringing home a World Series championship and Altuve’s performance in the post-season may be enough to change TCB voters totals.
It’s a tough choice, but I am truly grateful to have had the pleasure to watch both of these legends play.
Now like a parent of two kids, I’m asking you to choose your favorite.
Who takes the #1 Spot of Astros 2nd Basemen in your heart?
This poll is closed