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— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Monday, February 06, 2012

Craig Biggio

Eligible in 2013.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 06, 2012 at 08:27 AM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 06, 2012 at 08:40 AM (#4054413)
I think Bill James got him pretty right. Biggio didn't need to reach 3,000 hits for the HoM crowd, either.
   2. Chris Fluit Posted: February 06, 2012 at 09:35 AM (#4054424)
What did Bill James say?
   3. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: February 06, 2012 at 09:37 AM (#4054427)
   4. Chris Fluit Posted: February 06, 2012 at 12:36 PM (#4054582)
Thanks.
   5. DanG Posted: February 06, 2012 at 12:52 PM (#4054604)
Second basemen with 6.5 WAR in a season, past 35 years

Rk            Player WAR/pos OPSRfield  PA Year Age  Tm Lg   R HR RBI   BA
1        Ben Zobrist     7.1  149     15 599 2009  28 TBR AL  91 27  91 .297
2         Bret Boone     7.1  140      5 705 2003  34 SEA AL 111 35 117 .294
3         Bret Boone     9.3  153     12 690 2001  32 SEA AL 118 37 141 .331
4        Chase Utley     6.6  146      8 613 2007  28 PHI NL 104 22 103 .332
5        Chase Utley     6.6  135      8 707 2008  29 PHI NL 113 33 104 .292
6        Chase Utley     7.7  137      8 687 2009  30 PHI NL 112 31  93 .282
7    Chuck Knoblauch     6.5  136      9 629 1995  26 MIN AL 107 11  63 .333
8    Chuck Knoblauch     8.8  143     11 701 1996  27 MIN AL 140 13  72 .341
9       Craig Biggio     6.6  141     
-2 673 1995  29 HOU NL 123 22  77 .302
10      Craig Biggio     6.6  139     
-7 738 1998  32 HOU NL 123 20  88 .325
11      Craig Biggio     9.6  143     19 744 1997  31 HOU NL 146 22  81 .309
12    Dustin Pedroia     6.8  131      9 731 2011  27 BOS AL 102 21  91 .307
13   Edgardo Alfonzo     6.7  147      1 650 2000  26 NYM NL 109 25  94 .324
14         Jeff Kent     6.6  147      3 682 2002  34 SFG NL 102 37 108 .313
15         Jeff Kent     7.9  162      1 695 2000  32 SFG NL 114 33 125 .334
16      Lou Whitaker     6.5  133      4 720 1983  26 DET AL  94 12  72 .320
17      Lou Whitaker     6.9  141     11 572 1991  34 DET AL  94 23  78 .279
18      Marcus Giles     8.2  136     22 635 2003  25 ATL NL 101 21  69 .316
19      Mark Loretta     6.8  138      1 707 2004  32 SDP NL 108 16  76 .335
20    Roberto Alomar     7.8  150     
-4 677 2001  33 CLE AL 113 20 100 .336
21    Roberto Alomar     7.9  139      8 694 1999  31 CLE AL 138 24 120 .323
22     Ryne Sandberg     6.6  140      0 675 1990  30 CHC NL 116 40 100 .306
23     Ryne Sandberg     7.0  138      6 684 1991  31 CHC NL 104 26 100 .291
24     Ryne Sandberg     7.1  146      9 687 1992  32 CHC NL 100 26  87 .304
25     Ryne Sandberg     8.5  140     12 700 1984  24 CHC NL 114 19  84 .314 

In 1997 Biggio had the best season by a 2B since Joe Morgan's prime. James has him with 38 win shares that year.
   6. base ball chick Posted: February 06, 2012 at 02:26 PM (#4054727)
there is something definitely wrong with the fielding part of WAR when jeff kent is positive and biggio is negative
   7. DL from MN Posted: February 06, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4054769)
Ranking the 2B

