The Case for Cooperstown: Craig Biggio
With the release of the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, Waiver Wire writer Greg Kaplan will explore the candidacy of numerous names on the ballot. Points for and against induction will be presented, and we’re forcing him to make a decision at the end of each post to decide if that player should be placed alongside the immortals that have played baseball throughout history.
Previous Cases – Jack Morris – Jeff Bagwell – Lee Smith – Tim Raines – Alan Trammell–Edgar Martinez – Fred McGriff – Larry Walker – Mark McGwire – Don Mattingly – Dale Murphy – Rafael Palmeiro - Bernie Williams - Barry Bonds - Roger Clemens
Year(s) on ballot – 1st
Credentials – 20-year MLB career (all with Houston Astros), career .281/.363/.433, 291HRs, 1,175RBI, 3,060 hits, 1,844 runs, 668 doubles, 414 stolen bases, seven-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, five-time Silver Slugger
The Case For -
3,000 hits are generally considered one of the career numbers that can lock down a player getting into Cooperstown. However, there’s more to the story for Biggio than just the hits his amassed throughout his career.
Biggio played three different primary positions for the Astros throughout his career, and won a Silver Slugger as a catcher in 1989 and the other four as a second baseman. But, he also played a very respectable outfield at different points in his career, making him one of the most versatile stars of his generation.
However, his best position defensively was by far second base. And when you compare Biggio to other second basemen who find themselves in the Hall of Fame, he stands near the top. For starters, there are only 19 second basemen that have found their way to Cooperstown. Of those 19, Biggio would rank second all-time with his 291 home runs (behind only Rogers Hornsby) and would rank fourth in hits with his 3,060, with only Rod Carew having more hits post-World War II (Nap Lajoie and Eddie Collins also have 3,000+). Biggio also has more career RBIs than Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Rod Carew, Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg, all while hitting at or near the top of an Astros line-up that included stars like Jeff Bagwell, Derek Bell, Ken Caminiti and Lance Berkman at different times in Biggio’s career.
Looking at his individual season success, eight times in Biggio’s career did he score 100+ runs, including twice leading the league (1995 with 123 and 1997 with 146). Seven times did Biggio hit 40+ doubles, twice eclipsing 50 and three times leading the league (’94, ’95-’96). Seven times, Biggio hit better than .290 in a single season, including four times over .300. Biggio finished fourth in the 1997 National League MVP voting, and finished fifth the next year.
To go along with his prototypical top-of-the-order capabilities, Biggio was a much better baserunner than most baseball fans remember. His 414 career stolen bases would rank him sixth all-time among Hall of Fame second basemen and had seasons in which he stole 30+ bases five times, leading the league in 1994 with 39 and a career-high 50 in 1998. Three times, Biggio finished seasons with at least 20HR/20SB.
Of course, there’s also the fun stat that five times in Biggio’s career, he led the league in hit by pitches. His career-high of 34 in 1997 are ninth-most in a single-season, and his 285 career bean balls rank him second all-time, two behind Hughie Jennings’ 287.
The Case Against –
There isn’t a huge argument to be made that would justify keeping Biggio out of the Hall. But, if you wanted to play devil’s advocate, you could try to make the point that Biggio was a beneficiary of playing for a long time and getting to 3,000 hits. Also, Biggio’s career WAR of 62.1 is a few marks shy of the Hall of Fame average of 65. He also never had an OPS+ higher than 143 in a single season.
However, I have a real hard time buying into those arguments. Biggio was a phenomenal lead-off hitter that helped propel some very dynamic Houston Astros teams during his prime. Playing three different defensive positions throughout his career, all of which couldn’t be more different than catcher, second base and outfield, highlight the type of all-around ball player scouts are always trying to find and flood their minor league systems with.
Craig Biggio is probably the only lock on this year’s ballot to absolutely be going into Cooperstown. If there is any sort of vindication for Jeff Bagwell, he will be inducted with his fellow ‘Killer B’. I have less faith in that.
But, I can almost assure you that Biggio’s plaque will soon be up for all of those to see in baseball’s Hall of Fame.