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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jeff Bagwell

Eligible in 2011

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 19, 2010 at 01:00 AM | 64 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 19, 2010 at 01:02 AM (#3440613)
Pass.
   2. Cabbage Posted: January 19, 2010 at 06:57 AM (#3440796)
So, Bagwell or Thomas?
   3. bjhanke Posted: January 19, 2010 at 11:16 AM (#3440831)
If you're just sketching in the beginnings of an analysis, they're about even. Frank has a bit more playing time and a higher OPS+ (156 to 149). But the playing time difference is much less than it seems (a few hundred PA), because Bagwell had a lot of years where he played all 162 games or very close to it. Also, Bagwell had good value later in life than Frank did. Frank is very much like Ralph Kiner, except that he was better. Like Ralph, Frank put up enormous numbers when young, but his last really good year was age 30. Then he dropped off hard, and lost all defensive value, becoming a DH. If Branch Rickey had been his GM, he'd have been off the team by age 31, and Rickey would have been correct again.

A lot depends on how you value DH defense. If you just zero it out, Frank looks a bit better. But BB-Ref has his first base defense at about -9 runs per season when he was young and comparatively mobile. Frank became a DH about the time he stopped hitting so well, and it's worth assuming that his defensive value was going down even faster, since defense is a young man's game. If you factor Frank in at just -10 runs per year as a DH, which is conservative, Jeff, who has good defensive numbers at first base, ends up looking better, but not by a whole lot. BTW, after some discussion of Edgar Martinez' defensive value at DH, mostly agitated by me because I got stubborn, the current plurality (I'm not willing to guarantee majority) HoM estimate of a DH's defensive value is about -9 runs per year. That Frank could put up that while actually playing the field suggests that the deduction ought to be even more, maybe as low as -12 runs per year. Frank did make the occasional play.

The rest of the analysis is going to be the small things that don't show up in OPS+. Double plays, that stuff. Also, if you try to put players into a general, could-play-in-any-time-period context, which I do, Bagwell will win, because Frank probably could not have stayed on a roster as a starter after about age 33 in any league lacking a DH.

Just after the sketch, I'm going with Bagwell, which surprised me when I started looking at them. It could change, depending on the details that don't show up in a sketch. But it's a lot closer than the two players' general reputations would have it seem. Frank Thomas does not flatten Jeff Bagwell like a truck going through a car. - Brock Hanke
   4. TomH Posted: January 19, 2010 at 02:27 PM (#3440862)
methinks the Thomas v. Bagwell ranking may turn on whetehr or not Frank gets credit for hitting as a DH, which has been shown to be harder (poorer results) than hitting while playing the field.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 19, 2010 at 03:16 PM (#3440891)
methinks the Thomas v. Bagwell ranking may turn on whetehr or not Frank gets credit for hitting as a DH, which has been shown to be harder (poorer results) than hitting while playing the field.

Do we really know that it's harder? I thought the general consensus is that guys DH when they are <100% healthwise, which skews the numbers.
   6. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: January 20, 2010 at 01:58 AM (#3441695)
I have Bagwell one cut ahead. Like Larry Walker, he's underrated because he was an all-around player (6.5 baserunning + fielding wins above average) at a position where players are almost exclusively valued for their offense. Thomas, by contrast, was 8.4 wins *below* average on baserunning and fielding, plus he was a half-DH. Thomas's hitting advantage can't make all that up.
   7. Buford J. Sharkley Posted: January 20, 2010 at 04:01 AM (#3441768)
Do we really know that it's harder? I thought the general consensus is that guys DH when they are <100% healthwise, which skews the numbers.

Thomas is an extreme case-- he was vocal about wanting to play the field, about how DHing hurt his batting.

His career split is pretty incredible: .337/.453/.625 vs .275/.394/.505.

And though it's mostly explained by the fact that Thomas mostly DHed when his hitting had declined, it's interesting to see that within a season, Frank was consistent:

Starting with 1997, when Frank started DHing for 200+ PA a season, through 2004, the last time he took the field:

1997: .363/.467/.662 vs .314/.435/.509
1998: .302/.406/.547 vs .261/.378/.474
1999: .346/.422/.553 vs .281/.412/.424
2000: .354/.432/.761 vs .321/.436/.587
2001: .000/.100/.000 vs .259/.353/.517 (only 10 PA at 1B)
2002: .308/.444/.615 vs .253/.361/.472 (only 18 PA at 1B)
2003: .352/.487/.725 vs .252/.371/.532
2004: .400/.500/1.067 vs .267/.434/.538 (only 18 PA at 1B)

Blows me away.

As I remember, days he took the field were mostly dispersed at random, not according to his health.

I tend to believe Frank was something of a neurotic. (Unsurprisingly, his pinch-hitting numbers were always dreadful.)
   8. SuperGrover Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:59 AM (#3441846)
Blows me away.

As I remember, days he took the field were mostly dispersed at random, not according to his health.

I tend to believe Frank was something of a neurotic. (Unsurprisingly, his pinch-hitting numbers were always dreadful.)


I don't think there is anything inherently difficult about DH'ing for the majority, but I'm sure individual players do struggle with it. Thomas most certainly did and was quite vocal about it. Now, one can argue it was all in his mind, but if he believed it was an issue, then it was. Hitting a baseball is hard enough when you are lacking confidence because you aren't playing the field.


