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Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Buying into Bonds

He’s not getting older; he’s getting better.

A Miscellany of Obscure Stats From “The Year After 73”

Only Barry Bonds could have followed up a season in which   he broke the home run record with a performance that was not simply an improvement   or an elaboration on already-established skills, but one in which entire new   dimensions of skill are explored.

In a year when offense declined by more than 10% in the National League, Barry   managed to exceed the value of his 73-homer season. That’s beyond mind-blowing—it’s   unique in the history of the game.

Other players have blossomed into one-of-a-kind offensive forces, but they’ve   never added as much across-the-board value to their profile after they’d   established themselves. Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby,   great hitters who got even better, were aided by a livelier ball and by favorable   changes in ballpark dimensions. They were also approaching their peak years   when baseball’s offense environment shifted into an entirely new gear.   Only Ted Williams produced a late-career level of performance   that even remotely approaches what Barry has done over the past two seasons.

How much better than before?

  While the following stats aren’t meant to sum up the value of Barry’s
  performance, they do indicate how much better a hitter he has become over the
  past two years. By breaking Barry’s stats into components, we can get
  a better sense of the shape in this evolution—and we can have our minds
  blown at the same time.

Let’s start with a chestnut from the stat splits that are widely available   on the Internet—Barry’s numbers in Innings 1-6 and Innings   7+. Most hitters don’t hit as well in late innings, of course,   due to the presence of relief pitchers. As we’ll see, Barry is no exception   (not that his Inning 7+ performance is anything worth criticizing). What’s   interesting, though, is to look at his career performance vs. what he’s   done over the past two seasons. I’ve broken out 2001 and 2002 separately   to illustrate the notion of “an entire new dimension in performance”   discussed above.

When             Career             2001             2002
           BA  OBP  SLG     BA  OBP  SLG     BA  OBP  SLG
Inn 1-6  .306 .435 .626   .343 .530 .914   .393 .592 .854
Inn   7  .284 .428 .554   .295 .480 .752   .317 .558 .675

Career data, by the way, is for 1987 to the present.

The biggest difference in Bonds’ performance from Inning 7 on is located   in his slugging average. That remains a consistent feature in his 2001 and 2002   seasons, but notice how his late-inning performance has ramped up. In both years,   Barry has hit better in Inning 7+ than his career average in Innings 1-6.

And in 2002, Barry hit .393 in Innings 1-6. He’s gone from being a .300   hitter with great power in this game segment to nearly a .400 hitter with great   power.

Let’s move on to splits by count. We all know that hitters generally   hit best when they hit the first pitch; even someone like Barry Bonds, who has   set a new bases on balls record in each of the past two seasons, is no exception.   Barry has improved as a first-ball hitter over the past two seasons, right along   with all of his other achievements. As the “after count” stats also   show, he’s even become a genuinely dangerous hitter after being down in   the count 0-2. (If there are any major league pitchers reading this, they may   want to avert their eyes at this point.)

Count Career 2001 2002
              BA  OBP  SLG   BA  OBP  SLG   BA  OBP   SLG
        0-0 .346 .477 .699 .385 .542 .872 .420 .677 1.029
  After 0-1 .262 .350 .512 .246 .381 .499 .333 .490  .724
  After 0-2 .198 .267 .378 .122 .246 .429 .250 .377  .614
  After 1-0 .316 .480 .655 .377 .596 1.000 .382 .603 .705
  After 2-0 .343 .600 .715 .405 .712 1.051 .426 .742 .868

Barry’s performance in count sequences in which he was ahead declined   a bit in 2002, mostly because he wasn’t able to keep up his slugging average.   He did manage to increase his OBP and his BA.

His performance in count sequences when he was behind, however, jumped through   the roof. I wonder if anyone prior to Bonds has managed to produce a   .991 OPS in plate appearances where they began down 0-2 in the count.   (His OPS in these situations in 2001 was only .675, only a bit higher than his   career mark.)

Just for comparison, the average hitter in the NL in 2002 had a .535 OPS when   they hit with two strikes. That’s all two-strike situations, not just   the ones that started out 0-2 (the OPS “after 0-2” in the NL was   .411).

Against the good and the not-so-good

Over at the Big Bad Blog I’ve been looking at team performance against   quality of opposition (breaking the actual numbers down, as opposed to the more   popular approach of adjusting them). It struck me that it might be interesting   to extend this approach to individuals—and what better place to start   than with Barry Bonds.

