Just How Good was Jeff Bagwell?
Jeff Bagwell appeared on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year (2011).Â He should have been a first-ballot inductee into the Hall.Â Instead, he received only 42% of the vote.Â This is a result that defies rational explanation and, unfortunately, only reinforces the perception that the BBWAA at times does not know what it is doing.Â (The â€œrumorâ€ was that some writers â€œsuspectedâ€ Jeff of taking steroids â€“ even though he has never seriously been named in any of the steroids stories.)
The CAWS Career Gauge suggests that Jeff Bagwell had the #7 best career of any first baseman in the modern era (since 1920).Â And he is the #36 best position player of the same era.Â These are conclusions that cry out for induction into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Bill Jamesâ€™ Win Shares system is the most comprehensive tool available to understand how good a season a player had.Â It includes offensive and defensive contributions and adjusts for all relevant factors.Â The CAWS Career Gauge (Career Assessment/Win Shares) uses win shares to measure how good a career a player has had.
Here are the top ten first basemen of the modern era (since 1920).Â The first number is career win shares, the second is core value (the win shares for the ten best seasons) and the third is the CAWS score (the career score) [CAWS = CV + .25(CWS â€“ CV)].Â Hall of Famers are in bold type.
You will note that Jeff Bagwell is ranked ahead of Hall of Famers Johnny Mize and Harmon Killebrew.Â This puts him in very good company indeed.Â You will note that Mark McGwire is #10 on this list.Â Of course, his involvement with steroids is preventing him from even coming close to election to the Hall.
And your eyes are not deceiving you.Â That is Dick Allen (baseballâ€™s most under-appreciated superstar) tied with Eddie Murray for 5th place.
Now, the question is: Where does this score place Jeff Bagwell in comparison to the best position players of the modern era? As I mentioned above, he is #36 on the complete list.Â Here are the players who are ranked just above and just below him.
|34.||Cal Ripken Jr.||SS||427||276||314|
|38.||Ken Griffey Jr.
One look at these names and even a casual baseball fan recognizes that Jeff is in very select company.Â You will note that Bagwellâ€™s core value of 287 is behind only Johnny Mize and Duke Snider on this list.Â We are not talking here about a marginal Hall of Famer.Â Bagwell is the real deal â€“ a true baseball superstar.
Let us hope that by the next election the BBWAA gets its collective head together and elects Jeff Bagwell to the Hall of Fame â€“ where he certainly belongs.
Thank you for your time.
Professor Emeritus â€“ City U of NY
Author of A GOOD CAWS: A Hall of Fame Handbook (2011)