Like Ralph, Frank put up enormous numbers when young, but his last really good year was age 30. Then he dropped off hard, and lost all defensive value, becoming a DH. If Branch Rickey had been his GM, he'd have been off the team by age 31, and Rickey would have been correct again.


Come on, his last really good year was at age 30? OPS+'s of 163, 156 and 146 aren't really good? You don't think he would've been a regular 1B producing at that clip? That's ridiculous.

Keep in mind, there was only one player with an OPS+ above 150 in the AL last season. Apparently, being the second best offensive player in the league isn't good enough to play everyday.
   9. bjhanke Posted: January 20, 2010 at 04:27 PM (#3442068)
Um. After age 32, Frank Thomas had two good years, at ages 35 and 38. He had a couple of OK years as a DH, where his OPS+ looks good, but all the little and medium things, including baserunning and defense, are negatives dragging the OPS+ value down. And then he had several years where he could not get into 75 games (although he did get over 70 twice). If a manager/GM could get those four "good and OK" years together, he might have lasted as a non-DH. But they're not consecutive or anything like it. After age 32, Frank was a guy who could give you no defense at all, was less than a 50% bet to turn in half a season, and complained about having to play DH. If you have a gamble like that who has absolutely NO defensive or baserunning value, you're not going to rely on him if you have to play him in the field at a hitter's spot, which is what any manager in a non-DH league would have had to do. Ya gotta look at the games played, not just the OPS+, even to fill in a sketch.

If you want to argue that ages 31 and 32 were great years, well, OK, you're arguing defense, which is one of the hardest values to pin down. The only thing we DO know about Frank's defense at those ages is that it was approximately nil. And if you win, you get two years. Hell, I'll concede you two years. OK, please change my sentence to "age 32."
   10. bjhanke Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:20 PM (#3442445)
Actually, I have to take some of the last post back. I looked over what I actually wrote in the original post, and it was , Frank's "last really good year was age 30." That's not true. He had real good years at ages 32, 35, and 38. As a manager or GM, that's not often or reliable enough, IMO, but what I said was not true, and so I apologize to SuperGrover. He has to go with what I wrote, not with what I might have been thinking. - Brock
   11. Roger Cedeno's Spleen Posted: January 21, 2010 at 06:37 AM (#3442872)
Jeff Bagwell is really this boring? Or do you guys not waste much time on the obvious no-brainer HoM candidates?
   12. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 21, 2010 at 06:54 AM (#3442878)
Jeff Bagwell is really this boring? Or do you guys not waste much time on the obvious no-brainer HoM candidates?


Well, I thought of bringing up the fact that he is an admitted andro user, but I didn't want to derail the discussion. :P

I don't like that his career is kind of short for a HOFer, but on the other hand he had 13 seasons that fit nicely into a HOF career, including a nice peak. And (I think?) his defense was pretty good. He generally played a lot of games in-season. So he gets my vote.

Two things:

1. I was surprised just now that he never played a game at 3B in the majors. Wasn't he a 3B in the Red Sox chain?

2. If we normally give players full credit for strike years or at least try to keep that in mind (I know I do), what to do with Bagwell, who IIRC got hurt just before the strike in 1994? It would seem odd to give him full credit for that year; on the other hand, he didn't actually miss (m)any team games. And this is a pretty important season to consider because he had a 213 OPS+ that year. Thoughts? I don't think I can penalize him for games he didn't actually miss as they weren't ever played.
   13. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 21, 2010 at 07:06 AM (#3442889)
And (I think?) his defense was pretty good.

AROM has him at +35, and that's weighed down by an apparently disastrous 2003 in the field. (I know he had some shoulder issues around that time - anyone know if '03 was an especially bad year in that regard?) He spent every season of the '90s between 0 and +10 in TZ.

1. I was surprised just now that he never played a game at 3B in the majors. Wasn't he a 3B in the Red Sox chain?

The Astros had Caminiti there when Bagwell was called up, I believe. That may not explain the fact that he never played a game there, but it at least covers why he wasn't there all the time.

I don't think I can penalize him for games he didn't actually miss as they weren't ever played.

I agree with this. It's not a "what if" adjustment, just an acknowledgement that, say, 7.6 wins in 114 games is equivalent to 10.8 in 162. (Actually, I suppose there could be a sort of standard deviation adjustment applied here, but it's a little late at night for me to try and figure that out right now.)
   14. OCF Posted: January 21, 2010 at 07:12 AM (#3442893)
Jeff Bagwell is really this boring? Or do you guys not waste much time on the obvious no-brainer HoM candidates?

Three things:

1. Candidates who appear at a quick glance to be over the line do not tend to generate as many posts in their threads as do borderliners, and their threads are more subject to wandering off to another topic. (And occasionally someone like Harveys Wallbangers shows up to yell at us for not talking about Henry Aaron on Aaron's own thead.)

2. HoM topics are meant for the long haul. Just because it doesn't have a lot of posts in the first day or two doesn't mean it can't grow. The thread will be here, and easily found, for a long time.

