Why Bill Hall over Jeff Keppinger?
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.”
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.
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?