did some digging around in larry bigbie's batting records, just to get a feel for the guy. he played college at ball state (not far from his hometown of hobart, indiana) and was baltimore's 1st-round pick (21st overall) in the 1999 amateur draft. moved up to class-a ball that summer, ended 2000 at double-a, and by 2001 was on the o's roster, hitting .229 in 131 at-bats. he spent most of 2002 at triple-a rochester and started 2003 at triple-a ottawa; was recalled on april 24 and made 18 starts in the outfield, then went onto the dl with a shoulder strain on may 21. his line at the time: an anemic .239 / .316 / .328 / .644.
he came back in late july and finally showed what he could do. starting nearly every day over the last two months of 2003, bigbie (then 25) hit .323 with 8 homers and 26 rbi. he took some good pitchers deep, too -- david wells, kevin foulke, kelvim escobar, jeff weaver -- and continued to hit as an everyday player in 2004. from july 2003 through the end of 2004 (nearly 800 plate appearances) he posted a .294 / .353 / .448 / .802 line. the cards' high hopes for bigbie are based in large part upon this season-and-a-half stretch.
he was probably not healthy at the outset of 2005; in late may, sporting a .541 ops in 112 at-bats, he went onto the dl. in his first two games back he went 6 for 7 and hit his 1st hr of the year (a solo shot against houston's brandon backe). he added another 3-hit game two weeks later against the yankees and carl pavano. those three games -- in which he went 9 for 11 with 2 homers -- rehabilitated his stat line; by july 1 he'd pulled his avg up to .266 and his ops to .732. . . . . but he hit .185 in july, got traded to the rockies and didn't perform, which got him benched; from mid-august through the end of the year he got only 8 at-bats and struck out in 6 of them.
so we can write off bigbie's unsightly 2005 line in part to injury and inactivity. but if we allow for those mitigations, then we are also obliged to note that bigbie padded his 2004 line by victimizing terrible pitchers. he hit 3 of his 15 homers that year off guys who threw fewer than 5 innings in the majors in 2004 (bobby jones, ryan snare, and joe beimel); another two came against guys (ryan glynn, mark bascik) who threw fewer than 20 innings that season. so fully 1/3 of his homers came against hurlers who fell way, way below replacement level. of the 15 taters, 11 were served up by pitchers sporting eras of 4.50 or higher, and half by pitchers with eras of 5.00 and up. that trend continued in 2005, when bigbie's 5 homers came off brandon backe (4.76 era), kyle davies (4.93), carl pavano (4.77), seth mcclung (6.59), and chien-ming wang (4.02).
we are also obliged to acknowledge that bigbie has some health issues. he has gone onto the dl three years in a row -- for a shoulder thing in 2003, a groin pull in 2004, and an unspecified malady last season.
off the toppamine head, i can only think of one former 1st-round pick who scuffled as bigbie has but finally broke through. that would be jeff king, the 1st overall pick in 1986. through bigbie's current age (27) he was burdened with a .660 career ops, but king broke through at age 28, hitting .295 w a .762 ops and 98 rbi. from that year forward through his retirement in 1999, king posted a .782 ops -- .340 obp, .442 slg.
if bigbie can post comparable numbers card'l fans would be mightily satisfied -- even if much of the damage comes against double- and triple-a caliber pitching. there's plenty of that in this league. good luck to ya kid.