3. (Which is the same as 2, only amplified). We're 11 months away from casting this ballot. We all know that there's a lot of time. For instance, I haven't done any substantial analysis of Bagwell myself. I will, eventually, but I know there's no rush. And I won't initiate an analytical line that I haven't invested some work into.
   15. DL from MN Posted: January 21, 2010 at 03:39 PM (#3443020)
Here's what I posted in the discussion thread:

There's really no use comparing Bagwell to the backlog, so I'll compare him to elected 1B.

player................ BWAA2 BRWAA2 FWAA2 WARP2
Greenberg, Hank 68.0 0.3 5.2 83.3 (WWII credited)
Bagwell, Jeff...... 66.0 2.4 3.9 75.7
Leonard, Buck.... 63.0 0.0 2.0 72.0 (estimated)
Murray, Eddie..... 53.3 -2.6 4.9 66.5
McGwire, Mark.... 58.5 -2.7 0.3 63.8

Bagwell is 10 wins ahead of the recently elected McGwire and Murray partly because of a 5 win advantage on the basepaths. He's behind Greenberg, probably due to his career-ending shoulder injury. Not sure how Bagwell and Greenberg compare on a peak basis. These numbers lead to me ranking Bagwell as the 8th best 1B to date.

There's really no use comparing Bagwell to the backlog, so I'll compare him to elected 1B.

player................ BWAA2 BRWAA2 FWAA2 WARP2
Greenberg, Hank 68.0 0.3 5.2 83.3 (WWII credited)
Bagwell, Jeff...... 66.0 2.4 3.9 75.7
Leonard, Buck.... 63.0 0.0 2.0 72.0 (estimated)
Murray, Eddie..... 53.3 -2.6 4.9 66.5
McGwire, Mark.... 58.5 -2.7 0.3 63.8

Bagwell is 10 wins ahead of the recently elected McGwire and Murray partly because of a 5 win advantage on the basepaths. He's behind Greenberg, probably due to his career-ending shoulder injury. Not sure how Bagwell and Greenberg compare on a peak basis. These numbers lead to me ranking Bagwell as the 8th best 1B to date.
   16. Bob Meta-Meusel Posted: January 21, 2010 at 06:42 PM (#3443206)
I've been following the HOM debates and elections (sometimes more closely than others) since about 1910, but have never been able to find the time/energy to participate. I did want to throw a comment in here though.

I agree with this. It's not a "what if" adjustment, just an acknowledgement that, say, 7.6 wins in 114 games is equivalent to 10.8 in 162. (Actually, I suppose there could be a sort of standard deviation adjustment applied here, but it's a little late at night for me to try and figure that out right now.)


Ultimately though, isn't the point of that acknowledgement to avoid penalizing players who played in shortened seasons when comparing them to those who didn't? Giving Frank Thomas credit for 7.9 wins in 1994 instead of the extrapolated 10.4 (using BP's Warp2 & Warp3) would be penalizing him 2.5 wins for the simple reason that there were fewer games that year. That would be unjust, so we adjust for it... much like we adjust for WWII, or Minor League credit.

Bagwell is a different kettle of fish though. Because of Bagwell's injury, we know that if the season had played out to 162 games he would have ended up producing exactly the same 7.6 wins for the season that he did with the strike ending the season when it did. If we say that the 7.6 wins in 114 games is equivalent to 10.8 in 162 games, aren't we just giving him 3.2 wins because there happened to be a strike while he was hurt and couldn't play anyway? Something about that doesn't seem right.

Of course, Bagwell should sail in to the HOM with or without those 3.2 wins, but in the long term, when he's evaluated against the other HOM first basemen, it could matter, and giving him "strike credit" when he couldn't have played anyway seems inappropriate to me.
   17. DCW3 Posted: January 21, 2010 at 07:22 PM (#3443235)
1. I was surprised just now that he never played a game at 3B in the majors.

And yet, in the middle of his '94 MVP season, after he'd already been established in the majors for several years, he started a game in right field on July 2. It was the only time in his MLB career he played anywhere other than first base. I wonder what the deal was with that.
   18. base ball chick Posted: January 21, 2010 at 07:39 PM (#3443257)
Eric J Posted: January 21, 2010 at 01:06 AM (#3442889)

And (I think?) his defense was pretty good.

AROM has him at +35, and that's weighed down by an apparently disastrous 2003 in the field. (I know he had some shoulder issues around that time - anyone know if '03 was an especially bad year in that regard?)


- the disastrous was because basically he had lost most of his strength in the shoulder muscles that help you throw a ball. he could field bunts fine and pick throws out of the dirt, but he couldn't throw to home or second unless he was halfway there and bengie molina woulda beat those throws too.

he had shoulder surgery after the season, but cleaning out the joint or whatever they did, didn't help. the next year, he and biggio and ausmus and everett had worked out how they would comp[ensate for baggy not being able to throw.

i remember that before the 05 season, baggy had tried to adjust stance/swing to try to deal with basically any power at all in his right shoulder. didn't help at all, unfortunately. he had to actually run to any base he was throwing to as he was throwing the ball.

media reports said he needed to have shoulder replacement surgery - guess it is like hip replacement surgery except you can't play baseball or pick anything up - like your kid.

unfortunately, baggy don't get no respect for his glove, which really was 3B quality, and he was the best and smartest and most headsup baserunner i ever did see, except for in his last year - 2004 - next to larry walker. and you don't nevah hear bout how smart a baserunner HE was neither.

i've always thought it sucks that 5 tool guys don't get near the adoration that guys like mcgwire get (minus roids debate). and i watched mcgwire with st louis and he was barely adequate with the glove and as a baserunner, he was replacement level
   19. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 21, 2010 at 07:42 PM (#3443266)
If we say that the 7.6 wins in 114 games is equivalent to 10.8 in 162 games, aren't we just giving him 3.2 wins because there happened to be a strike while he was hurt and couldn't play anyway? Something about that doesn't seem right.

It's actually 8.9 and about 12.6 in Bagwell's case, according to AROM - I used 7.6 for the sake of ease of calculation of the sample number.

