The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Amazing Barry Bonds

There’s been a lot written lately about what an incredible year Barry Bonds is having, what an incredible four year stretch Bonds is having, and what an incredible career Bonds is having. The superlatives abound and they probably still understate the greatness that we are witnessing at the present.

Here’s one that I haven’t seen mentioned before though: Entering today’s action, Bonds has a .610 onbase percentage so far this year. As many of you probably already know by now, the single season record for onbase percentage was established by Bonds in 2002 at .582. As I’ve mentioned before a difference like that might seem slight on the surface, but in more real person terms that variance of .028 is the same difference as you’ll see between x and y.

On an even more absurd level, it’s just about a mortal lock at this point that Bonds will re-raise the single-season onbase percentage record with whatever he does for the rest of the year. Look at it this way, through 150 team games, Bonds has reached base at the previously mentioned .610 clip. He’s played in 135 of the Giants games and has a total of 566 plate appearances (at bats, walks, sacrifices, and hit by pitches). That averages out to 4.2 plate appearances in each of the Giants games that Bonds has played in this year (a pretty healthy number considering that he has a fair number of pinch-hit, single plate appearance games mixed in there). Assuming that Bonds plays in each of the Giants last twelve games that means he’ll get 50 more plate appearances this year.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Bonds fails to reach base in each of those 50 plate appearances. It’s virtually impossible because even if opposing pitchers actually pitched to Bonds with an attempt to throw him strikes, he would invariably be walked a few times here and there – even if he came up to the plate without a bat in his hand. Still, let’s assume he goes 0 for his next 50 plate appearances. That would mean that Barry’s reached base 345 times (his current total) in 616 plate appearances, for a percentage of .5601. Granted, that wouldn’t eclipse the record Bonds set in 2002, but it would be the second best mark of all-time – even eclipsing the former record that Ted Williams set in 1941 (.5528).

If Bonds reaches base as few as 13 times in the Giants final twelve games (assuming he plays in each of them) Bonds is guaranteed to break his own single-season onbase percentage mark. It’s pretty much a given that he’ll do that, if only with the walks he’ll be issued intentionally (or unintentionally intentionally).

My words here don’t do much to illustrate Bonds’ greatness but many others recently have done a superb job at trying to put things into perspective. Another Mike talks here about how phenomenal Bonds’ numbers are and have been. Last week, Baseball Prospectus did a series (sorry, but these articles require a subscription to BP - but it's well worth it) of articles about Bonds. One of the articles talked about how Bonds stats are so different from everyone else’s that they’re even impacting league averages. My favorite article was probably the article that translated Barry’s dominance into what it would take for a pitcher to make the same impact that Barry has. The numbers are utterly incomprehensible.


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