Coming to Astros Spring Training: Jeff Bagwell


Jeff Bagwell is coming to the Houston Astros’ Spring Training as a “guest” instructor.

Bagwell last worked for the Astros in 2010 as a hitting instructor. He returns after a 5-year estrangement when the first baseman stayed away from the organization during the McLane-to-Crane transition. On the invitations from Astros President of Business Operations, Reid Ryan, and Manager, A.J. Hinch, Bagwell agreed to assist the team when the players report to Florida for Spring Training.

"“Jeff is the Houston Astros in so many ways…It’d be a great opportunity for him to get to know some of our players and connect the present with the past” – Reid Ryan on Jeff Bagwell"

With all of the incoming new players, and the young guys trying to make the club, inviting the franchise icon to instruct is a wise move by the organization. Baggy’s prowess in the field and at the plate is well-documented: 1991 Rookie of the Year, 1994 NL MVP, 449 home runs, 3 Silver Sluggers, 1 Gold Glove…the list goes on. Jeff Bagwell was also a leader in the clubhouse, as his former teammates, like Morgan Ensberg, can attest.

Where Will Bagwell Assist?

While Jeff Bagwell’s specific role has yet to be announced, the players could certainly pick his brain in these areas:

  • In the Batter’s Box

Everyone knows two things about the 2015 club: they will crush a lot of home runs and they will strike out a lot. Bagwell certainly homered a lot, and he also had a good eye and patience at the dish. This is one area where he provides a ton of value.

For his career, Jeff Bagwell had a walk ratio of 14.8%, strikeout rate of 16.5%, batting average of .297, and an on-base-percentage of .408. The following chart shows the career numbers of the presumed starting lineup compared to Bagwell (stats from FanGraphs):

*Bold statistics indicate better than Bagwell

Clearly the batters could learn a few things about approach at the plate. Although, one would assume the batting stance won’t be replicated…

  • On the Basepaths

Did you know that Jeff Bagwell is the ONLY first baseman to hit 400 HRs AND steal 200 bases in MLB history? How about this: Bagwell stole home…three times? The guy knows a thing or two about running the bases.

Every player commits base-running mistakes. It’s part of the game. Minimizing those errors can translate into more scoring opportunities.

Which brings us to the funniest acronym in baseball: TOOTBLAN – Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop. Simplified, a TOOTBLAN is a non-force out on the basepaths (often an unnecessary, and sometimes comedic, base-running blunder), like trying to stretch a single into a double and getting thrown out at second. Something like Jonathan Villar‘s face-first slide into Brandon Phillips‘ backside:

Fewer TOOTBLANs is always a good thing, lest you become a SportsCenter joke.

  • In the Clubhouse

More from Climbing Tal's Hill

In 2014, the Houston Astros had the youngest team in Major League Baseball, with an average age of 26.8 years. Of course, they’ve added a handful of players with five or more seasons at the MLB level, like Jed Lowrie and Colby Rasmus, this offseason. But this team is still young and could use some mentoring on leadership in the locker room. Remember last year when some anonymous players grumbled to the media about a Mark Appel bullpen session? A Bagwell-led locker room probably would’ve stayed quiet instead of sounding like a bunch of whiners.

Character and presence don’t show up in the statistical columns, however, they are another key to a successful ball club.

It may only be for a few days in March, but those for those few days, the Houston Astros should be busy listening to Jeff Bagwell. The impact may be immeasurable.

"“I’m not going down there to just wear a No. 5 jersey…I want them with me to make us better” – Jeff Bagwell"

Welcome back, Baggy!

Next: Talking With Manager A.J. Hinch