Anyway, I think the general HOM principle is usually "a pennant is a pennant." Since 1994 was a 114-game season (give or take), 7.6 wins should have the same effect on winning a pennant in that year that 10.8 would in a 162-gamer. (I'll assume that nobody will penalize the '94 players because there weren't actually any pennants handed out.) At least, that's the argument for straight pro-rating.

I think there's a statistically-based argument to be made that this isn't the right way to do it, though. Shorter seasons should have greater variation in winning percentage. If I'm doing the math right, the standard deviation in team wins (for a league of all .500 teams) over a 98-game season (as in the 1883 NL) should be 4.95, whereas for a 162-game season, it should be 6.36. If you base your pro-rating of shorter seasons on the expected variance in team wins rather than direcly on schedule length, Bagwell's 8.9 in 1994 becomes a 10.6, rather than a 12.6. I think.
   20. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 21, 2010 at 07:44 PM (#3443268)
the next year, he and biggio and ausmus and everett had worked out how they would comp[ensate for baggy not being able to throw.

It shows up in the TotalZone numbers - he graded out above average in each of his last two seasons.
   21. TomH Posted: January 21, 2010 at 08:05 PM (#3443289)
I think it was in The Book that Tango et al showed a definite lowered hitting ability for DHs compared to when they played the field. It's about half the penalty for pinch hitters, which apparently is hard to do well!
   22. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: January 21, 2010 at 08:07 PM (#3443294)
And yet, in the middle of his '94 MVP season, after he'd already been established in the majors for several years, he started a game in right field on July 2. It was the only time in his MLB career he played anywhere other than first base. I wonder what the deal was with that.

It was just a one-day move to get a red-hot Sid Bream into the lineup too (no joke... Bream entered the game hitting .400). But then Bream went 0-for-3 and that was apparently the end of that.

Houston Chronicle Archives: Bagwell Starts in Right Field

The reason Collins made the one-day switch was to get Sid Bream in the lineup. Bream, the Astros' backup first baseman, had not started since June 5 and made only his fourth start of the season.

"I just had to get Sid a game," Collins said. "The easy way would be to sit Jeff Bagwell down, but at this point how do you sit the best offensive player in the league down?
   23. DCW3 Posted: January 21, 2010 at 08:11 PM (#3443297)
It was just a one-day move to get a red-hot Sid Bream into the lineup too (no joke... Bream entered the game hitting .400). But then Bream went 0-for-3 and that was apparently the end of that.

Huh. Thanks.

Bream, unlike Bagwell, did have some experience in the outfield, but only a couple of innings eight years prior.
   24. DL from MN Posted: January 21, 2010 at 08:33 PM (#3443323)
Here's something fun. I was interested in the peak case of Jeff Bagwell and looking through Dan R's WAR numbers. According to his numbers Jeff Bagwell's 1994 is the most valuable season by a first baseman between 1893 and 2004 - the whole spreadsheet - 11.1 WARP2. That's followed by Gehrig's 1927 10.9, Gehrig's 1934 10.5, Jimmie Foxx 1932 10.4, Stan Musial 1946 9.6, George Sisler 1920 9.3, Gehrig 1936 9.3, and Norm Cash 1961 9.3. Gehrig's 1927 is the best hitting season but Bagwell beats him out with baserunning and fielding. Bagwell's next best seasons are 1996 7.5 and 1997 7.3 WARP2. That's a 3 year peak of 25.9.

Greenberg's 3 year peak is 8.0, 7.7, 7.6. Bagwell tops Greenberg on peak solely due to 1994. Greenberg beats out Bagwell on career.

Other top 1B peaks:

Gehrig 30.7
Foxx 28.1
Sisler 24.6
Giambi 23.7
Mize 22.4

Throw out best seasons and Bagwell is George Sisler with more health or Mize / Greenberg with less health.
   25. DL from MN Posted: January 21, 2010 at 08:46 PM (#3443330)
To answer questions in advance - that is a schedule adjusted and standard deviation adjusted number (as are all the others). So, the question to award Bagwell credit for adjusting his season is pertinent to his ranking.
   26. Juan V Posted: January 21, 2010 at 08:49 PM (#3443337)
Bagwell consistently beats the average HOFer in WAR until his 14th best season. I'd say that's a decent prime case.
   27. Paul Wendt Posted: January 21, 2010 at 10:38 PM (#3443449)
19. Eric J Posted: January 21, 2010 at 01:42 PM (#3443266)
... I think there's a statistically-based argument to be made that this isn't the right way to do it, though. Shorter seasons should have greater variation in winning percentage. If I'm doing the math right, the standard deviation in team wins (for a league of all .500 teams) over a 98-game season (as in the 1883 NL) should be 4.95, whereas for a 162-game season, it should be 6.36. If you base your pro-rating of shorter seasons on the expected variance in team wins rather than directly on schedule length, Bagwell's 8.9 in 1994 becomes a 10.6, rather than a 12.6. I think.

Probably there is one favored statistical argument against that 12.6 derived by simply prorating the short-season rating. Definitely there is no one statistical argument for where to go from there.

