Friday, May 27, 2005
May 27th, 1968
Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas Born
Bagwell and Thomas, both power hitting first baseman of the first order are easily, easily the two best players to share a birthday, as both are among the top ten all-time at their position. The two are not particularly linked in the public mind, although they probably should be. For one thing, they were both MVP in 1994 and have spent (and likely will spend) their whole career with one team, but never won a title. Furthermore, they are the most alike players to each other in "Similarity Scores" which uses a player's stats to determine how similar a player is to others. Bagwell has been fortunate enough to have much of his decline masked by the Astros' move to Enron--er, Minute Maid Park, while Thomas seems doomed to Stan Musial territory, a member of the great underappreciated.
Leaving aside for the moment that Bagwell is the better all-around player (he can play defense while Thomas can't despite Thomas’ repeated insistence he be put there instead of DH), Frank Thomas was probably the best hitter in baseball in the 1990s--you'd have a hard time convincing me anyone else should be the first baseman on the all-90s team. Every year from 1991 to 1997 Thomas was in the top three in OPS+, leading three times. He averaged an OPS of better than eighty percent higher than league average those years. He and Bagwell (there's Jeff again) are the only active players besides Barry Bonds to appear in the top forty of single-season OPS+, both for their 1994 season.
Both Thomas and Bagwell will rightly be elected to the Hall of Fame, probably on the first ballot. And I'm willing to concede that they are unlikely at this point to be linked in the heads of most fans. But it would seem appropriate if they went in together, sharing the stage and joined together one last time.