1) Collins, Eddie
2) Hornsby, Rogers
3) Lajoie, Nap
4) Morgan, Joe - you can rearrange the top 4 depending on defensive value, timelining, etc but these are the top 4 guys
5) Gehringer, Charlie
6) Robinson, Jackie - Gehringer v Robinson is a fair fight
7) Grich, Bobby
8) Frisch, Frankie - next tier, interesting how one is known as being too easy with inductions for the VC and the other is known as being treated unfairly by the VC
9) Carew, Rodney - Carew has a great peak at 2B but his good career numbers are from playing a lot of 1B
10) Whitaker, Lou - The BBWAA are morons
11) Ross Barnes - a different era, almost a different position so hard to compare
12) CRAIG BIGGIO
13) Ryne Sandberg - Sandberg has the better peak argument v. Biggio
14) Billy Herman
15) JEFF KENT
16) Bobby Doerr
17) Joe Gordon
18) Frank Grant
19) Roberto Alomar - Doerr to Alomar are bunched all together
20) Willie Randolph


   8. DL from MN Posted: February 06, 2012 at 03:18 PM (#4054794)
I would like to see a spirited Biggio v. Kent v. Alomar discussion in this thread. I have them as Biggio, Kent, Alomar but only because the defensive numbers I have see Alomar 3 wins WORSE than Kent.

Career BWAA2 BRWAA2 (only positive WAR seasons counted)
Biggio 36.2 5.9 ttl 42.1
Kent 34.8 -0.8 ttl 34.0
Alomar 27.2 4.2 ttl 31.4

Those numbers make sense to me - Biggio and Kent are roughly even offensively until you consider that Biggio was a great baserunner and Jeff Kent was not.

Now we get into bizzaro world where the defensive numbers are inversely related to reputation

Career FWAA2
Biggio -8.6
Kent 3.0
Alomar -0.8

The fangraphs numbers
Biggio -67.0 (only 1997 is a good year)
Kent -18.4 (but +10.7 from 1994-2007)
Alomar -17.0 (only positive 1998-2000)

So fangraphs has them roughly in the same order Kent, Alomar, Biggio

Does anyone have a different defensive perspective? The hard part is going to be adding up contributions at OF and C for Biggio and 3B for Kent. I'd also love to see someone dig into a peak / prime analysis.
   9. AROM Posted: February 06, 2012 at 06:35 PM (#4054983)
On the article linked in #3,

That article by James never sat right with me. He shows that Biggio hit worse against pitchers with ERAs under 3.50 and killed pitchers above 5.50. Obviously it is expected that hitters will hit better against bad pitchers, it's pretty much what defines them as bad pitchers. Bill states that Biggio has a larger than normal split here, but doesn't really offer much context. Then he connects this with Biggio's poor postseason record (which is a fact) and with an inability to hit in the clutch (not really supported, and I'm unconvinced looking at bbref.)

On top of this he provides a theory that Biggio was less than the sum of his numbers because he predominantly fattened up his numbers against bad pitchers in unimportant situations. I'm not convinced that any of the numbers he's shown are anything more than coincidences. If you can prove that poor clutch hitting and postseason hitting can be predicted by the size of your splits vs good and bad pitching, fine. But he does nothing of the sort, just gives us a sample size of one.
   10. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: February 07, 2012 at 06:34 AM (#4055259)
The post-1987 fielding numbers in my WARP are usually pretty reliable--they're a weighted, regressed average of the best available fielding statistics for each year (a mixture of Retrosheet and Zone Rating data) that best matches the play-by-play numbers available in later years. Leaving aside Biggio's fielding as a catcher, which we can infer was bad because he was moved off the position, here's what I have for him. The first six numbers are all range + errors (Chris Dial's Zone Rating-Based RSpt, Dan Fox's Simple Fielding Runs, Sean Smith's TotalZone, Mitchel Lichtman's UZR, David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range, and John Dewan's Plus/Minus), the last is double plays as per Sean Smith's data. The final number is my recentered, weighted, regressed fielding runs score. I've averaged ZR and TZ to come up with an estimated SFR score for 1999, which is missing, in order to calculate Biggio's total.