Taking for granted the data +4.95 wins for Bagwell and 113 games for Houston, I think that "a pennant is a pennant" suggests the objective to estimate the impact of +4.95 wins by one player in a 113 game season (or use the average of NL central or all NL or all MLB team games played) --relative to the impact of +4.95 wins by one player in a 162 game season. Before getting into other details, what is the SD adjustment incorporated in that +4.95 (choneWAR) and what is its rationale?
   28. SuperGrover Posted: January 22, 2010 at 03:04 AM (#3443689)
Actually, I have to take some of the last post back. I looked over what I actually wrote in the original post, and it was , Frank's "last really good year was age 30." That's not true. He had real good years at ages 32, 35, and 38. As a manager or GM, that's not often or reliable enough, IMO, but what I said was not true, and so I apologize to SuperGrover. He has to go with what I wrote, not with what I might have been thinking. - Brock


That makes more sense. Frank certainly wasn't consistent after 30, but when he was healthy, he was pretty much an excellent hitter, albeit at a level much below what he did pre-30.
   29. bjhanke Posted: January 22, 2010 at 04:08 PM (#3444021)
Entirely agreed, SuperGrover. Thanks for being polite. - Brock
   30. bjhanke Posted: January 22, 2010 at 10:34 PM (#3444561)
On the short season thing: I think you have to give Bagwell (or whoever) full credit for whatever part of the season he actually played. That leaves you with only the portion between that and 162 games to account for. So, if you have 113 games in hand, you keep those stats, and all you're trying to adjust is the remaining 49 unplayed games. Given the vagaries of baseball player rates, I would be tempted to do a weighted average of the rates for the surrounding seasons (weight 1 for the season before this short one, 2 for the season at hand, and 1 for the next year). There may be a formal statistical method for doing this, but the added complication of not being able to home in on a solid baseline of achievement makes the matter difficult enough that I doubt it. I think you have to do something like the weighted average surrounding the missing time. But there are better statisticians than me available here.
   31. DanG Posted: January 23, 2010 at 04:43 PM (#3444867)
A couple things to add:

1) IIRC, Bagwell's injury was not severe enough to make him miss the rest of the scheduled 1994 season. In the STATS 1995 Major League Handbook they ran a simulation to complete the season. Bags ends up with 133 games played, meaning they have hiim being injured for 25 games (he missed 4 games before play stopped) before playing out the year. Perhaps Pat Rapper's Delight can do another search of the Houston Chronicle to verify this.

2) Normally I'm firmly on the side of the idea that a pennant is a pennant, and extrapolate Bagwell's play in 1994 with little downward adjustment. However, 1994 is different in that there was no pennant, no championship that year. Nobody won anything; everybody lost. So while I'm still behind the idea of giving players credit for canceled games that year, in Bagwell's case I would dock him (and any other player injured at the time) the games he was likely to miss.
   32. bjhanke Posted: January 25, 2010 at 01:55 PM (#3445589)
RE: DL's post #24 - Good post and puts Bagwell in some context, but I do have a couple of questions.

First, does WARP2 adjust for season length? Because otherwise, Gehrig's 1927 goes from 10.9 to 10.9x162/154 = 11.5.

Also, I'm not completely sure what, "Throw out best seasons and Bagwell is George Sisler with more health" means. I know that you know that they weren't the same type of hitter at all, and I also know that you know that Sisler's career collapsed as a result of the eye injury in 1922, and I also know that you know that Jeff Bagwell's total career is much greater than Sisler's. Do you mean that Bagwell's career, without the best seasons, resembles the average of Sisler's healthy seasons before the injury? If so, you're comparing one player's entire career minus the peak with another player's 4 years as a kid getting himself established. That doesn't sound like your usually careful analyses. If you mean that the careers are comparable absent the best three years, I think you've oversold Sisler a lot, and I can't help being a Sisler fan because he was my father's very favorite player of all time (Dad was 11 years old in 1922). Before 1923, George was the best first baseman in the game, except maybe for his rookie year. From 1924 on, George was just another middling first base starter. Jeff was a lot better than that.

And one more question. Does WARP2 adjust for Sisler's defense issues? As you doubtless know, Sisler suffers in Bill James' Win Shares analysis, despite having a contemporary defensive rep second only to Hal Chase's. I theorize that, aside from Chase throwing ballgames, the issue might be bunting. Pouncing on bunts was a huge part of first base defense in the deadball era, but it is also a skill that the opponents can neutralize by simply bunting towards third base when they choose to bunt at all. I think that's probably what happened to both Hal and George's defense rankings, just as Johnny Bench takes a deduction because the opponents can defuse that cannon of a throwing arm by simply not attempting to steal bases. I suspect strongly, therefore, that Bill has George's defense badly underrated (Hal, of course, is complicated by cheating). Does WARP2 have defense numbers for George that are a bit closer to his rep?

I realize that this comparison is a pain, and appreciate your making it. There is, essentially, no one to compare Jeff Bagwell to between Dan Brouthers and Lou Gehrig except for Sisler, whose career is a disaster to analyze. Is there enough data from 1893 on to make a comparison to Brouthers useful? Roger Connor? They're closer types of hitter to Jeff, and their careers aren't injury and odd defense messes.
   33. Rants Mulliniks Posted: January 25, 2010 at 02:35 PM (#3445594)
Pass.


That stopped being funny about 3 weeks after the NBJHBA came out.
   34. DL from MN Posted: January 25, 2010 at 04:03 PM (#3445644)
Yes, WARP2 adjusts for season length.

I was saying more that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th best seasons of Bagwell and Sisler were about as valuable, nothing more than that. The "more health" referred to Bagwell sustaining that level longer.
   35. flournoy Posted: January 25, 2010 at 04:27 PM (#3445669)
Bream, unlike Bagwell, did have some experience in the outfield, but only a couple of innings eight years prior.


