For the love of Craig Biggio

I have long had a borderline irrational admiration for Craig Biggio. He played for the Astros. He spent a lot of years making Cubs pitchers suffer. I shouldn’t like him, but I do. Can’t help it. I am inherently susceptible to rooting for sparkplug-type players, and Craig Biggio was certainly one of the sparkpluggiest sparkplugs in the history of the game.

With this in mind, you can imagine my displeasure upon learning that Mr. Biggio was not granted entrance into baseball’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Oh, I know he’ll get in eventually. But he deserved it on the first go. I can only surmise that none of the voters ever looked at the backside of one of his baseball cards.

I feel about as strongly on this subject as one could. Why? If you must know, it’s Bill James’ fault.

In 2001, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract was published. I consider this book to be the finest ever written on the subject of baseball. If this book says it, I will take it as the gospel truth. Which maybe isn’t a good thing, but that is a subject for another day.

In his Abstract, Bill James gives us a list of the 100 greatest baseball players of all time (up to that point. Which was 2001. Which you know already if you’ve been paying attention). Bill ranks Craig Biggio as the 35th greatest ballplayer in history. This is well ahead of many, many others who were shoo-in first-round hall-of-famers, and a few others who definitely will be, when their time comes (*cough-Maddux-cough-Griffey-coughcough*).

Rather than further barrage you with enumerations detailing my fondness for Mr. Biggio, I will leave you with a taste of what Bill James has to say about him. It is much more betterer.

Craig Biggio in 1997 was hit by 34 pitches, while grounding into zero double plays. Both of these figures were historic. He was the fifth player ever to play a full season without grounding into a double play, and missed the major league record for most plate appearance without grounding into a double play by only four. The 34 HBP was the highest total in the National League in 26 years, the second-highest of the twentieth century.

I have always linked these two stats together, long before Biggio, as “little stats.” There are half a dozen batting stats that get left out of USA Today, and left off baseball cards, because they’re not generally significant. The stats include sacrifice hits, sac flies, and intentional walks, but GIDP and hit batsmen are the most important of the group, the two which are most likely to change the way a player should be evaluated.

I have long wanted to make up a stat to summarize the impact of these categories, a “Little Stat Summary”, if you will. I have never actually created the formula, because I have already polluted the sport with quite a number of statistical inventions, and I’m afraid of slipping to a lower rung of the inferno if I make up any more. No, seriously, the reason I’ve never written such a formula is that it’s not clear what we would be measuring. For a statistic to have value, it has to be meaningful with reference to something other than it’s own formula.

Anyway, Biggio has the best “little stats” of any player in baseball history, this being one of the reasons that he has been tremendously underrated. If you compare him to, let’s say, Jim Rice in 1984, Biggio has a hidden advantage of 69 extra times on base, since he was hit by pitches 33 more times (34 to 1) and beat the throw to first on a double play attempt 36 more times (0 to 36). Those little stats that get left out of USA Today, in this comparison, have an impact roughly equivalent to 100 points of batting average.


“Hey, check it out… puppies!”

Most baseball bloggers, at this point in the year, are talking about the state of their team, or who should be traded and whatnot. I tried that. It wasn’t so much fun. So here are a bunch of random photos I scrounged up featuring baseball players and various furry critters. Cuteness…. this is much more my style.


Timmy Lincecum shares a smooch with his French Bulldog, Cy.

Mr. and Mrs. Chase Utley with some puppies.

Brad Penny visits with some St. Bernards (at least I assume that’s what they are.)

OK. So this is a little bit scary. But you have to give Tony LaRussa props for his charitable efforts.

The Astros, apparently, have done a lot of pet calendars for charity. Which is cool, but I don’t like not knowing if this is really Craig Biggio’s dog, or if it is just some random pooch that they borrowed for a photo shoot.

I’m not sure who this random Astro is, but I love this picture. It makes me think of this.

Click here to see a photo of Ryan Dempster and his dog.

I am sort of assuming that this cat does not belong to Matt Wieters. But don’t they rather look alike?


To be continued!

“Dress every day like you’re going to get murdered in those clothes.”

Every year the major leagues over, rookies are forced into donning ridiculous costumes on an appointed day near the season’s end. Yesterday was that day for Cubs rookies, which is what got me on the subject. Comcast Sportsnet has a short video, featuring the very good-humored James Russell and Brad Snyder.

The outfits are always equal parts hilarious and disturbing. Well… occasionally more disturbing than hilarious. I scoured the internet and collected a few photos from various years and teams, doing my best to exclude the really disturbing. This is a family-friendly blog, after all. Enjoy.

That’s Daisuke Matsuzaka in the teletubby get-up.

This man graduated from Princeton with a degree in operations research and financial engineering.

2009 Houston Astros

The New York Yankees know how to keep it classy:

Week Two In Review

Week Two of the Major League Season: In which there was Wrigley’s home opener, errors, home runs, #42’s, and some disturbingly fine weather.

Around the Majors

Outstanding Gloviness: The two coolest defensive plays of the year so far are both by starting pitchers. This week it’s Pittsburgh’s Paul Maholm. I’m putting my money on Jorge De La Rosa for next week!

Fashion Statement: The Braves and Padres donned throwback uniforms in yesterday’s match-up. If I never mentioned it before, I LOVE throwbacks. Love, love, love ’em. So any time two teams have a throwback day, you’ll be hearing about it.

Atlanta’s spiffy powder-blue duds.

“Sigh” Young Award: I bestow this week’s trophy upon Milwaukee’s LaTroy Hawkins. With many thanks.

Houston, we have a problem: It took the Astros until yesterday afternoon to tally their first Win. No 0-162 season for the ‘Stros this year! 1-161 still looking like a possibility, though.

“Blast” of the Week: Did you see Aubrey Huff’s inside-the-park homer? My favorite part is Mark DeRosa pretty much lying tummy-down on the grass to emphasize the need for a slide (although it wasn’t really necessary.)

Disabled: Brian Fuentes, Brian Roberts, Jimmy Rollins, Esmailin Caridad

As For The Cubs…

Superhero of the Week: I wish there were more candidates… I’m going ahead and awarding this one to Kosuke Fukudome for his game-winning hit Wednesday.

Kitten Eaters of the Week: Alfonso Soriano, Jeff Samardzija (two weeks in a row for the Shark. Not a good thing, but I’ve had enough of the “trade him to the Bears” jokes already.)

Called Up: Jeff Gray… woo-hoo.

On The Right Track: Theodore Lilly pitched 4 innings in Iowa on Wednesday. He will make another minor-league start next week and hopefully be back with the Cubs before the end of the month.

Hug of the Week: Marlon Byrd. I just wanted to hug him about six different times, didn’t you?

Signs of the Apocalypse: Derrek Lee was ejected from yesterday’s contest by home-plate umpire Angel Campos. This is about as common as an ivory-billed woodpecker sighting. And the only thing rarer than ivory-billed woodpeckers and D-Lee ejections? Eighty-degree weather in Chicago in APRIL.