Why Bill Hall over Jeff Keppinger?

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Wade and Hall toured the field shortly after Hall’s signing was officially announced on Monday.  

Ed Wade set out this offseason to upgrade at second base or shortstop or both, hoping to find more run production from two spots that produced, combined, exactly nine home runs in 2010.

You might have looked at Jeff Keppinger’s numbers last year — .288, 34 doubles, 59 RBIs, and wondered why they would want to swap him out with Hall, who hit for a lower average — .247 — and had fewer RBIs (46). It comes down to power — the Astros need more pop in their lineup, and they feel Clint Barmes and Hall have more to offer than Tommy Manzella and Keppinger. Hall slugged .456 last year, as compared with Keppinger’s .393, and that, ultimately, is what prompted Wade to make this move.

“Bill brings some additional offensive punch to our lineup,” Wade said. “He hit 18 home runs in limited at-bats last year with Boston and we think our offense is enhanced with the run-producing potential that both he and Clint Barmes can provide. Bill’s defensive versatility allows us to consider using him a number of different ways, but our plan is to have him play second base regularly. Jeff Keppinger has done a very solid job for us over the past two seasons and with his versatility, we believe there will be plenty of at-bats to go around.”

Meanwhile, Hall, who has played everywhere in the infield (minus first base) and all three outfield positions during his nine-year career, is happy to be targeted for just one position in 2011 and said that opportunity gave the Astros an edge over his other suitors.

“I’ve been blessed with a lot of ability to play other positions and I do take pride in my defense,” Hall said. “I don’t consider myself a utility player. I consider myself a baseball player. I am happy with the opportunity to play one position. I always said, I’m really good at lots of positions, but if I concentrate on one, hopefully I can be great.”

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On another note, we’re only a couple weeks away from finding out if Jeff Bagwell will be voted into the Hall of Fame. I’m sticking to my earlier prediction that he’ll need more than one time on the ballot to be elected, but it’s been interesting to read about how voters feel about Bagwell and some of the other players eligible for election this year.

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I ran across one particularly interesting one by Jeff Fletcher, Sr. MLB writer for Fanhouse. As I read it, it kind of cemented my earlier argument that the voting system is somewhat flawed. This is not remotely a criticism of Mr. Fletcher, who, by the way, feels Bagwell is Hall of Fame worthy. But one paragraph, meant to illustrate Mr. Fletcher’s initial pursuit to figure out whether Bagwell indeed was a Hall of Famer, stood out to me:

Did anyone ever go to the ballpark just because he wanted to see Bagwell play? Did you ever read the phrase “future Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell” when he was playing?

The answer to question one: Yes. The answer to question two: Yes.

Yes, yes, yes.

But if you didn’t live in Houston, and weren’t surrounded by Astros baseball, and had only minimal exposure to this team, how could you possibly know that?

Mr. Fletcher looked at Bagwell’s raw stats and saw where Bagwell stacked up among the greatest players in history, and that was enough to put the first baseman on his Hall of Fame ballot. Not every voter will feel the same way when they look at Bagwell’s stats — at least not this year — but considering where the Astros fit into the national scope during Bagwell’s 15 years in the big leagues, I wonder how much that lack of exposure hurts him now.

In other words, the Astros were a really good team, for a really long time, and were largely ignored elsewhere in the country. If Bagwell had played in New York or Boston, would we even be discussing this? Or would he be considered a Hall of Fame no-doubter?

6 Comments

Would someone go to the ballpark just to see Bagwell? SURE!
I actually drove all the way to Philly (from Washington DC area) to see Bagwell play on Mothers Day 2003. He had gotten off to a way hot start with homers, and I took a Bagwell sign to the game. He took batting practice, and then had the day off. :-(

I also watched (on the live stats) the Hooks game on Aug 31, 2005 — Bagwell’s first rehab game after the shoulder surgery.

So, even though I’m out here in Exile, and don’t get to many Astros games, yeah — I’d go to a ballpark just to see Bagwell play. And I’d go to Spring Training to watch him coaching the youngsters in the minor league practice field too.