Also, Bream's outfield experience had happened several knee surgeries ago by then. There is truly no way that Bream could have played the outfield in 1994.
   36. bjhanke Posted: January 26, 2010 at 05:43 AM (#3446383)
DL - Thanks for the info. I didn't know that WARP2 did the season adjustment. Good to know. Oh, rats. I just thought of something I should have added to the question. Which schedule does it normalize to? 154 or 162? I'm guessing 162, but it's a guess. Also, I certainly agree with you about Sisler and Bagwell; Bagwell's peak is high enough that it will stand up to even Sisler's (don't know about Gehrig). I think that Bagwell is a truly impressive first baseman.
   37. DL from MN Posted: January 26, 2010 at 03:58 PM (#3446528)
Nobody's peak stands up to Gehrig's. Well, maybe Pujols but I don't have the data to compare.
   38. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: January 26, 2010 at 04:36 PM (#3446578)
Perhaps Pat Rapper's Delight can do another search of the Houston Chronicle to verify this.

What do I look like? Some kind of goddamned public utility or something?


(Just channeling another classic Bill James bit here since "Pass" has already been taken)
   39. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: January 26, 2010 at 04:46 PM (#3446588)
And, FTR, the Chronicle report of the broken wrist is that Bagwell was expected to miss 3-5 weeks. Not expected to be season-ending.

BTW, the Chronicle archives aren't behind some pay wall or anything. They're open to anyone. Go to chron.com and click Archives on their search box. Stories are indexed back to 1/1/85.
   40. bjhanke Posted: January 26, 2010 at 04:50 PM (#3446593)
Huh. Here I am from STL, and I never considered Pujols. I doubt he can equal Gehrig for three reasons:

1) Albert's a better defender, but not that much. His foot problems ran (so to speak) him off both third base and left field. So his range could be better. His third baseman's arm is, of course, overqualified for first. Gehrig was an ordinary defender; the type we now just commonly associate with the term "first baseman." Oddly, Albert is a very high percentage base stealer with surprizing volume. He's not Juan Pierre or anyone, but he does add value with his baserunning.

2) As hitters with his homer levels go (which means the baseline is high), Albert doesn't really take a big share of walks. Gehrig did. This is one of the things that separates the supersuperstars from the mere superstars. Williams vs. Musial: a lot of the offensive difference is that Williams took huge numbers of walks and, considering his power, Musial did not. Walks are what got Kiner into the HoF; without them, his OBP would be too low. Staying in the vicinity of the thread, Jeff Bagwell's one weakness compared to Frank Thomas is Frank's enormous walk totals, even when he's not hitting.

3) Gehrig was one of the early guys to figure out what Babe Ruth was doing, so he benefitted for a few years from weak competition, as other players played catchup or lost their jobs to the Jimmy Foxxes and Johnny Mizes of the world. Those early bashers - Hornsby, Sisler and Ken Williams in STL, others elsewhere, had the advantage of using a tool that very few people had, and the further advantage of its being one of the most powerful tools in the whole of offense. Those guys' peaks tend to be tremendous. And in some ways, Gehrig gets the best of this, because first base was still viewed by many managers as a defense-first position, so Gehrig is in there with the George Kellys, Bill Terrys and late-career Sislers of the world, who have no chance to keep up with his homer-fueled bat. Hornsby, hitting 40 homers in a field of second basemen, had the best of it, too. But Pujols gets to compete with Howard and Fielder, among others. He beats them out because his offensive skills are so balanced, which makes up some of the homer and walks difference. But compared to Gehrig? Actually, Albert might comp well with Bagwell, whose offensive skills are also more balanced than the homers and walks crowd, but who also did not take obscene numbers of walks.
   41. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 26, 2010 at 05:09 PM (#3446607)
Actually, Albert might comp well with Bagwell, whose offensive skills are also more balanced than the homers and walks crowd, but who also did not take obscene numbers of walks.

Except that Bagwell hit .300 and Albert hits .330, largely because Bagwell struck out an extra 40 or so times per year.

Through this point in his career, Albert is relatively similar to both Gehrig and Foxx. His eventual standing will of course be determined by whether he falls off in his early 30s, like Foxx did, or maintains his level of performance through most of the next decade.

Random fact I enjoy about Foxx - he caught 26 games in 1935, 10 years into his career.

Getting back to Bagwell, his walk totals aren't as prodigious as Thomas's, but he's not lacking in that department - he drew 100 or more 7 years in a row, and led the league once.
   42. DL from MN Posted: January 26, 2010 at 05:23 PM (#3446625)
whether he falls off in his early 30s, like Foxx did


Gehrig only made it to 35 also. Pujols can't really top Gehrig in peak, match perhaps but not top. Pujols could be the best 1B of all-time if he can keep it up to age 38 or so.
   43. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 26, 2010 at 05:33 PM (#3446635)
Gehrig only made it to 35 also.

True. Gehrig's real strength is the fact that he had no particular down years during his 1926-37 prime.
   44. DL from MN Posted: January 26, 2010 at 05:39 PM (#3446643)
Going by CHONE WAR (no standard deviation or schedule adjustments):

Player Top3 Top5 Top10 Career
Gehrig 32.8 52.6 96.4 118.3
Foxx 28.5 44.5 76.1 94.0
Pujols 29.9 47.4 76.5 76.5 (Pujols only has 9 seasons)

I think we can comfortably agree Pujols is already in the top 2 at 1B when it comes to peak/prime for anyone after 1900. Last season was his 4th best (9.2) so he has potential to improve those peak numbers. Assuming he puts up 2 more seasons at the 9 WAR level and settles in at the 6-7 WAR level after that for a while he catches Gehrig in 6 seasons at age 35-36.