Year  ZR SFR  TZ UZR PMR +/- DP Total
1992  
--14  -4             -4   -12
1993   9   3  
-6              2     9
1994  
-5  -7  -7              0    -5
1995  
--16   1             -4   -12
1996  
--16   5             -4   -12
1997   9   3  21             
-1     6
1998   6  
-5  -1             -7    -5
1999   8       5              1     8
2000  
-1  -2  -2             -1     2
2001 
-20 -10 -10  -9         -2   -11
2002  
--10 -17  -2         -1    -2
2005  
-7  -1   2  -6  12 -11  0    -2
2006   5   8  15  13  
-1      0     7
TOTL 
-21 -60   2            -21   -29 


Well, the big thing is that SFR hates Biggio's glove. ZR and TZ think he was pretty close to average. Double plays pull him back down to somewhat below. What a strange defensive renaissance he seems to have had in 2006. There are some disturbing discrepancies in the numbers--e.g. Dewan vs. PMR in 2006, SFR vs. TZ in 1996--but basically they suggest he was an average-to-below second baseman. I'd need a very convincing scouting-based argument to give him much more credit for his fielding than the statistics suggest.
   11. DL from MN Posted: February 07, 2012 at 11:02 AM (#4055364)
1999/2000 is the Astrodome to Minute Maid Park cutover. I've been wondering if there are turf/grass issues with the numbers for Biggio and Alomar.

Adam Everett shows up in 2003 and Biggio moves to the OF. Up until then his double play partners were Julio Lugo, Orlando Miller, Andujar Cedeno and Tim Bogar.

   12. DL from MN Posted: February 07, 2012 at 05:34 PM (#4055839)
5 year nonconsecutive peak comparison

PLAYER WARP2 WAPA2 years
Biggio 31.9 23.2 1993-95, 97-98
Kent 27.7 20.5 1998, 2000-02, 2005
Alomar 30.4 18.9 1992-93, 96, 99, 2001

Alomar was unfortunate to line up his peak years in an environment where the average 2B was really good.
   13. lieiam Posted: February 08, 2012 at 08:21 PM (#4056844)
I was intrigued by DL from MN's comparison of Biggio, Alomar, and Kent... and then decided to add in Sandberg, Grich, Whitaker, and Randolph (simply since I remember all of them and I figured the more the merrier).

Anyway, breaking down 7 uber-stat systems into percentage of the leader of the 7 2B in question leads to this (fgWAR, brWAR, bpWARP1, drWARP1, bgWAR, bgWS, bgWSAB):
Biggio 95.77
Grich 95.17
Whitaker 92.37
Alomar 90.49
Sandberg 83.60
Kent 83.43
Randolph 80.37


Whitaker is 1st in fgWAR & brWAR.
Grich is 1st in bpWARP1 & drWARP1.
Biggio is 1st in bgWAR, bgWS, & bgWSAB.

Anyway, I'm not saying this is how I would rank them... but it would be my starting point.
   14. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: February 08, 2012 at 08:26 PM (#4056846)
Biggio should sail into any Hall but I'd take Whitaker.
   15. theorioleway Posted: February 08, 2012 at 08:43 PM (#4056853)
Regarding the difference between the defensive reputations of Biggio, Kent, and Alomar and their defensive stats, here is a possible theory (albeit I dunno how likely): Biggio was viewed as a scrappy, gritty, diving all over the place type of player. It seems like he is a good defender as he is exuding maximum effort, even if he isn't getting to as many ground balls as a normal 2B. In a vacuum, if you are told a catcher is converted to 2B, it seems more than plausible that he would be below average defensively. Alomar could have a similar explanation: he made all his plays so effortlessly and flashy that it seemed hard to believe that he wasn't making as many plays as an average 2B. For Kent, the opposite could be true: As a power hitter and without the grace of Alomar or the grittiness of Biggio, and who made plays through great positioning rather than athletic ability, it would be easy to conclude he was not a good defensive 2B, even if he ends up making roughly the same amount of plays as the average 2B.

