Who’s the Man?

Who’s the Man? – Jeff Bagwell vs Frank Thomas

November 5, 2006

INTRODUCING: Jeff Bagwell Drafted: Red Sox, round 4, 1989

Traded: to Houston for Larry Andersen 8-30-1990 (stop laughing out there)

Awards: 1994 NL MVP, 1991 NL Rookie of the Year, 4 All-Stars, 3 Silver Sluggers, 1 Gold Glove

Highlight stats: 1517 Runs, 449 HR, 1529 RBI, 202 SB, .297 career batting average

Mr Bagwell was the highest paid player in the National League in 2006. (believe it)

INTRODUCING: Frank Thomas

Drafted: White Sox, round 1 (7 overall), 1989

Free Agent: Signed with Oakland Athletics- January 25, 2006

Awards: 1993 AL MVP, 1994 AL MVP, 5All-Stars, 4 Silver Sluggers

Highlight stats: 487 HR, 1579 RBI, .305 career batting average, .990 career OPS

Mr Thomas received a World Series ring as a member of the 2005 Chicago White Sox.

Born on the same day, May 27, 1968, these two first basemen reached stardom in perfect stride, each winning their league MVP in 1994. They played the same position, they shared the same era, but there were significant differences in the two as players. One was drafted, then traded, by the team he loved as a kid- the other left his long time MLB home on bad terms and was harshly criticized by his former GM. Whatever the differences, this has the makings of a great comparison, let’s have a look…

Before I start to compare these players against one another statistically, I want to point out some similarities in the two, which I think are phenomenal achievements by both men. Bagwell is retiring with a career On Base Percentage of .408, Thomas will enter the 2007 season with a career OBP of .424. Both major run producers, both batting third for the majority of their careers, these two men reached base more consistently than most leadoff hitters from their era, I find that to be rather remarkable. Along those same lines, Bagwell averaged 106 Bases on Balls vs 117 strikeouts for every 162 games, Thomas is at 120 Bases on Balls vs 96 strikeouts.

Wow. If you’ve been a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers over the last fifteen years, those numbers are enough to make you cry.

Here’s the head to head comparison, S=seasons, one season=162 games played

S Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVE OPS
13.2 114 174 37 2 34 115 15 .297 .948 Bagwell
12.9 109 175 35 1 38 122 2 .305 .990 Thomas

Advantage Bagwell- To this point, more games played, more runs, doubles, triples, and a huge gap in stolen bases

Advantage Thomas- Smallest possible edge in base hits, more home runs and runs batted in, higher batting average, major lead in OPS

This is a fair fight, both men were major run producers, and both were on base machines as well. Bagwell was a much better baserunner, and as Thomas’ 1095 games at DH would suggest, Bagwell was the better defender of the two. On Thomas’ side, his career OPS is incredible, in the neighborhood of 1.000, and a career batting average exceeding .300 can never be overlooked.

These two players proved to be the ideal fit for their teams, considering which league each plays in. Frank could flat out mash, but was a better fit as a DH from day one, which was perfect for the Sox and now the A’s. Bagwell used his legs and his glove in addition to his bat, making him the perfect slugging NL first baseman.

Injuries, and the high walk totals, prevented either of these men from reaching 3000 hits. Bagwell was stopped short of 500 HR, which Thomas seems likely to reach (he needs 13 more). Both topped 1500 RBI, Bagwell topped 1500 runs, Thomas is at 1404 and counting. It seems as though both will eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame.

So, who’s it going to be? Do you prefer the more rounded player in Bagwell, or the absolute monster bat of Thomas? You obviously can’t go wrong with either player, but if you were the GM, and both were available… “Who’s the Man?”