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November 7, 2011 / Nat Anacostia

Goodbye to Brian Bixler

The Nationals lost utility player Brian Bixler after the Houston Astros claimed him off waivers, the Astros announced this afternoon.Bixler, 29, started the season with Class AAA Syracuse. He appeared in 79 games for the Nationals and hit .205/.267/.265 in 94 plate appearances. The Nationals valued him for his blazing speed and versatility, as he played every position this season except catcher, pitcher and second base.

Adam Kilgore, The Washington Post

One of the great things about the old Bill James Baseball Abstracts was seeing how he developed sophisticatedly simple methods for organizing data. For example, for a study of rookies, he organized players into six buckets. “Fives” were the all-time greats, players like Aaron and Cobb. “Fours” were the major stars, players like Whitey Ford and Bob Gibson. “Threes” were players who could be described as marginal Hall of Fame candidates, players like Ron Guidry, Dick Groat, and Chick Hafey. “Twos” were the “very good ballplayers/minor stars,” and “Ones” were merely “good ballplayers.”  Of course James set statistical criteria for each bucket – to qualify as a “One,” for example, a player had to play 1100 games or have at least one big season, scoring or driving in 100 runs or hitting 30 home runs. A pitcher might qualify by winning 90 games or saving 140.

Of course the great majority of major league players in history, more than 80%, were in his final bucket—the players who didn’t even qualify as “Ones.”  James described them:

Though some of them do turn in two or three good seasons… these are players who either have limited ability or “fail to reach their potential,” passing out of the game leaving only a scattered memory. Their personal accomplishments, though significant in isolation, are of such a magnitude that their exclusion is not deemed to damage an evaluation of the rookie crop of which they are a part.

Brian Bixler is, of course, a member of this large group.  I’m not a person who especially enjoys memorizing trivia, and I tend to forget most players of this type. In Brian’s case, however, I think I’d like to remember this catch.

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