Alternatively, you could believe the Baseball Gauge defensive numbers, which has them ranked from best to worst Alomar, Biggio, Kent (although all are positive since it is practically impossible to have a career negative number for defense via BG). Or, another source, the DRA rankings (solely at 2B) have Alomar as +21, Kent at -11 (which seems reasonable), and then Biggio at a whopping -111 (and that is just 2B--no C or OF there).

With the error bars inherent in measuring defense, I think you could bump Alomar up to being around average-to slightly above average on defense, and you could keep Kent at being a bit below average. I think it is probably tough to rank Biggio any more than average, and probably would be best to rank him a somewhat below average. This definitely hurts Biggio's all-time ranking among 2B, but not enough to keep him from being unworthy of the HOM.
   16. DanG Posted: February 08, 2012 at 09:39 PM (#4056876)
FWIW, when Win Shares came out ten years ago (WTF?! it's been ten years?) James assigned these letter grades:

B+ Alomar
B- Biggio
D+ Kent
   17. Howie Menckel Posted: February 08, 2012 at 09:48 PM (#4056882)

"Leaving aside Biggio's fielding as a catcher, which we can infer was bad because he was moved off the position"

I don't think that's a fair general assumption, even if it may be true here. In some cases, if a hitter is good enough and if a team is strong at catcher, it may expect a net gain from moving the Biggio type elsewhere.

   18. OCF Posted: February 08, 2012 at 10:20 PM (#4056896)
A general assumption: a player who hits and runs like Biggio, or hits like Ted Simmons, will probably have a longer career and greater offensive production if he plays some position other than catcher. The flip side is that a player who hits like Bob Boone could easily have a longer career by staying at catcher, because if you make him a 3B or something, he'll lose his job to a better hitter.
   19. Mike Humphreys Posted: February 09, 2012 at 08:21 PM (#4057628)
theorioleway,

Thanks for mentioning DRA. Wizardry has a two-page essay on Biggio, why he probably cost his teams about 100 runs at second base, and why the other estimates are too compressed towards the mean of zero. Ignoring the 3000 hits, the pursuit of which probably hurt his teams, I would support his HofF or HofM candidacy, but its a close case. Basically one true and genuinely outstanding MVP-candidate season (1997), but no others, and then a bunch of all-star quality seasons.
   20. tjm1 Posted: February 12, 2012 at 08:16 AM (#4059199)
A general assumption: a player who hits and runs like Biggio, or hits like Ted Simmons, will probably have a longer career and greater offensive production if he plays some position other than catcher. The flip side is that a player who hits like Bob Boone could easily have a longer career by staying at catcher, because if you make him a 3B or something, he'll lose his job to a better hitter.


A lot of it also depends on how well the guy can play another position, and which position that is. Biggio was turned into a good second baseman. That's probably more valuable than an average defensive catcher. On the other hand, compare the movements of Brandon Inge and Mike Piazza. Inge was a pretty good catcher, but a stellar third baseman and a decent centerfielder. Piazza was a bad catcher, but a terrible first baseman. Hence Inge was moved off catcher early, and Piazza played only half a season at first.
   21. OCF Posted: February 12, 2012 at 10:41 AM (#4059224)
In the particular case of Piazza, the question of how well he could play 1B went entirely uninvestigated until it was very late in his career and his body had already taken a large amount of pounding at catcher. And that was largely because Piazza himself fiercely resisted suggestions that he should play elsewhere. Joe Torre always had a fair number of games elsewhere, and had his best offensive year playing 3B - where he was pretty bad defensively.
   22. theorioleway Posted: February 18, 2012 at 03:54 PM (#4064097)
DL #7-8: Ok, I’ll bite.

