We look at some notable numbers from Houston Astros legend Craig Biggio’s monster 1997 season.
When looking at the best seasons in Houston Astros history, Craig Biggio‘s 1997 campaign might not jump out at you right away. In fact, with just a quick cursory glance at his numbers, it might not even seem like his best season. But appearances can be deceiving.
Biggio’s 1998 season looks better at first glance. That’s the year he hit 51 doubles and established career highs in stolen bases (50), batting average (.325), RBIs (88) and slugging (.503). So how is that not his best year? Put simply, it doesn’t give you the whole picture.
His 1997 was no slouch, of course. He hit .309/.415/.501 with 37 doubles, 22 homers, 81 RBIs and 47 stolen bases. He drew 20 more walks than he did in 1998, so his on-base percentage was higher, and thus his OPS (.916) for ’97 was a career high. But of course there’s still more to the story, and there are some interesting numbers when you take a closer look.
The biggest reason 1997 is his best year is his defense. Biggio won his fourth straight Gold Glove and, in terms of defensive WAR standards, had his best defensive year ever. He provided 2.3 defensive WAR, compared to just -0.4 in 1998. That’s how he was able to accumulate a career-best 9.4 total WAR in 1997.
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That 9.4 WAR is one of the notable numbers because it’s actually the highest single-season WAR total for a player in Astros history. Jeff Bagwell might have surpassed that in 1994 if not for his injury and the players strike, and Alex Bregman came close in 2019. But no one has reached Biggio’s lofty mark thus far.
Our next notable number is 34 — that’s the number of times Biggio was hit by a pitch that year. That was also a career high and led the major leagues, and it’s still an Astros franchise record (in fact, Biggio holds the top six seasons in club history in that regard). He ended up getting plunked 285 times in his career, which is just two shy of the all-time major league record and is more than double the next-highest career total in franchise history.
Our last notable number is 146, which is how many times Biggio scored in 1997. That figure also led the majors and was a career high, and it’s the second-best single-season total in club history, trailing only Bagwell’s 152 runs in 2000. It’s 23 more than Biggio’s next-best total of 123, which he actually hit three times (1995, 1998, 1999).
Beyond that, Biggio played in all 162 games for the second straight season and led the league with 744 plate appearances. His adjusted OPS of 143 was a career best, and he notched his sixth All-Star selection and fourth Silver Slugger award. For a Hall of Fame player, it’s not always easy to pick out a single best season, but this one stands out above the others.