I’m guessing he won’t go in this summer for all the reason Alyson says. But when he does go in, I’d go to Cooperstown just to see him too!

I’m getting absolutely sick to death of hearing the reasoning being “adding run production,” as though popping a few extra solo homers (and that’s what they’ll be because, guess what, we were JUST as bad at getting on-base as we were at slugging last year!) is suddenly going to make our offense competitive again. We’re subtracting OBP to add a bit of power, and we’re getting older and spending more money in the process (that is, unless they foolishly trade away the younger, controllable Keppinger in order to make payroll room). During all this time, all that the front office has done is talk down on what Keppinger brings; decent defense, solid AB’s and affordability, and all to sell the lie that we’re actually improving with this move. When was the last time anyone mentioned the fact that Keppinger struck out LESS than he walked last season? How about the fact that Bill Hall strikes out FOUR TIMES as much as Keppinger? How about the fact that Bill Hall has hit .233 over the last FOUR SEASONS COMBINED? In my opinion, anyone who seriously thinks this is any manner of significant or meaningful upgrade is a lunatic.

Alyson, you’re right on the money with team vs numbers as a factor in the minds of Hall voters. Look no further than Mattingly, who’s numbers pale in comparison to Bagwell’s. Bagwell has over 200 more HRs and over 500 more RBIs, and just a few ticks lower for career average. Having lived in NY when Mattingly played, as well as now having lived in Houston for all of Bagwell’s career, I think Bagwell was a much better first baseman. Yet Mattingly is almost certainly more well known. That said; Donnie baseball is soon to be more well known for being unable to manage a team. ;-)

Anyway, I won’t be surprised if Bagwell doesn’t get in this year, but I think he will eventually. The upside to that wait is that he may go in the same year as Biggio. I smell a road trip.

I likve ikn New Orleans and have been a fan of the Astros since the middle of the 60’s. One game has stayed in myh mind as we discusss Mr.Bagwe; and the Hall of Fame. IIt was the last game of the season, win and the Astros were still in the hunt for a playoff berth. Lose and they would go home. PllusAmnuher team had to win thast night to take the playoff berth away from the Astros. This game was a late game.

Anyway it the bottom of the ninth and the Astros are ahead by one run. Bases are loaded and i is two outs. The batter hits the ball to Jeff Bagwell at first base, who as he fields the ball sees that the pticher is watching the play. So Jeff fields the ball an trouws home to get the force out of the runner from third. That was a play that not many first basemen could make, even it they were told in advance the bass would be coming to them.

Jeff Bagwell is a Hall f Famer. There is no justice in the world if he does not get in.

Hey Alyson, Jeff Fletcher here. Just wanted to clarify what I meant by the statement you quoted from my story. I meant to simply illustrate how I define the “no brainer” HOF guys, the guys who don’t require any research at all. Those are guys who transcend their hometown or their home fans.

Among the players who have been on the ballot in my five years of voting, the only ones who really meet this standard are Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken. You didn’t need to live in San Diego or Baltimore to know those guys were HOFers.

I don’t think it’s any slap to Bagwelll that he’s not in the class of those type of players. Very few players are. Most Hall of Famers aren’t.

I would never apply the “If I have to think about it, he’s not a HOFer” standard that I’m afraid a few of my colleagues use. I think we’re supposed to think about it, with 90 percent of the candidates.

And when I thought about it, Bagwell was a HOFer.

Hi Jeff, thanks very much for the message. I definitely understand where you’re coming from and that’s why I made sure to point out that this was in no way a criticism of you. When fans have inquired as to whether I think Bagwell will be inducted on the first ballot, I’ve said no, mainly for the reasons that you gave: most people just don’t think of him in that elite class as the other first balloters. Part of the issue, in my opinion, is that not many voters actually watched him play every day, which is the case for many players up for election. In Houston, we know that people DID come out just to see him play and that around here, he’s been considered Future Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell for many, many years. Had he played in a bigger market, I think he’d be in on the first ballot. I am glad that you reviewed his career and came to the conclusion that you did. I wish others would, but I sense not enough have. Again, thanks for the clarification and for being so diligent in your research as you filled out your ballot.
Alyson

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