Via B-R: Biggio > Alomar > Kent for career WAR
Via FG: Biggio > Alomar > Kent for career WAR
Via BG: Biggio > Alomar > Kent for career WAR

There’s something to be said for consistency there, but obviously we should look deeper than just this. I’ll focus with the FG numbers, but I think you’d get basically the same story from any of the three systems above.

Biggio career wRC+: 117
Alomar career wRC+: 121
Kent career wRC+: 122

Biggio top wRC+: 153
Alomar top wRC+: 155
Kent top wRC+: 156

Seasons 150+ wRC+:
Biggio: 3
Alomar: 1
Kent: 1

Seasons 140-149 wRC+:
Biggio: 1
Alomar: 3
Kent: 1

Seasons 130-139 wRC+:
Biggio: 0
Alomar: 2
Kent: 2

Seasons 125-129 wRC+:
Biggio: 2
Alomar: 1
Kent: 2

Seasons 120-124 wRC+:
Biggio: 2
Alomar: 1
Kent: 4

So while Kent has the highest career wRC+ and single season wRC+, he has half as many seasons with a 140 or greater wRC+ than Biggio and Alomar. Kent’s ten seasons of a 120 or greater wRC+ fare nicely to Biggio’s and Alomar’s eight such seasons (and speak to an underrated consistency), but those seasons don’t quite have the overall impact.

In terms of defense, all three get slammed at the end of their careers. 35.4 of Biggio’s career 67 fielding runs below average occur from 2003-2007. 14 of Alomar’s 17 career fielding runs below average occur from 2002-2004. Kent accumulated -18.4 fielding runs for his career, but was -36.4 from 2005-2008. However, the key is how the three were hitting at those points in their career. Biggio’s highest wRC+ from 2003-2007 was 108. Alomar’s top wRC+ from 2002-2004 was 93. Kent, however, was still a productive hitter from 2005-2007, sporting wRC+s of 133, 121, and 125. His wRC+ of 96 in 2008 is still better than Alomar’s top wRC+ in his final three seasons. Unfortunately, for Kent this means that a decent amount of the time, he is not matching good offensive and defensive seasons together to create a great season.

This is most evident when comparing their single season WAR numbers. Biggio had four 5+ WAR seasons (although one was a whopping 9.7 in 1997, when he combined his best hitting season with being 19 runs above average defensively). Alomar had six 5+ seasons (although nowhere near the season Biggio had in 1997). Kent, on the other hand, only had three 5+ seasons, and his best was 2000, when he was worth 7.6 WAR (this coincided with his best hitting season as well, but he was only worth one run above average defensively). If you lower the standard to 4.5+ seasons, Biggio and Alomar both have seven such seasons, while Kent only has five. Kent played his best defense early in his career, but he didn’t have his first offensive season with a wRC+ above 120 until 1998 when he was 30 (a year where he didn’t play as well in the field, being 6 runs below average). Not coincidentally, 1998 was his first year to reach 4.5 WAR (although he came awfully close the year before when he was 15 runs above average defensively, but only had a 105 wRC+).

While Biggio wasn’t particularly good defensively during his offensive peak/prime with the exception of 1997 (even factoring in his late career fielding troubles, that still means Biggio was 31.6 runs below average defensively over the rest of his career), he still had a slightly better prime than Kent, and considering Biggio racked up an extra 2,966 plate appearances in his career, Biggio gets the edge as having the better career between the two. Alomar also came to the plate 863 times more than Kent, and considering he generally played his best offense and best defense at the same time (if you include 2001, when Alomar was 5 fielding runs below average but had his career best 155 wRC+, then Alomar was +2 defensive runs from 1988-2000), he also rates ahead of Kent. While I still think Kent is worthy of the HOM, he is much more borderline than I originally suspected, and with the plethora of viable candidates coming up, it could be awhile before he rises to be one of the top three or four most worthy.
   23. theorioleway Posted: February 18, 2012 at 05:09 PM (#4064121)
Here is where I would rank the 2B to play in the majors from 1900 onward (sorry, Barnes, McPhee, Childs, Grant, Monroe, but you guys are different beasts for various reasons and for this exercise it is easier to exclude you—although it would obviously be wrong to exclude you from consideration for the HOM). I also didn’t include Carew, since he was as much a 1B as a 2B (although his best years were clearly at 2B).

