Before we jump into perceived postseason failings, we think it’s worth noting the overall impact Jeff Bagwell had on the Houston Astros franchise.
In their 53-year history, the Astros have 28 total winning seasons; 13 of those were with Bagwell on the roster. And no, he did not walk onto a great team and ride its coattails. The team won 65 games his rookie season. They would not dip below .500 for another nine years and then never again while Bagwell was active. That’s two below-.500 seasons in his 15-year career. The Astros with Bagwell were 1,255-1,110 (.531) with one pennant and six playoff appearances. Without him: 2,861-3,218 (.471) with zero pennants and three playoff appearances. According to offensive winning percentage, a team of nine Jeff Bagwells (we know, we know – it sounds like a Saturday Night Live bit) would win, on average, 117 games a season.
We’re not suggesting Bagwell deserves 100% credit as he had some incredibly gifted teammates. But we’re not sure people realize how good the Astros were for a very long stretch in which he and Craig Biggio were the year-to-year constants. They made the postseason six times over a nine-year period and, during Bagwell’s career (’91-’05), won more regular season games than every other team in baseball, save the Braves, Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals.
We’re not trying to stall. We just think it’s important to remind everyone that without Jeff Bagwell playing at a very high level for an incredibly long stretch, there wouldn’t be so many postseason failures to hold against him. And speaking of…
Did you know that Jeff Bagwell totaled a mere 129 plate appearances in the postseason? It’s true! The entire, “He wasn’t good in the postseason” argument, which isn’t without merit, nonetheless boils down to what is essentially a single month out of a single season; or, roughly 1% of Bagwell’s total career plate appearances. It’s 33 games spread over six different postseasons, which makes them even more arbitrary and unrelated. So while the objection certainly has some value … we’re also talking about a remarkably small, random sample size.
Plus, he did go .318/.400/.682/1.082 in 25 plate appearances during the 2004 NLDS to help the Astros clinch their first postseason series win in franchise history. And before anyone can shout, “Even smaller sample size!” – please note that it actually represents 20% of his total postseason plate appearances – which is significantly more than the 1% of total career plate appearances his postseason totals represent that too many voters are holding against him.
But, no – he wasn’t appreciably good in limited postseason opportunities.