Things get more interesting if you want to call Musial a first baseman.
   45. Srul Itza At Home Posted: January 26, 2010 at 07:10 PM (#3446751)
And, FTR, the Chronicle report of the broken wrist is that Bagwell was expected to miss 3-5 weeks. Not expected to be season-ending.


But remember that we are talking about a wrist injury. Even if he had made it back on the field, to assume that he would then continue hitting at the same level as when he left, or even using some standard "regression to the mean", is unrealistic.
   46. Davo Dozier (Mastroianni) Posted: January 26, 2010 at 07:38 PM (#3446797)
Jeff Bagwell is really this boring? Or do you guys not waste much time on the obvious no-brainer HoM candidates?


I'll try something: Jeff Bagwell moved his bat more during the pitcher's windup than any hitter I've ever seen.

I remember when he'd compete in homerun derbies, the microphone would really pick up on the sound of his batting gloves squeezing and rotating back-and-forth on his bat, like he was trying to start a fire or something. I've never seen anyone do that before, or since.

Also: I'm just 24. We're finally reaching HOM/HOF discussions with players I actually saw at their peak, and it's really fun. :)
   47. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: January 26, 2010 at 07:55 PM (#3446833)
But remember that we are talking about a wrist injury. Even if he had made it back on the field, to assume that he would then continue hitting at the same level as when he left, or even using some standard "regression to the mean", is unrealistic.

Definitely. I was just making the point that he wasn't considered through for the year at the time. The talk was that he would be able to return with some 2-3 weeks left in the season, labor actions notwithstanding.

But then who's to say Bagwell wouldn't have pulled a Joe Carter and hit even better when he came back? Wasn't it 1994 that Carter got off to a blazing start because he had a broken bone in his hand or wrist, and he said it hurt too much to swing at the low outside pitch so he was letting it go and concentrating just on pitches he could get a good swing on? On June 1, 1994, Carter started the day at .326/.371/.635 with 14 HR. He hit .233/.277/.447/13 the rest of the way. Makes you wonder what might've happened if he followed that approach all the time.
   48. DanG Posted: January 26, 2010 at 09:45 PM (#3447004)
Bags ends up with 133 games played, meaning they have him being injured for 25 games (he missed 4 games before play stopped) before playing out the year.
A slight correction to this. Bagwell missed 5 games before play stopped, meaning the STATS simulation figured he would miss 24 of the teams remaining 47 games.
   49. bjhanke Posted: January 27, 2010 at 07:13 AM (#3447441)
RE: DL comment #44 and Eric J.'s 41-

Nice comment, DL. I suppose that eventually I'd have thought to compare Pujols to Foxx. They are closer than I'd have thought. The big reason that I'm hesitant to compare Albert to Lou or Jimmy is that a higher percentage of Albert's walks are intentional. His actual walk-taking ability is closer to Musial's than Gehrig's.

And I'm not falling for the trap of trying to evaluate Stan Musial as a first baseman. He had the skills of a center fielder when young and a right fielder when older, although he ended up more in left than in right because Sportsman's Park had a very small right field area, sort of the mirror-Fenway. The guy with the best range (Donora Greyhound) ended up in left. His tenures at first were the result of odd and bad managing with maybe a couple of small injuries in there. His lack of playing time in center is spelled "Terry Moore." Also, because he had more speed to give before his career slipped, Stan lasted longer than the comparable first basemen, at least the ones we're comparing to Bagwell. Actually, compared to the Gehrig / Foxx / Mize club, you might expect Bagwell to last a couple of years longer before his speed became just impossible to live with. Nowadays, Lou, Jimmy and Johnny would have ended up lasting longer, but at DH.
   50. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: January 27, 2010 at 07:41 AM (#3447448)
a higher percentage of Albert's walks are intentional.

How do you know?
   51. bjhanke Posted: January 27, 2010 at 12:10 PM (#3447474)
For Albert, it's easy. BB-Ref has a column for IBB. You can see his IBB go up a few years ago, and he now leads the league. For the older guys, I took a look a few years ago at World Series data, where you can find IBBs, and the rate of IBB was very low by modern standards. BB-Ref has that, too, in the postseason batting box. For example, Gehrig had 150 PA in the postseason, which is about a quarter of a regular season, but only drew 2 IBB. That would be about 8 a year, which is Jim Rice, not Albert Pujols (or Lou Gehrig). Regular season play may be different in this stat than postseason play, but not THAT different. Apparently, people just didn't hand out those free passes quite so often decades ago. I think, although I've not studied the issue, that pitcher response to Barry Bonds in 2001-2 started a new fad for IBB. That factors into Pujols as well.
   52. DL from MN Posted: January 27, 2010 at 03:33 PM (#3447528)
Who was going to walk Gehrig to get to Ruth? The IBB totals say more about the teammates than the players.
   53. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 27, 2010 at 03:49 PM (#3447542)
Who was going to walk Gehrig to get to Ruth?

Nobody - but Gehrig hit behind Ruth.

