After McGriff and Palmeiro, Bagwell completes our 2nd matched set of first basemen with Frank Thomas. Like Frank, Bagwell just completed his age 36 season, had by far his best season in 1994, and is definitely on a Hall of Fame course.
Jeff Bagwell (click on his name-Baseball Reference supplies all the comparables this time) was drafted in the 4th round of the 1989 draft as a third baseman by the Red Sox. He had fine seasons, albeit without power, in rookie league in 1989 and in double A in 1990. On August 31, 1990, the Sox traded him to the Astros for Larry Andersen, in one of the ten worst trades in baseball history. The Astros immediately moved him to first base. After fine seasons in 91-93, he exploded on the league in 1994, ringing up a cool .368/.451/.750 line that would fit in nicely in Gehrig's or Foxx's career. He has not matched that again, but was consistently great until 2000, and it has been a slow slide since then. His OPS+ 1999-2004 go 169, 152, 141, 137, 127 and 117. His 2004 line of .266/.377/.465 with a 117 OPS+ was easily the poorest of his career.
The Baseball Reference comparables capture Bagwell very well. He's halfway between McGriff/Palmeiro and Thomas as a hitter. While not as good as Eddie Murray with the glove, he has been a fine defensive first baseman. He had good speed when he was younger, and was moderately successful as a basestealer.
He has played in six post-season series (five losing), and has not hit well. The chances of him winning a championship with Houston in the next few years are not great, and a ring would be on the icing on the cake for his Hall bid.
Should he be in the Hall of Fame? Will he? If his career ended tomorrow, he would be a good Hall candidate. If he can produce 2 more good seasons, there will be no question. My instinct tells me that he will reverse his recent decline and follow the pattern of the great modern first basemen by producing 2 or 3 more good years. If that happens, he should and will get in.
For the Green projection method, we'll use 3 tablespoons of sesame oil, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1/4 cup of chopped onion and ginger galore. Inhale and pronounce:
Jeff Bagwell's final career statistics:
1750 runs, 1750 RBIs, 500 homers and .294/.402/.538.
Other first basemen in this series: Frank Thomas, Rafael Palmeiro, Fred McGriff
On deck: Carlos Delgado