Four-time All-Star narrowly missed election in '16
By Matt Kelly
After six years of waiting, Jeff Bagwell could finally receive the call of his life.
Bagwell, the face of the Astros over his 15-year career, fell just 15 votes shy of induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame last winter. While the early returns this year are far from a guarantee, Bagwell appears to be on his way toward gaining election in his seventh year on the ballot. In 2016, his name appeared on 71.6 percent of ballots, with 75 percent needed for induction. This was a jump of nearly 16 percentage points from the year before (55.7 percent).
Bagwell is seemingly on the cusp of joining his friend and former teammate, Craig Biggio, as the second Astros player elected to the Hall of Fame. Before the ballot results are announced on Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m., here's a final look at where Bagwell would rank among the legends whose likenesses already reside in the Hall's Plaque Gallery:
Bagwell's case based on traditional stats
• Bagwell is one of only three players in history -- along with Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig -- to collect at least 400 home runs, 1,400 walks and 1,500 RBIs while playing at least 60 percent of his games at first base over the course of his career.
• Bagwell's eight seasons with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs would stand as the third-most of any Hall of Fame first baseman. Only Foxx (12) and Gehrig (10) recorded more.
• Few Hall of Fame hitters have had a season like Bagwell did in 1994, when he slugged .750 and finished with a 1.201 OPS. Babe Ruth, Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby are the only players enshrined in Cooperstown who matched those numbers in a single year.
• Bagwell brought rare baserunning acumen to his position. His 202 steals would rank third among Hall of Fame first basemen, trailing only two players -- Frank Chance and George Sisler -- who finished playing more than a half century before Bagwell's career began.
Bagwell's case based on advanced metrics
• Bagwell's career 149 OPS+ would rank seventh among Hall of Fame players whose primary position was first base, behind 19th-century first baseman Roger Connor and Willie McCovey. His 80.2 wins above replacement would rank him sixth, and his 149 weighted runs created would rank seventh, per FanGraphs.
• Bagwell's 63.9 JAWS score -- a system devised by Jay Jaffe to compare players to others at their position who are already enshrined -- is nearly a full 10 wins above replacement higher than the average Hall of Fame first baseman.
• With a peak WAR total of 48.2, Bagwell's seven best seasons would rank fifth among Hall of Fame first basemen, right behind Johnny Mize and in front of Hank Greenberg.
Most similar player in the Hall: Frank Thomas
The connections are numerous between Bagwell and Thomas. Each of them captured league MVP awards in 1994 and they both had the rare ability to match breathtaking power with a steady .300 average at the plate. Though Thomas had become primarily a designated hitter by the end of the decade, both he and Bagwell were the preeminent first basemen of the 1990s.
Most similar player not in the Hall: Carlos Delgado
Bagwell undoubtedly enjoyed a better prime, with a peak WAR total that is nearly 50 percent higher than Delgado's. Bagwell's injuries toward the end of his career, however, left him with similar totals to Delgado, who surprisingly garnered just 3.8 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in 2015, his lone year on the ballot.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.