If You Say So   (10/05/01)

I have a few of thoughts on the hoopla surrounding Barry Bonds terrific season....


Larry Dierker was given a lot of grief over intentionally walking Bonds in a game in which his team was losing 8-1.  The feeling was that he simply didn't want Bonds to tie the record.

If you say so.

Don't know that it occured to those folks giving him the grief but a 7-run lead ain't what it used to be.

As of today, October 5, in just this season, teams have scored 7 runs in an inning - not in a game, but in a single inning... teams have scored 7 runs in an inning 68 times this season.  You read that right.  No typo.

That means on average, a team scores 7 runs in an inning a little more often than once every 3 days.  If Dierker's team is only 7 runs down, maybe it's his team that'll score 7 in a flash to tie things up.  Why not his team and why not tonight?

Walking Bonds while his team still had a chance - and it was, after all, only the 8th inning... his team had 2 more innings in which to score - was absolutely the right move.  Unpopular yes, for those "fans" who came just to see the record broken.  But in baseball terms, in this run scoring environment, and with Bonds in such a groove, it was absolutely the right move.


Bonds' season is being described by a lot of people as perhaps the greatest ever.

If you say so.

The problem with stating that is that the season is being taken completely out of context.  Is this any more amazing that Rogers Hornsby hitting .424?  Well, I guess you have to look at the environment in which it occured.

Hornsby's record batting average (at least for this century - Hugh Duffy hit .440 in 1894) occured when a lot of hitters were hitting .300.  And statisticians will make sure that you know that.  Horsnby's achievement loses some of it's luster because, as great as it was, it occured at a time when everyone was doing it and everyone was doing it well.

So why aren't these same people putting Bonds' (and McGwire's) numbers in context?

Before 1998, a player had hit 60 home runs in a season just twice in nearly 125 years of baseball.  Since 1998, the feat has been achieved six times.  Luis Gonzales, a guy who had never hit more than 31 homers in a season, has an outside chance of making it seven.

Before 1995, in the first 120 years of Major League Baseball, the 50-homer plateau had been achieved 18 times by 10 different players (Ruth, Maris, Kiner, Mize, Mantle, Mays, Foster, Foxx, Greenberg, Fielder).

In the 7 seasons since, the feat has been achieved 14 times by 9 different players (McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Vaughn, Rodriguez, Gonzales, Anderson, Griffey Jr, Belle).  There's at least a chance that 3 more guys - Thome, Helton and Green - will add to this list this year.

So why isn't anyone asking, "why can't they hit 80?"

If for 120 years it's very tough to hit 50 homers in a season (a 50 homer season an average of once every 6.6 years) and then all of a sudden it becomes pretty easy (a 50 homer season twice every year and a 60-homer season almost once a year) then what is so great about hitting 60 or even 70 homers?  Yes, Bonds is having an amazing year.  But in the context of an era where 50 homer seasons are fairly commonplace, why isn't anyone asking "why not a lot more?"

What if I told you that some guy once hit 60 homers in a season when entire teams weren't hitting even 50?  That's what Ruth did.  But apparently those who advocate Bonds and this remarkable season feel what he is doing is comparable.

If you say so.

WALKS, part 2

You know what I find most amazing about Bonds season?

One thing is that almost half his hits are homers - out of 150 hits, 70 are homers (46.7%).

But the thing that really strikes me is the walks.  He has 175 walks this season.  The next highest total is Jason Giambi's 126.  It's quite possible that Bonds could lead the majors in walks by 50 free passes.  If he's able to do that, it'll be the 3rd highest margin in history behind Ruth's 71 walk margin in 1923 and his 51 walk margin in 1921.

Why is this so amazing?

Because general managers are finally seeing the real value of walks - teams that draw more walks tend to score more than teams with equivalent averages that don't - and are beginning to build their organizations with players who draw walks.  So players who draw 115-130 walks are becoming fairly commonplace.  For a guy to have that huge of a margin over a bunch of guys who are trying to do the same thing... well, that'd almost be like Bonds hitting 80 bombs and winning the home run race by 20 homers.

Yeah, I say so.