Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell hit .368 in 1994 and .290 in '95. In that first year, we gathered around him after games to ask him to explain his greatness. Bagwell simply could not.One year later, the questions were different. "What's wrong, Jeff? Why are you struggling? Are you injured,
Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell hit .368 in 1994 and .290 in '95. In that first year, we gathered around him after games to ask him to explain his greatness. Bagwell simply could not.
One year later, the questions were different. "What's wrong, Jeff? Why are you struggling? Are you injured, buddy?" All these years later, Bagwell still has trouble explaining what happened.
"I was the same player both years," Bagwell said. "I felt the same. My swing felt the same. People simply have trouble getting their mind around that. My batting average dropped 78 points, but I was the same player."
So it is with comebacks. Players see them far differently than those of us on the outside. They understand that the game is hard, that sometimes the game gets the better of you, that it's about constantly adjusting and readjusting as scouting reports make their way from team to team.
As a long forgotten member of the Orioles once told me: "Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you."
On the other hand, it's OK for us to celebrate comebacks. Some of them happen because of good health, and some of them, well, no one seems to know.
That said, here are 10 we're thrilled to see in 2017.
1. Bryce Harper, Nationals
.376, 9 homers, 27 RBIs, 1.227 OPS
Harper has not just back from whatever happened last season. He's actually better than ever. Harper's every at-bat is once more a must-see event. His .504 on-base percentage is breathtakingly good and says that he could be on his way to clearing space for a second National League MVP Award in three seasons, and he hasn't yet celebrated his 25th birthday.
2. Dallas Keuchel, Astros
5-0, 1.88 ERA, 0.85 WHIP
Two seasons after winning 20 games and the American League Cy Young Award, the Astros' ace is again healthy and as good as ever. To watch Keuchel work is to understand that pitching is artistry. His ability to change speed, keep hitters off-balance and pound the low part of the strike zone is the kind of stuff only the best of the best are capable of.
3. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
.435, 13 home runs, 34 RBIs
Zimmerman was the face of the Washington Nationals before the franchise had turned a corner, and in those first years, he set a tone for everything that has happened since, with his talent, professionalism and demeanor. These past four seasons have been tough on him with a combination of injuries and disappointing performance. If the Nationals end up having one of those special seasons, it's perfectly fitting that this guy is back to being a great player and can be in the middle of all of it.
4. Greg Holland, Rockies
13 saves, 1.29 ERA, 0.93 WHIP
Holland was unsigned until late January as teams fretted over if he'd really recovered from Tommy John surgery. He's throwing as well as he did during his best seasons with the Royals and has stabilized Colorado's bullpen, helping strengthen an area that had been notoriously weak.
5. A.J. Pollock, Diamondbacks
.297 batting average, .799 OPS, 22 runs, 11 stolen bases
Pollack had established himself as one of the NL's best players in 2015, and then came the injuries that sidelined him all but 12 games in 2016. His defensive game in center along with his presence at the top of the lineup have helped the D-backs to a nice start.
6. Chase Headley, Yankees
.810 OPS, 9 doubles, 3 homers, 11 RBIs
Headley's fast start has helped the Yankees to their fast start, and this comes at a point in his career when people were justifiably wondering how productive he could still be. The Yanks weren't even sure he'd be their everyday third baseman.
7. Derek Holland, White Sox
3-2, 2.02 ERA, 1.04 WHIP
Holland has given the White Sox everything they'd hoped they were getting. He's not pitching deep into games, but part of the challenge for White Sox manager Rick Renteria will be to manage his health and workload. Once designated a future star, Holland is simply trying to re-establish himself as a quality Major League starter.
8. Miguel Sano, Twins
.300, 8 home runs, 28 RBIs
This isn't a comeback story. Not for a guy coming off a 25-home run season. But just when the Twins may have wondered if they'd overhyped his star potential, Sano, 23, is back on that arc and a huge reason Minnesota has been one of baseball's surprise teams this season.
9. Lance Lynn, Cardinals
4-1, 2.04 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
The first year after Tommy John surgery is supposed to be a challenging one as a pitcher figures out what he's still capable of and gets past the uncertainty. So far, Lynn has bypassed all of that and been the absolute ace he was in 2015. His fastball is down slightly, in the 92-mph range, and he's relying more on a slider and a changeup. Regardless, the results have been excellent.
10. Michael Wacha, Cardinals
2-1, 3.19 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
The Cardinals simply didn't know what Wacha was capable of after a frustrating 2016 season and an offseason dedicated to tweaking his mechanics. So far, he has given the Cards everything they could have hoped for with a fastball that's routinely being clocked at 95 mph and a cutter he clearly has confidence in.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.