Let’s begin by noting that Barry missed 19 games this season. The Giants   went 10-9 in those games. In the games where the Giants played a team below   .500 without Bonds, they went 5-2. In the games in which they played a team   .500 or better, they went 5-7.

In the games that Bonds played, the Giants were 85-57. Here are Barry’s   stats broken out by quality of opponent:

  < .500  230 73 86 16  1 25  57 106  32 28  5  0 .374 .571 .778
 >= .500  173 44 63 15  1 21  53  92  36 19  4  2 .364 .585 .827

As you can see, Barry didn’t take advantage of bad teams; he actually   hit a bit better against good teams. (Remember, we’re talking OBP and   SLG here, not batting average.)

How about if we break out Barry’s performance according to game result?   In other words, what did Bonds hit when the Giants won, and what did he hit   when they lost?

L     165 25  43 12  1 11  25  66  17 27  3  1 .261 .472 .545 28.6%
W     238 92 106 19  1 35  85 132  51 20  6  1 .445 .643 .975 35.7%

Aside from the mind-boggling numbers (that OPS in Giants’ wins, by the   way, is 1.618), you’re probably not surprised to discover that Barry hit   significantly better when the Giants won. After all, it’s still a reasonably   simple game that way—when your hitters hit, you tend to win. Again, though,   I wonder how many hitters have amassed a 1.000+ OPS in games when their team   didn’t win.

Let’s take this breakout one step further. How do Barry’s numbers   look when we separate the Giants’ wins by quality of opponent? In other   words, what did Barry hit when the Giants beat a good team as opposed to a bad   one? What did he hit against good teams in a losing cause? And what about when   the Giants lost to a bad team?

Ask and you shall receive…

Opp WPct  Res   AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO   BA  OBP   SLG    BBP
 < .500     L   83 12 20  5  0  5  11 30   5 15 .241 .442  .482  26.5%
>= .500     L   82 13 23  7  1  6  14 36  12 12 .280 .500  .610  30.5%
 < .500     W  147 61 66 11  1 20  46 76  27 13 .449 .637  .946  34.1%
>= .500+    W   91 31 40  8  0 15  39 56  24  7 .440 .653 1.022  38.1%

As you can see, Barry hit better against good teams regardless of whether the   Giants won or lost the game.

Since I’ve been wondering about things throughout this article, I might   as well keep doing so. I wonder how many hitters have a pattern like this. Someone   with serious database skills ought to generate this data for the 2002 season   as a whole, and see what the average breakout looks like. What I can tell you   is that the Giants hit .295 in games that they won, and .223 in the ones they   lost; they hit .306 in games won against poor teams, and .278 in games won against   good teams; they hit .238 in games lost against poor teams, and .210 in games   lost against good teams.

That seems like a reasonable pattern, though it would be nice to flesh out   the stats with OBP and SLG. Most hitters probably follow this pattern.

Barry Bonds—in 2002, at least—did not.

Given what he has accomplished over the past two seasons, that probably shouldn’t   surprise us.

We should all be too awed to be surprised by anything he does (except, perhaps,   hitting in the post-season…) by this point in time.


Don Malcolm Posted: October 08, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: October 08, 2002 at 12:53 AM (#606620)
Bonds after an 0-2 count had a 991 OPS. That would have been good for tenth in all of baseball.

Put another way, if you had Barry Bonds, and automatically gave the pitchers an 0-2 count on him every tiem up, he'd be Sammy Sosa.

That doesn't take the park factor into account.

   2. Charles Saeger Posted: October 10, 2002 at 12:54 AM (#606668)
Black47: Wrigley Field is no longer a hitters' park.

PDavis: And let Benito Santiago always bat with a man on first?

The intentional walk is usually a bad play. Even when facing Barry Bonds.
   3. Gold Star for Robothal Posted: October 14, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606720)
PDavis: And let Benito Santiago always bat with a man on first?

The intentional walk is usually a bad play. Even when facing Barry Bonds.

Example: Last night. IBB Bonds and then Santiago hits the go-ahead and winning HR.

Another comparison to consider: What is Santiago's batting average with Barry on first base? What is Santiago's batting average with the bases empty?

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