Friday, December 28, 2007

Where Oh Where Would We Be Without ESPN Page 2...

David Schoenfield offers up a little tribute to Craig Biggio.

I apologize, but this one lends itself to being stat-heavy.

Craig Biggio's name has never been linked to performance-enhancing drugs, but I know two things he tested positive for during his Hall of Fame career: hustle and dirt.

Other players who have tested positive for hustle:

Jim Thome
Jack Wilson
Ronnie Belliard
Alex Rios
Eric Byrnes
Yuniesky Betancourt
98% of the rest of Major League Baseball

Other players who have tested positive for dirt:

Everyone who has ever slid into a base.

This Biggio fellow is pretty unique, eh?

Despite playing much of his career in the Astrodome, Biggio always found a way to get dirt on his uniform.

This is in no way impressive. Biggio had a great career. You are basically shitting on him by pointing to this as a reason and ignoring things he was actually good at.

But (and no offense to David Eckstein here) Biggio was much more than a scrappy hustler: He's arguably one of the top 50 players in the game's history.

Now that the lunchpail alert is officially the brightest red it has ever been, I can successfully puke.

Just off the top of my head, Biggio had 3 contemporary teammates who were definitely better than him: Jeff Bagwell (career .322, Roger Clemens, and Lance Berkman. You really think it's tough to knock off another 47?

If Biggio gets into the Hall of Fame, which he probably will, and deservedly so (I've come around on this), it's on the strength of his durability, character, and counting stats. He was a legitimately great player for like 6 years or so in the 90's when he was OBPing .400 and stuff. Top 50 of all time? No.

He came up as a catcher, became an All-Star, moved to second base and was a Gold Glover.

Fielding stats are pretty sketchy at times, but Biggio's FRAA was -163 for his career, and had 11 seasons of -10 FRAA or more. I think it's pretty clear that Biggio was not a very good defensive second baseman.

He topped 10 home runs just once in his first four seasons, but finished with eight seasons of 20-plus home runs.

Reggie Sanders had 10 of those things.

He stole 50 bases once

Juan Pierre has done that 4 times.

he hit 56 doubles another time;

You got me there.

he scored 146 runs in 1997 (only Astros teammate Jeff Bagwell has scored more in a season since 1950);

22 of which he scored with no teammate assistance!

Funny you mention think he might have been a large part of the reason Biggio got to that absurd total? Bagwell had 85 extra base hits that year! The REAL reason that was a great season for Biggio was his .415 OBP.

Jimmy Rollins managed to score 139 runs this year on a .344 OBP. You think he wants to thank Ryan Howard and Chase Utley?

he once played 162 games and didn't ground into a single double play

That is just plain sick. Amazing job Biggio, no joke.

only 12 players have scored more than his 1,844 runs.

Because he played 20 healthy seasons batting in front of power hitters maybe? Biggio's career OBP is .363. Good, not great. It pales in comparison to say, Jeff Bagwell's .408 career OBP. I have a gigantic man-crush on Jeff Bagwell.

And, those 12 are all legends of the game -- names like Mays, Cobb, Aaron, Musial, Gehrig. His run scoring ability offers a little insight into how underappreciated Biggio was during his career; after all, isn't the object of the game to score runs?

For the last fucking time. Scoring runs is not an individual ability. It is a team ability. Getting on base is an individual ability. When you're standing on 2nd base, you can't control whether or not the guy at the plate gets the single you need to score.

For a time, it appeared Biggio's legacy (shared with Bagwell) would be one of failed Octobers. From 1997 to 2001, the Astros lost four straight playoff series and Biggio hit .083, .182, .105 and .167 in them.

Remember this, you A-Rod nay-sayers.

Finally, in 2004, Biggio hit .400 as the Astros beat the Braves for the first playoff win in franchise history. Although they lost to St. Louis in the National League Championship Series that year, in 2005 the Astros reached the World Series as Biggio hit .316 and .333 in playoff series victories. Biggio was past his prime by then, but at least he finally showed a glimmer of his greatness on a big stage.

Blah blah blah batting averages in playoff series are so luck-based it's scary. If you want to pay homage to Biggio, at least cite the facts that he is in the 3000 hit club, played 19 full seasons and only failed to crack 130 games played once for reasons other than the 1994 strike, was consistently pretty good at getting on base, and was a great character/team player/presence in the Astros clubhouse/dugout (a little puffy, but definitely true).

Instead, you chose things like dirt, hustle, that season he stole 50 bases, the 8 seasons he was an above-average home run hitter, the awesomeness of the hitters behind him at driving him in, and postseason batting averages.

I sincerely hope David Schoenfield is never asked to give a eulogy at a funeral.


Chris W said...

Frank Thomas>Bagwell

pnoles said...

True, Frank Thomas > Bagwell.

Also, I forgot to mention, but thanks to (very infrequent) reader Jason for the tip.

Tonus said...

At least he made sure not to diss David Eckstein, the Godfather of Grit. The Doyenne of Dirt. The Maestro of Mudstains. Did we really understand "dirt" until Eck came along?

pnoles said...

Congratulations tonus, you have just prompted me to spawn a new label.