1. Hornsby
2. Collins
3. Morgan
4. Lajoie
5. Robinson
6. Gehringer
7. Frisch
8. Grich
9. Gordon
10. Biggio
11. Alomar
12. Whitaker
13. Sandberg
14. Herman
15. Kent
16. Doerr
17. Randolph

Seems to me Hornsby and Collins are Tier 1—could go either way reasonably. Morgan and Lajoie are Tier 2—could go either way reasonably. Robinson and Gehringer are Tier 3 and again, could go either way reasonably. Then I think Frisch, Grich, Gordon, Biggio, and Alomar are Tier 4, with that ranking going any sort of reasonable ways. You could include Whitaker and Sandberg in Tier 4, although I think they more make up their own Tier 5, and the preference for either player could go either way. Then Herman, Kent, Doerr, and Randolph make up the borderline Tier 6, and you can order accordingly.

Since today is Joe Gordon’s birthday, I thought I’d ask—why doesn’t Gordon get more love from the HOM? Sure his career was short, but part of that is due to WWII—and I think you can argue successfully that he is HOM worthy without the war credit (although obviously his placement on the list above would be much closer to the bottom). In the rankings above, I gave him credit for 1944 and 1945 (but not so that it ranked as a top seven season for him, and no additional credit for 1946 (even though that year is so out of line that the war must have affected him) and that is where he places. If you are more liberal with credit for 1944-1946, he could probably rank ahead of Frisch and Grich. Even if you are stingy on war credit and rank him below Biggio, Alomar, Whitaker, and Sandberg, I don’t see how he could possibly be behind the other wartime 2B, Herman and Doerr, or Kent and Randolph. He was a great hitter for his position while fielding it at an elite level. Maybe career voters might not be enthralled with him due to his short career, but peak voters should absolutely love him.
   24. lieiam Posted: February 18, 2012 at 07:07 PM (#4064161)
I believe Joe Gordon is in the Hall Of Merit.
It took many "years" but I'm pretty sure he did eventually get in...
I'll look around the site a bit and see if I can verify this...

Ah, yes, in 1976 he was elected to the Hall Of Merit. I don't know if this will work, but here's a link:
http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/hall_of_merit/discussion/the_hall_of_merit_plaque_room1

