I remember watching a good amount of Bonds that season and he did tend to receive many more “assists” from umpires than the average player, sending his already incredible walk rate to even more incredible heights.
Comment by TheGrandslamwich — January 9, 2013 @ 7:38 pm
It’s pretty damn hard to have pitchers not throw you anything within a foot of the plate, however.
Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — January 9, 2013 @ 7:57 pm
I used to have Padres season tickets, and Brian Giles would get a lot of those borderline calls, too. I think when you’ve established a good eye as a batter, umpires tend to give you the benefit of the doubt.
Comment by TheHoustonian — January 9, 2013 @ 8:13 pm
The guys caused plenty of Heart-attacks rooting for the Angels in 2002. His OPS during the WS was almost 2. I just remember him either drawing a walk or demolishing Troy Percival’s fastball in game 2.
You forget his homer in game 6 in the bottom of the ninth, even though the halos won that game. I also happened to be in Anaheim that night, and watched the at bat on a portable tv of a guy standing in line at the Knott’s Scary (Berry) Farm. Awesome, awesome moment. Then after the halos won, all these guys dressed as zombies and ghouls were just running around howling in delight, with angels hats/jerseys on.
Go ahead and look at the world series that year, Greg. Please.
Comment by Stringer Bell — January 9, 2013 @ 9:43 pm
It’s really too bad he has such a cloud over his head. I’d bet he used. Had he not…..He might very well still have been the very best hitter of all time. And we might very well have had one enductee today. By the way, he was a jerk too. All too bad for us….and maybe him too.
Comment by Chicago Mark — January 9, 2013 @ 9:50 pm
He hit 8 HR in the 2002 playoffs (in 45 ab) and walked 27 times.
Bonds did get a very small strike zone called against him, but it was largely similar to a number of very elite, veteran hitters in the league at the time. Chipper Jones also benefited from much the same calls, as he got older.
It’s strange, because some of the veteran superstars don’t really get that many calls. Frank Thomas’s zone actually expanded as he got older, which drove him crazy and led to a lot of grumbling from him as he walked back to the dugout.
Comment by Phantom Stranger — January 9, 2013 @ 9:56 pm
I was a dead fish in my post-season career until I….
Well, let’s just say that without chemicals, life itself would be impossible. (Ask your parents.)
No doubt Bonds is an amazing player whose likes won’t be seen again for quite some time. However, I always think about how he crowded the plate so much to take advantage of his power. He had a behemoth of an elbow guard that so many prior sluggers didn’t have. Guys like Willie McCovey got knocked down and sometimes beaned continually from crowding the plate. If Bonds played years ago he wouldn’t be able to crowd the plate like he loved to do and it may cut down on his plate coverage and discipline.
Comment by Downer Debby — January 10, 2013 @ 12:53 am
He was an asshole to more than just the media. Sure, maybe he paid for one kid’s college tuition but the stories of his assholishness (is that a word?) extending to clubhouse attendants, bat boys, and interns know no bounds. Have a look at the article written by Kevin Guilfoile on Clemente’s 3,000th hit for one good example. An asshole is an asshole no matter the occasional good deed. That said, no other assholes could hit like Bonds.
I can’t get a .582 OBP in MLB the Show on easy mode. This guy did it in real life.
Comment by The Party Bird — January 10, 2013 @ 1:23 am
I agree with the elbow guard thing. Those things should have been banned. It completely eliminated the up and in fastball with any player who crowds the plate. It’s easy to turn away from a pitch to look like you are getting out of the way of it while actually extending your front elbow further over the plate more into the path of the ball. With Bonds’ talent of turning on fastballs mid-to-low and inside while keeping his hands back enough to keep them fair, it was just was brutal.
Comment by TheGrandslamwich — January 10, 2013 @ 1:55 am
Small strike zone, smaller parks, maple bats, more time in the gym lifting for his contract year in 2001, and a juiced ball in the steroid era all contributed to Bonds great stats. Steroids helped too, how much is hard to say.
From age 36-42 Bonds had 268 HR. Aaron is a lower offensive environment and bigger strike zone had 201 HR in 600 more AB.
.609 OBP in 2004… That is silly, would have led the majors in slugging last year. His slugging btw: .812, I’m awe just reading it, his slugging alone would have almost put him in the top 50 for OPS this year. Wow.
It’s definitely a thing for me. As a Bay Area kid, I grew up watching Bonds every night, but I think I appreciate what I saw even more when I look back at his stats. Maybe I’m numb to steroid use because I’ve never seen the MLB without it, and maybe I should be mad at Bonds and the rest of them for “disrespecting the game”. But damn it, I’m still in awe.
