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Thursday, September 16, 2004 

Bonds

From Salon.com's King Kaufman:

Today's stat: Imaginary managerial cojones.

That's right, imaginary -- well, you heard me. What we're dealing with is the anti-Bonds canard 'His numbers are artificially boosted by all those stupid intentional walks.'

Reader and Albert Pujols fan Tim Potter rebuts Monday's Stat of the Day, OPS, which Bonds is dominating to a ridiculous degree, thusly: 'You completely talk around the fact that his OPS is so high because he set a major league record for intentional walks this year because there is absolutely no need to pitch to him. He has nobody else on his team.'

A.C. Hawley puts it this way: 'If I was walked as often as Barry Bonds, my OPS would be that high as well.' Major league scouts, take note! There's an unsigned baseball player who claims he can slug at over an .800 clip in the bigs, something only Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds have ever done! For a small finder's fee, you may contact Hawley through this column to arrange a tryout.

OK, so all those intentional walks -- 105 of them through Tuesday night's game -- distort the numbers. Bonds has otherworldly stats because other teams are too chicken to pitch to him, or because his teammates are such bums there's no need to. That's the claim.

So here's what we'll do: We'll get rid of the intentional walks. We'll pretend that all of the opposing managers on the Giants' schedule have had the managerial cojones -- or lack of regard for job security, whichever you want to call it -- to pitch to Bonds the way they pitch to other big-time power hitters.

Jim Thome of the Phillies is second in the National League in intentional walks with 25. So let's fix it so Bonds has 25 too, instead of 105. Follow me here: We'll take 84 of Bonds' intentional walks and turn them into plate appearances in which he produces exactly the same results as in his remaining 464 appearances. Since 21 of those 464, or 4.5 percent, were intentional walks, four of these new 84 appearances will be free passes too, for a total of 25. Thus our imaginary Bonds gets the delicate treatment of the next-most-feared power hitter in the league, but nothing more.

So what else would happen in those 84 plate appearances that used to be intentional walks? Based on his season to date, Bonds would go 22-for-60 with 22 walks, including those four intentional, a sacrifice fly and a hit-by-pitch. He'd have five doubles, seven home runs and 17 RBIs. His batting average would stay at .372, of course, but he'd have 48 home runs, three ahead of Adrian Beltre of the Dodgers for the league lead, and 111 RBIs, third in the league behind Cardinal Scott Rolen and Colorado's Vinnie Castilla (both with 121), one ahead of Albert Pujols of the Cards.

Bonds' on-base percentage would suffer a bit, dropping from .614, the best ever, to .542, the fourth best in modern (since 1900) history. His slugging percentage would drop a bit too, from .828 to .822, still the fourth best season of all time. His OPS would fall all the way to 1.364, also the fourth best in history. On all three all-time lists, the only names above his 2004 season are Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds.

And just for reference, that 1.364 OPS would be 254 points -- 23 percent -- higher than that of the closest MVP 'candidate,' Jim Edmonds of the Cardinals at 1.110.

Folks, it ain't the intentional walks. Even discounting them, Bonds is having one of the greatest offensive seasons anyone has ever had. There are no other candidates for MVP. "