Is Craig Biggio A Great Player?

     The "Hall Of Fame" is supposed to consist of "great" players, not "good" players.  So was Craig Biggio a "great player," during his tenure as a Major League baseball player? 

     I remember the 1990’s quite well.  Griffey, Bonds, and Frank Thomas were the three best position players over the course of the decade.  They were guys that wowed you at the plate.  Guys that struck fear into the opposing pitcher whenever they set foot into the batter’s box.  Frank Thomas especially, as he might be the largest human being to ever set foot on this Earth.  These guys were intimidating without ever leaving the front of my baseball cards.  Craig Biggio was not one of these type of players though.  But just because he wasn’t as flashy or as dominant as the three best players in the game at the time, does not exclude him from being a "Hall of Fame" candidate.  It doesn’t matter how you go about your game, as long as you are getting the right results.  In this case the results have to be "Hall" worthy.

     Okay, so he is less of a candidate than the three, as these were clearly the three best.  I mean think about this, over Thomas’ career he has had 3,000 fewer plate appearences than Craig Biggio, but "created" 200 more runs than that of Biggio.  This is remarkable.  Frank Thomas was abolutely dominant in the 90’s.  So dominant that Biggio’s defense could not make up the difference in offensive production. 

     We have to take into account defense too.  And this isn’t a blog comparing Craig Biggio to the players above necessarily, but really a blog trying to find out if Biggio was truly great.  His defense is considered above average, and in his prime even better than that, as he won four consecutive "Gold Gloves."   These awards can sometimes be awarded to undeserving candidates, but I have to listen to what the so called "experts" are saying to some degree.  He also played three seasons as a catcher in the beginning of his career, and played two seasons in the outfield.  We can say that those few years his value was lessened because of his move to the outfield.  But we can also look at him as being the ultimate team player, doing what management asked him to do.  Now I don’t know why exactly he made the transition to the outfield, but two years out there shouldn’t really hurt his chances. 

     Here is another topic: He is an "intangibles" guy.  Carried himself like a leader and played the game the way that every manager wants their ballplayers to play.  If he played in NY he would be glorified and praised relentlessly, by the media and fans.  How much do intangibles matter?  I don’t know, and no one else does either, so everyone will judge that particular topic differently. 

     His postseason statistics were miserable, as much as he helped his team during the regular season, he hurt them come postseason time.  His postseason OBP over fourty games was a very costly .297, his slugging was at .323.  That gives him an OPS during the playoffs of .620!  That is way below what "great" players should be doing when the games matter the most. 

     But a poor performance in the postseason does not offset the fact that he was good over a very long career.  He obviously, reached 3000 hits yesterday, and not one player who has reached that milestone has been left out of the "Hall of Fame."  But if you play long enough and are a good player, than some of baseball’s milestone’s may be attained.  Let us look at his "162 game average" over his career.  17 HR, 67 RBI, 24 SB, and .282/.365/.435, which gives him a career OPS of .800.  Biggio’s "Adjusted OPS" is 55th among active players at "113."  Jeff Kent’s is well above that at "125."  I know, I know, Biggio was a second baseman, but his season averages were not that impressive compared to the other great players of his time and are inferior to that of even Jeff Kent’s, another second baseman, who will be a questionable "Hall" candidate himself.

     To be honest, I am kind of torn on Biggio.  With all this said, I don’t think he is a first ballot hall of famer at all.  I believe that if a player is hall worthy, then they should be voted in right when the voters get the chance, typically.  Thomas, Bonds, and Griffey are all first ballot in my mind, if we take PED’s out of the equation.  I will let voters use their own discretion on that unfortunate subject.  But since most players don’t make it on the first ballot, then I don’t believe Biggio should be in on the first ballot.  He is one of the better second baseman of all time.  And I also think very high of intangibles.  So it is a tough decision, so I will not give a definite answer, for there are five more years, at least, to debate this. 




  1. PAUL

    You can’t compare Craig Biggio to Thomas, Bonds, Griffey or even Kent. The job description for each of those guys was to drive in runs and hit for power; not so with Biggio. His job was to get on base, use his speed, hit with occasional pop and play defense. To me, Biggio is one of the ultimate team guys because he moved positions often without complaint and became a solid outfielder in addition to being a Gold Glove second baseman. Comparing him to those other guys is like comparing Greg Maddux to Nolan Ryan. Ryan racked up the strikeouts, but was punished by being on weaker teams than Maddux; Maddux racked up the wins by playing for the Braves and being economical letting hitters get themselves out. You can’t compare the two. Ryan was more overpowering, Maddux was (and is) a better pitcher. It’s the same thing with Biggio and the other guys mentioned.