Same here. As a Red Sox fan I also hit up Pedro’s numbers frequently. The steroid era has some taint to it, no doubt…but the intersection of expansion teams, smaller ballparks, juiced balls, and a greater emphasis on weight training and conditioning led to some of the most absurd, almost unimaginable seasons in the history of baseball. Maybe steroids played a hand in it, certainly the sportswriters believe it did. But you can’t argue that we didn’t see some of the most amazing players and accomplishments in the history of the sport in the late-90’s/early-2000’s.
Comment by Hurtlockertwo — January 10, 2013 @ 9:53 am
I never saw a hitter as relaxed as Bonds at the plate, plus choking up on the bat to boot. I’m a life long Giants fan, but I would still put Bonds as the third best hitter of all time after Ruth and Williams. It’s a shame that Barry is the face of PED use when it’s likely most of the league used too.
He should have been in the HOF with 95% of the vote.
Comment by Hurtlockertwo — January 10, 2013 @ 9:58 am
Great article. The funny thing about Trey Lunsford is that this is the only out he made all season (out of 3 at bats, but still!).
The ugly personality as well as the impossible numbers both came, at least in part, because of the steroids. My favorite line about him was by Andy van Slyke when, after he retired, he was in the Giants locker room where Barry Bonds was coming out of the shower and he was shocked to see how large one of Barry’s heads had grown since their days in Pittsburgh, while the other head had shrunk.
Thank you for also (perhaps inadvertently) reminding everyone how stupid it is to keep Bonds out over PEDs. Gagne is another confirmed HGH user and Bonds just abused him in that video. It’s impossible to say what percentage of MLBers were getting some sort of help out of a bottle, but I don’t think anyone doubts that it was high enough that Bonds was still head and shoulders a more dominant player than even his chemically enhanced peers.
I am not disputing the man’s ability. Clearly he was better than pretty much everyone else. But I do not understand why the mere fact that he was immensely gifted and, I have no doubt, hard working, is a reason to either ignore the fact that he took steroids or else entirely absolve him of any responsibility for doing so.
Said Umpire Bill Klem “Son, when you pitch a strike, Mr. Hornsby will let you know it.”
TBH, I’m not convinced that Bonds didn’t have a better idea of whether a pitch was a ball or a strike than the umpire a lot of the time anyway.
Comment by quincy0191 — January 10, 2013 @ 3:35 pm
You also have to remember that Bonds was allowed to wear body armor due to an “elbow injury”. I remember that stuff he wore. He looked like a football player in the batters box. Because of the armor he had on, he was over top the plate. And in this era, if you threw high and down the middle, you were basically aiming at his head which would get you ejected. I always argued that they let Bonds wear this gear when other players were not allowed, because seeing Bonds hit home runs sold tickets. He still did steroids. And he still belongs in the Hall of Fame. But I’ll never put him on the level of Ruth and Williams because of the fact he was doing steroids, wore protective gear, and could not be brushed back. He basically got to take batting practice during the game.
The electricity that Bonds created every time he came to the plate in the early-to-mid aughts was incredible. I’ve never seen anything else that remotely approached it in my life as a baseball fan (1957-?) and I’m sure I never will.
He would be my first choice of all players of all-time to place in the Hall of Fame.
If your comparing players across era’s you have to take everything into context. The talent pool that Ruth & Williams competed against was much smaller. Bond’s wouldnt have been allowed to compete against Ruth. Thats much more worthy of an asterick in my opinion.
Imagine having a leadoff hitter who gets on base more than 60% of the time. I actually replayed the games on paper with Bonds batting 1st, the next best hitter batting 2nd, the next best hitter 3rd, etc. that year. I don’t remember the average number of runs scored, but it was way more than the actual lineup scored.
This may or may not have been touched on in other Fangraphs articles, but I read at one time about an analysis of Bonds’ hinged elbow armor.
There were more than two or three points to the analysis, but, IIRC, the punch line of the article suggested that the fact that the brace was hinged was a big deal.
I’m not trying to suggest that I understood all of the details, but the people doing the research proposed that the hinge allowed Bonds to be a lot more precise with his swing. Similar to the way offensive linemen often have hinged knee braces that don’t allow their knee joint to easily move in compromising ways, Bonds’ elbow brace ensured that his lead arm would always move on the same plane.
And it make some sense. The process of the baseball swing is an orchestrated chaos. There are about a bazillion things going on. Rotating hips/thighs, pitch recognition, etc. And what these researchers were saying is that Bonds was able to dramatically dampen a very meaningful variable in that equation. That it was hinged and spring loaded, I believe, also added a measure of “pop”.
What, do we need to put an asterisk next to every Bond post? Should the original post read .609 OBP* in 2004? Not ignoring his steroid use doesn’t mean it has to be brought up after every single comment about his career. No one up to this point to this point “absolved” him of his steroid use, they just chose not to talk about it because it is boring and useless.