Actually, allowing the opposing manager to reorganize the lineup at will after an intentional walk would probably get rid of most of them. Which would be fine with me.
   54. Mefisto Posted: January 27, 2010 at 03:52 PM (#3447547)
I'm pretty sure Ruth batted 3d, Gehrig 4th. That's why they wore those numbers.
   55. DL from MN Posted: January 27, 2010 at 05:07 PM (#3447672)
Synapse misfired, still how many IBB was any player on the Yankees going to get? How many did Ruth get to pitch to Gehrig?
   56. bjhanke Posted: January 27, 2010 at 09:43 PM (#3448040)
DL has a point (as he always does), so I looked Ruth up (and yes, he hit third and Gehrig 4th, and that is why they had those uniform numbers). He had even more postseason PA than Gehrig, because of the Red Sox, but also had only 2 IBB. The sample size is not exactly an ample size here, but this tiny sample implies that people were just as willing, or unwilling, to walk Ruth to get to Gehrig as to walk Gehrig to get to Lazzeri or whoever. As I said, I did not actually do a long formal study of this, but just poked around some, although it did extend beyond Ruth and Gehrig. The conclusion I came to was that teams half a century ago just didn't issue many IBBs by modern standards. I have no idea why, although I think the old guys were right. It may have been a matter of big homer totals being new. If you think about the 1920s, there aren't that many guys who would inspire an IBB. It may have taken a while for people to come up with the idea of just dodging them to get to someone who wasn't nearly as likely to jack it out. Oddly, this implies that, if the IBB is useful at all, it would have been more useful in the 1920s than it is now because the dropoff from the cranker to the slapper would be greater. But it was used much less, even on a per-homer-cranker basis.

Anyway, my point is that some modern walk totals may be deceiving as an indicator of strike zone judgment, including Albert Pujols', because a significant percentage of their BB are IBB.
   57. DL from MN Posted: August 11, 2010 at 03:33 PM (#3613833)
bump
   58. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: November 04, 2010 at 03:25 PM (#3683753)
dump
   59. theorioleway Posted: December 23, 2011 at 04:46 PM (#4022622)
Jeff Bagwell –1B—2011
13.6 seasons with: Houston (NL) 1991-2005
Cap: Houston Astros (NL)

The greatest player in the history of the Houston franchise, Bagwell was consistently the best all-around first basemen in all of baseball during the 1990s. Bagwell combined good plate discipline (.408 OBP) with great power (.540 SLG) to be one of the most dangerous hitters in his era (149 OPS+). His 1994 MVP season was sublime, where he led the league in R (104), RBI (116), SLG (.750), OPS+ (213), and TB (300). Besides being a masher, Bagwell could run (202 career SB) and was considered a good defensive 1B (winning the Gold Glove in 1994). An integral member of the “Killer Bs”, Bagwell was part of four division winners (1997-1999, 2001) and two wild-card winners (2004-2005) and made the World Series in 2005 (the only Houston team to win a pennant). Four-time NL All-Star (1994, 1996, 1997, 1999) and three-time Silver Slugger award winner (1994, 1997, 1999). NL leader in G four times (1992, 1996, 1997, 1999), R three times (1994, 1999, 2000) 2B (1996), BB (1999), and HBP (1991). NL Rookie of the Year in 1991. Has the most HR (449), RBI (1529), BB (1401), and highest career OPS+ (149) of any Astros player.
   60. DL from MN Posted: December 23, 2011 at 05:54 PM (#4022661)
> the best all-around first basemen in all of baseball during the 1990s

"in all of baseball" is unnecessary
   61. theorioleway Posted: December 23, 2011 at 06:41 PM (#4022690)
Thanks DL. For some reason I wanted to make clear he wasn't just the best all-around 1B in the NL in the 1990s, but that is obvious based upon his first-year election to the HOM.
   62. Mayor Blomberg Posted: December 23, 2011 at 07:08 PM (#4022714)
and, oh, if the placque's not already been poured, "best all-around first baseman."
   63. rawagman Posted: December 24, 2011 at 12:18 AM (#4022834)
Suggested changes:
The greatest player in the history of the Houston franchise, Bagwell was consistently the best all-around first baseman in the game during the 1990s. 'Bags' combined exceptional plate discipline (.408 OBP) with great power (.540 SLG) to be one of the most dangerous hitters in his era (149 career OPS+). His 1994 MVP season was sublime, as he led the league in R (104), RBI (116), SLG (.750), OPS+ (213), and TB (300). Besides being a masher, Bagwell could run (202 career SB, including two seasons of at least 30) and was considered a plus defensive 1B (winning the Gold Glove in 1994). The 1191 NL Rookie of the Year came to the Astros fully formed as the return in one of history's most lopsided trades, acquired from teh Boston Red Sox in exchange for 22 innings out of the bullpen for Larry Andersen. An integral member of the “Killer Bs” along with long-time teammate Craig Biggio, Bagwell was part of four division winners (1997-1999, 2001) and two wild-card winners (2004-2005) making the World Series in 2005 (the first Houston team to win a pennant). A four-time NL All-Star (1994, 1996, 1997, 1999) and three-time Silver Slugger award winner (1994, 1997, 1999). NL leader in G four times (1992, 1996, 1997, 1999), R three times (1994, 1999, 2000) 2B (1996), BB (1999), and HBP (1991). He holds career franchise records for most HR (449), RBI (1529), BB (1401), and OPS+ (149).
   64. theorioleway Posted: December 24, 2011 at 04:46 PM (#4022983)
Rawagman: Other than nitpicking things like "1991 NL Rookie" and "the Boston Red Sox" it looks good.

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