Comparing Craig Biggio with other Hall of Fame second basemen is a keystone cop-out.
The prominent argument promoting Biggio's continued Cooperstown candidacy has revolved around the Kings Park native's 3,060 hits, a milestone total that typically guarantees election to the Hall. The only players with at least 3,000 hits not in the Hall are Biggio, Derek Jeter (active), Rafael Palmeiro (performance-enhancing drug suspension) and Pete Rose (banned).
Perhaps Biggio's true value isn’t measured in hits, however, but rather by his versatility.
Biggio is the only player in MLB history since 1901 to play at least 100 games at catcher, second base and center field. Heck, he's the only player that spent at least 100 games at catcher and second base. He's one of only two (with Roger Bresnahan) to play at least 100 games at catcher and center field.
There have been 28 players to spend at least 100 games at second base and center field. Biggio leads the crowd in hits, RBIs, runs, walks, stolen bases and on-base percentage. Only Ron Gant leads him in home runs.
There are only six players currently enshrined in Cooperstown that played at least 100 games at two skill positions (eliminating the corner outfield spots and first base). Bresnahan is one. Johnny Bench and Jimmie Foxx fit the bill at catcher and third base; Mel Ott and Freddie Lindstrom hit the century mark at third base and center field.
Then there’s Robin Yount, who achieved the feat at shortstop and center field, and may be the best historical comparable to Biggio. He’s even listed by Baseball-Reference as the player with the highest similarity score to Biggio.
Yount was elected to the Hall in 1999, his first year of eligibility, with 77.5 percent of the vote. Biggio garnered 68.2 percent of the vote last year, his first, and just missed election on Wednesday with 74.8 percent of the vote. Players must be named on 75 percent of ballots by voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America to earn election.
The two versatile defenders produced comparable offensive numbers.
Yount had a .285 average, .342 on-base percentage and 115 OPS+, an advanced stat used to compare players from different eras since it adjusts for league and park factors. He had 4,730 total bases, scored 1,632 runs, drove in 1,406 RBIs and stole 271 bases with a 72 percent success rate during a 20-season career with the Brewers.
Biggio had a .281 average, .363 OBP and 112 OPS+. He had 4,711 total bases, scored 1,844 runs, drove in 1,175 and stole 414 bases with a 76.9 percent success rate during a 20-season career with the Astros.
Despite the similar resumes, however, Yount was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and Biggio waits. Biggio’s ballot was certainly loaded, but Yount’s wasn’t weak either. Nolan Ryan and George Brett were inducted with Yount in 1999 and future Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk, Tony Perez, Gary Carter, Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter and Bert Blyleven were also listed.
Biggio fell two votes just of election on Wednesday and will likely get in next year.
But will the voters elect him for hits or history?