As for Biggio, Alomar, and Kent, I enjoyed reading your analysis (and your 2B ranking in general)...
In general I agree... If I had to rank them it would indeed be Biggio>Alomar>Kent (as well).
   25. theorioleway Posted: February 18, 2012 at 07:34 PM (#4064172)
lieiam: Thanks for responding--I had been aware that Gordon was in the HOM. I meant more in terms of where the HOM constituency seem to believe he ranks all-time. DL has Gordon 17th in his rankings above on his thread. Gordon ranks 16th in the rankings the HOM did in 2008: http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/hall_of_merit/discussion/election_results_top_keystone_sackerscollins_hornsby_morgan_lajoie_gehringe/ And his thread talks about how he is a borderline HOM candidate. From what I can see, he seems like an obvious, no-doubter candidate, and I'm curious as to why I seem to view Gordon differently than most everyone else.
   26. lieiam Posted: February 18, 2012 at 08:06 PM (#4064185)
Oops! Sorry theorioleway...
   27. theorioleway Posted: February 18, 2012 at 08:52 PM (#4064191)
No worries lieiam, I don't think I was very clear in my digression regarding Gordon. Rereading it, I can see how you interpreted that I thought Gordon wasn't in the HOM. Also didn't mean for my response to you to be hostile (I don't intend to be hostile towards anyone involved with this project), in case it sounded that way...
   28. lieiam Posted: February 18, 2012 at 10:58 PM (#4064229)
No hostility detected!
It's all good.
   29. jingoist Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:35 PM (#4065891)
I consistently see Hornsby ranked as #1 or #2 all-time.
But was his fielding such that he was seen as a true "all around" 2nd baseman or was his overwhelming hitting stats such that they obscured any fielding weaknesses?
BBREF seems to show him as a neutral fielder with a +4.5 fielding WAR for his career.
   30. bjhanke Posted: February 25, 2012 at 11:22 AM (#4068499)
I know the opinion of Hornsby at second base, due to my knowing two Cardinal beat writers of the time (Bob Broeg, Bob Burns) and my dad who was a rabid STL BB fan from 1922 on (a Brownie fan)., Essentially, Rogers was OK until 1923, when he had the inner ear infection that messed with his sense of balance going back on pop flies. What turns out is that his teams had a special play to cover that. If they got a popup behind second, they would send the SS, 1B, and RF right after it. Hornsby would go cover second, while the pitcher covered first. I tried to estimate how much this cost his team, although the data set was too squirrelly to be reliable. It looked like this cost the team about .5 - 1.0 Wins, because such popups are not that common. You've got to have a popup, right behind second, that isn't in reach of the SS, 1B, and RF, even though they take off as soon as they realize there's a popup there. There just aren't that many popups hit into that very small area. - Brock Hanke
   31. theorioleway Posted: February 26, 2012 at 06:59 PM (#4069152)
Smarter people correct me if I'm wrong, but at the time Hornsby was playing, 2B was more like 3B is now, in that it is helpful to have good defense there but you can hide someone defensively if the bat is good enough, so I'm not sure that "all around" 2nd baseman is a fair way to judge him. Nevertheless, he seemed able to handle SS just fine at the beginning of his career (I'm not sure what prompted the switch to Doc Lavan) so it is reasonable to believe he was able to handle 2B.

Even if Hornsby did have some fielding issues beyond what Brock described, his hitting was at such a level of that it would be hard to rank him lower than 2nd. With Collins' great all-around game and longevity, he would surpass Hornsby if you could find serious fault with his fielding, but considering Hornsby's 171 wRC+ is tied for fifth all-time and is 22 points higher than the next best mark for 2B (Collins and Barnes), I think Hornsby comfortably fits into the top 2 all-time for 2B.
   32. TomH Posted: February 26, 2012 at 07:22 PM (#4069162)
31 is correct; 2B was a more offensive position in the Lajoie/Collins/Hornsby era.
If you give Morgan some credit for timeline / league quality / integration, and
if you allow that OPS+/wOBA/RCAP/whatever your metric was harder to dominate in Morgan's era,
it is not hard to rate Joe even with or above the other two 2B greats. It's a reasonable debate either way.
   33. bjhanke Posted: February 27, 2012 at 11:04 AM (#4069423)
This is something I thought of myself, so it doesn't have the credibility of the things I was citing from people who were there in the 1920s. But, if you think about the 8 various positions, and you have a guy whose big problem is that he can't go back on fly balls, where can you play him other than second base? Obviously, the outfield won't work. Catcher? I don't think so. First and third? A lot of foul popups. That leaves shortstop and second base, and Hornsby had been moved off of short before 1923, because as soon as he filled out even a little, he didn't have the range for SS, and his arm wasn't all that strong, either. So teams played Hornsby at second because it was the EASIEST position to compensate for his big weakness. Nowadays, of course, we'd DH him like Edgar Martinez. - Brock
   34. bjhanke Posted: February 27, 2012 at 11:26 AM (#4069436)
My memory, for what it's worth, is that the Astros did not move Biggio to second because he was a bad catcher. They moved him because they had a hole at second base (Casey Candele, already 30 years old), they wanted Biggio's bat in the lineup more often, and they were offered a young catcher, lefty hitter Ed Taubensee, who everyone at the time thought was going to be a star. I very much remember the glowing reviews of Taubensee. Well, Ed didn't hit, and ended up moving on from Houston, who now had a hole at catcher, but moving Biggio back was out of play. His playing time did, in fact, go up about 20 games a year when he moved. Worse, the kid they traded for Ed was Kenny Lofton. One of the Astros' worst trades ever, I would assume. But it did succeed in getting Biggio into the lineup just about every single day. And losing Lofton meant there was a place for Craig when they decided to make an outfielder of him.... - Brock
   35. Mefisto Posted: February 27, 2012 at 12:53 PM (#4069514)
Smarter people correct me if I'm wrong, but at the time Hornsby was playing, 2B was more like 3B is now, in that it is helpful to have good defense there but you can hide someone defensively if the bat is good enough, so I'm not sure that "all around" 2nd baseman is a fair way to judge him.