  2. Jason

    It’s a good question. I’d say that Biggio is definitely a first-ballot Hall of Fame guy. True, he wasn’t a dominant player as the three you mentioned were. But he was a terrific player for a long time, and an excellent hitter to get to 3,000 hits, still an incredible accomplishment. That magic number still matters to me.

    I’d also add that many Hall of Famers don’t have close to Biggio’s career numbers, either as averages or the 3,000 hit mark. Most really aren’t even close, yet are Hall of Famers. To me, Biggio belongs in the Hall on the first ballot.

  3. joseph

    I guess, but I believe that those three guys produced more than Biggio did. And I will take Maddux over Ryan, it doesnt necessarily matter “how” they pitched. It matters how effective they were. Aside from wins, which isnt an accurate way to look at it, Maddux’s adjusted ERA was 20th all time. Ryan’s was 257th.

    I know that Biggio played a different position and was asked to do different things, but isnt it about overall production. I believe that the other three guys did more to help their teams win, and were better players. Now in the case of Bonds and Thomas it was because of their stats being so incredibly great, rather than intangibles. I wish I could find all time “win shares.” Do you know where I can find that?

  4. joseph

    One more thing. I did not decide whether or not I think that Biggio should be in or not. I am not sure yet. The real reason I included the other three is because of Frank Thomas. Thomas and Biggio are both being talked about now, because they both reached their “milestones” yesterday. I probably should have included the other three in a seperate blog entitled “Is Frank Thomas a great player,” or something of that nature. But using them got part of my point across because I believe those three guys are clearly great players in my mind, while it isn’t so clear with Biggio in my opinion.

    Jason-The question is though if Biggio had retired before the season just short of 3000 hits, would that change your opinion of him? I don’t feel that it should. I mean to look at it logically, Biggio is actually hurting his team statistically in the year that he was/is pursuing his 3oooth hit. I dont think the 70 hits really changes what kind of player he was. It is just a nice milestone.

  5. joseph

    Oh yeah, these milestones are definitely good for sparking debate amongst all of us fans/writers. Because if Biggio had retired before this season started, I would not have written this blog for at least five years.

  6. Jason

    No, I don’t think it would have changed my view of Biggio either. He’s a Hall of Famer to me. Though I very much like the debate and its range, I would also be a bit wary of comparative stats between eras. They’re useful for making comparisons between players’ stats and what they would have meant in a different era which is good, but they don’t, and can’t, take into account how pitchers would have fared in another time, including a whole range of intangibles such as the preponderance of weight lifting, increased bullpen use, and the like. Ryan was greatly shortchanged with the Astros who were terrible offensively in an offensive era. In 1987, Ryan led the NL in ERA at 2.76 and strikeouts at 270 in 211 2/3 innings, but was 8-16 because he received 30 runs of support in the 16 losses. I totally agree about Maddux, but Ryan was great in ways statistics can’t quite measure. He would have been incredible on the Reds, Yankees, A’s or a few other teams in his time.

  7. joseph

    That’s why I didn’t use “wins” when comparing the two. Wins matter to some degree, but I value other stats much more. Ryan should not be penalized because his team couldnt score enough runs.

  8. joseph

    “Win %” more accurately because that is where Maddux holds a huge advantage as they are only 16 “wins” apart.

  9. PAUL

    Compared to Thomas, Bonds, Griffey, Craig Biggio is not a “great” player; but that doesn’t diminish his qualifications for the Hall of Fame. It’s like criticizing knuckleballers for being knuckleballers; getting the job done is the main point, isn’t it? Biggio has never been a “great” player, but he showed up every day; did things to help his team win. No, he’s never been a guy that had to be planned for like Albert Pujols or even Jeff Bagwell; but then Derek Jeter is sort of the same way. (Jeter’s a better player than Biggio.) Because he’s not “dominant” doesn’t mean he doesn’t meet the qualifications for the HOF.
    And thanks for the Win Shares links; I looked at them and I just don’t have the patience to try and comprehend some made up statistical formula that doesn’t convince me of a player’s value anyway.

  10. joseph

    I want to make it clear that the reason I dont think Biggio is a “first ballot” hall of famer is because of the way the writers vote. A lot of writers dont vote guys in on the first ballot just because they want to wait or whatever. So deserving players have not been voted in until after their first year of eligibilty in the past. I don’t think this is right, but it is the way they do it. If I was voting then I “might” vote him in first ballot. But if for some reason I wasnt going to vote a player in first ballot, then they probably wouldnt get my vote at all. With steroids surrounding baseball that might be a good reason not to vote a guy in first ballot in order to let the current situation play out some more, ex: Big Mac, but that is another story entirely as I dont think Biggio took any part in this.

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