That's Just Silly   (06/21/01)

There have been a number of amazing performances to this point, two in particular are way out of line with career norms: Barry Bonds and Luis Gonzales.

Barry Bonds

As of June 20, Bonds has 38 homers which breaks both the record for most homers by the All-Star break (37) held by Reggie Jackson (set in 1969) and Mark McGwire (1998), but also Babe Ruth's record of fewest games to get to 38, which was 88, but is now 71.

How insane is this?  Consider that if Bonds stopped playing right now, this season would be the 5th highest homer total of his career.  He's only 11 homers from tying his career best season.

His current pace puts him with a season total of 87 homers, which is 26 homers better than Maris' record that stood for 37 years.  Bonds has 5 seasons in which he did not hit 26 or more homers.  Eighty-seven homers is only one behind his second and third best seasons combined.

Right now, 55% of his hits have been homers.  His best mark previously was 33%, set last year.  No one in history has hit home runs with 50% of his hits.  The closest anyone has come was Mark McGwire in 1998, when he hit homers in 46% of his hits.

So what are his chances of breaking Mark McGwire's mark?  I'd say little or none.  Even as amazing as he's been so far, he still has to hit 22 more to even reach 60.  Twenty-two home runs over half a season is about what Bonds averages in a good season.

Then there's the fact that, unlike the Cardinals in 1998, the Giants are in the division race and will be playing their interdivision rivals quite regularly.  The longer the Giants are in it, the less likely Bonds will get opportunities to hit home runs.  Think about it: if you were the opposing manager and you had an option of pitching to Bonds, or walking Bonds and pitching to Armando Rios or JT Snow, what would you do?

One thing is for sure - Bonds appears to have plenty left in the tank for a serious run at both Ted Williams (for best left fielder ever) and a good shot at Willie Mays' home run total of 660.  Should Bonds finish with 60 this year and tack on 45 in each of the next 2 years, he would have 644, 4th most all-time.  Hank Aaron, though, at 755, is still a long way off.

Luis Gonzales

Before this year, Luis Gonzales was a solid all-around outfielder, hitting for average, some power and playing decent defense.  This year, he's threatening to win the triple crown.  Currently he's second to Bonds in the NL home runs race, second to Moises Alou for the batting title and tied for third in runs batted in.

How insane is this?  Consider with his next home run, Gonzales will have tied his career best for homers at 31.  He's currently on pace for 68 homers, which would be the second highest total in history and more than Gonzales has hit in any 2 seasons combined and more than the total Gonzales hit in his first 5 seasons.

His .360 batting average is 24 points higher than his career best mark and almost 80 points higher than his career average.

Should he continue maintain his current RBI pace, he will finish with 155, more than 40 better than his career high.

So, how likely are these to continue?  Well, not likely, but not impossible.  Gonzales might be able to come close to his batting average and RBI pace.  It's not unheard of that a player will hit way above his career average for a year or two in his career.  This might be one of those years for Gonzales.  And RBI are as much a function of opportunity as they are proficiency.  Should the Diamondbacks continue to provide him RBI opportunities at a high rate, it's certainly possible for Gonzo to surpass expectations.

However, like I said, both are unlikely.  Unless the D-backs move Mark Grace and/or David Delucci to the regular lead-off spot, their lead-off men will probably not get on base enough to offer a high number of baserunners for Gonzales to drive in for the full season.

And expecting him to hit more than 50 homers might even be a bit of a stretch, much less 68.  He's only had three season in which he's hit more than 15 home runs and he'd need to do that over half a season just to get close to 50.

While the batting average and RBI part of the crown are possible, however unlikely, the home run jewel of the crown is out of reach.

Can they continue?  I'd say it's so unlikely that it's almost pointless to ask.  However, there's no question that it's pretty amazing to watch.

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