Year Inducted: 2015 (BBWAA, ballot #3, 454/549)
There are some players who seem difficult to tie down to one position. How should history look upon a player like Rod Carew? Carew’s numbers definitely play better as a second baseman, but he played more often at first base. Ernie Banks, Robin Yount, Tony Perez, and several other players were stars at two positions. How does one group them appropriately? One approach, the one taken here, is to use the position that made them famous. Carew may have played more at first, but his career feels more like a second baseman’s career. Banks played a lot of first too, but made his name (like Yount) as a shortstop. And then the most curious case comes up: a player who started as a catcher, converted to second base (all at the major league level), converted again to an outfielder (again at the major league level) and then finishing his career as a second baseman again. Where does he fit in? That’s part of the enigma about Craig Biggio.
Biggio’s prominence came as a second baseman, so that’s where he gets slotted. And, for most of his career, he was the best second baseman in the game. In a 20-year career spent entirely with the Astros, Biggio hit .281/.363/.433 with a wRC+ of 115. Among his 3060 career knocks, Biggio collected 668 doubles, 55 triples and 291 homers. Biggio’s power numbers look great on the surface, but when analyzed further make him tremendous. Biggio played a lot of his early career in the Astrodome, which was a deathpit for right handed hitters until the fences were moved in (and it was still not great at that point). It’s possible that Biggio lost quite a few homers due to the dimensions of his home park.
Biggio spent most of his career as the Astros’ leadoff man, or the second place hitter. As such, he wasn’t in an RBI spot in the lineup, which makes his 1175 RBI total fairly impressive. At the heart of his career, Biggio teamed with great hitters like Jeff Bagwell (why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame?), Lance Berkman (why is he not going to get inducted into the Hall of Fame) and Jeff Kent (why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame?) to form a dominant lineup for the Astros, and Biggio’s ability to hit for power at the top of the lineup and get on base by any means (285 HBP) helped him score 1844 runs. Biggio was also, in his prime, a fantastic baserunner and ended his career with more than 400 steals.
Biggio, as mentioned earlier, bounced around the field a lot to accomodate the Astros more than the Astros finding the best fit for his skills. Overall defensively, Biggio was a below average fielder, but that’s tough to blame him when he had to make so many position changes on the fly.
Biggio was one of the finest players to ever put on a uniform. So, why did he have to wait 3 ballots? A lot of players of Biggio’s generation, rightly or wrongly, got swept up in the steroid cloud which cost players like Biggio and Bagwell (who haven’t had any concrete proof of usage and only innuendo) a lot of votes. Another is how his career ended. Biggio’s last truly great season came in 2001, and that preceeded six seasons of league average at best production, which helped paint Biggio as a compiler in the eyes of some writers. But, in the end, all that matters is that Biggio is now recognized as one of the top players ever. Now the writers need to work on some of his teammates that deserve induction.
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