People do say this all the time, but I think it's imporant to clarify what it means. In the dead ball era, with all the bunting and very few DPs, it was the common wisdom that 3B was more important defensively than 2B. Whatever the merits of this view, by the 1920s the managers still held this view but it was objectively false. Roughly as many balls were hit "to" 2B as today -- more than 3B, certainly -- and the number of DPs skyrocketed compared to the Tinker/Evers/Chance era. Thus, I think it's important to evaluate Hornsby the same way we'd evaluate a 2B today. Whether that makes Hornsby more or less valuable, I don't know.
   36. base ball chick Posted: February 27, 2012 at 12:58 PM (#4069516)
brock

your memory about moving biggio is correct. they definitely wanted to preserve his legs - it wasn't so much about getting rid of candaele. but yeah, they dumped kenny lofton because he was an uppity youknowwhat and they DID think they would be replacing biggio's bat with taubensee - and they platooned him with servais and they didn't outhit brad ausmus (yeah, he came later.)

they really had no good hitting (or fielding) infielders ready - eric yelding and andujar cedeno were lousy at both and rafael ramirez had been on his last legs for - like - forever
   37. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 27, 2012 at 02:35 PM (#4069622)
Yeah, I don't recall anything negatively said about Biggio's fielding behind the plate. Nothing earth-shattering, but he certainly wasn't hurting the Astros there.
   38. TDF, situational idiot Posted: February 29, 2012 at 10:09 AM (#4070766)
Lurker, not a voter (thinking is hard!)

Biggio was likely a significantly worse fielder than his career numbers show. When this thread started and I looked at Biggio's bbref page, that +19 fielding runs in '97 stuck out like a sore thumb.

So I sent an email to Tango, and not only did he respond (though he didn't answer my question) he started a thread on The Book Blog (where my question was eventually answered). Specifically, mgl thinks any fielding rating needs to be regressed, because of errors both in the collection of the data and in the sample size. I would have to think any regression would severely affect an outlier as big as Biggio's '97.

And a severe change in Biggio's '97 fielding rating would change what we think of him in his best season - his season wasn't "the best for a 2nd baseman since Morgan"; he was merely good than year instead of leading the league in WAR.
   39. theorioleway Posted: October 14, 2012 at 02:33 PM (#4269503)
So since we are getting closer to election and a lot of the WAR systems have been changed or tweaked since I last posted on 2B, I figured I'd update:

B-R: Alomar > Biggio > Kent
FG: Biggio > Alomar > Kent
BG: Alomar > Kent > Biggio

As you can see, Biggio is no longer consistently on top. The BG system change incorporated DRA into its WAR, and as mentioned above in the thread, DRA sees Biggio as a super horrendous fielder. If you were to just look at that system, Biggio would be extremely borderline. Now, of course, defensive metrics are very hazy, so its not a good idea to do that, and the other systems rate him well enough, that it makes sense to go along with the general perception that he was a HOM worthy player.

While Kent is better than Biggio by one metric, overall his numbers decline and he is even more borderline than before. If he gets elected, he'd still be better than Fox (and maybe Doerr and Herman), but that isn't an overwhelming candidacy. I'm not ready to do a full 2B breakdown again, but I would rank the three of them the same as B-R.

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