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The Ichiro and Barry Show (They Hit and Hit and Hit'n'Hit'n'Hit)
2004-09-02 00:15
by Mike Carminati

Ichiro Suzuki and Barry Bonds are leading their respective leagues in batting and are now within 4 points of each other, but they are doing it in very different ways.

Ichiro, as I pointed out and got waylaid by M's fans, is doing it by relying heavily on singles, perhaps at a record-setting pace.

Meanwhile, Bonds may be having his best offensive season to date, and therefore possibly the best offensive season ever. His great batting average may be the least impressive of his ratios. His current on-base percentage is .608. No batter has ever had an OBP over .600 over a full season in major-league history. He holds the record with a .582 OBP in 2002. No other batter in history is within 50 points of him (Ted Williams had a .553 OBP in 1941). This is, of course, helped greatly by his record-setting base on balls pace. Right now he is 13 walks behind the (i.e., his) single-season walk record (198 in 2002). He is on pace to walk 225 times this year. No other batter in baseball history would be within 50 walks of that record (Babe Ruth's 170 in 1923 is the best non-Bonds total).

His slugging percentage (.821) would rank fourth all-time. Bonds has slugged over 1.000 for a month twice (April and August).

His OPS is 1.429. Its over 40 points better than the current record (1.387) that he set in 2002. His OPS against lefties is 550 points higher than against right-handers, and yet his OPS vs. right-handers would rank fourth in the majors, a few points behind Albert Pujols, one of the few men mentioned along with Bonds as a potential MVP candidate.

Barring injury, Bonds will blaze past 700 home runs this season, and even though he is 40, we could conceivably see him pass Aaron by the end of next year, at which point we may be discussing the odds of him reaching 800 home runs and then Sadaharu Oh's professional home run record (868).

Here are Bonds's 2004 splits:

Home1515963214291 16.417.634.9401.575
Away1564650174694 13.321.581.7051.286
vs. Left109223362046 10.303.519.5501.069
vs. Right19883803268139 19.404.649.9701.619
April532125102239 6.472.6961.1321.828
May4817124729 4.250.532.5421.074
June67232261446 6.328.612.6571.269
July69172571833 6.362.571.7541.325
August702729112738 7.414.6151.0001.615
Total3071051133888185 29.368.607.8211.428

Ichiro is on pace to collect 265 hits, eight more than George Sisler's single-season record. What's so remarkable about his season is that he started off so slowly and still has a good chance to break the hits record. He also has reversed his trend to slump in the second half. As a matter of fact, if you combine his first half stats in 2003 and his second half stats this year, you get a pretty good season. Here are the better halves of the last two seasons and the worse halves, both combined. It's quite a difference:

2004 Pre All-Star371451193312731216.321.369.399.768
2003 Post All-Star2904275534143392.259.301.383.684
2004 Post All-Star2013893520102194.463.491.5921.083
2003 Pre All-Star389691378282236256.352.390.476.866

So Ichiro and Bonds are both having remarkable seasons for different reasons. Together as potential batting champs, they are remarkably at different ends of the hits spectrum. While Ichiro is on pace to set the single-season record, Bonds may have one of the lowest hit totals for a batting champ ever. He has 113 hits right now and projects to 137 for the season.

Here are all the batting champs with 137 or fewer hits in a season all time:

1871NALevi Meyerle64130.492
1878NLPaul Hines92257.358
1981NLBill Madlock95279.341
1872NARoss Barnes99229.432
1874NALevi Meyerle100254.394
1942NLErnie Lombardi+102309.330
1877NLDeacon White103266.387
1882AAPete Browning109288.378
1926NLBubbles Hargrave+115326.353
1880NLGeorge Gore116322.360
1886AAGuy Hecker+117343.341
1940NLDebs Garms+127358.355
1914ALTy Cobb+127345.368
1882NLDan Brouthers129351.368
1994ALPaul O'Neill132368.359
1954ALTed Williams*133386.345
1902ALNap Lajoie+133352.378
1981ALCarney Lansford134399.336
1958ALTed Williams135411.328
1893NLBilly Hamilton135355.380
1875NADeacon White136371.367
1918NLZack Wheat137409.335
1881NLCap Anson137343.399
1873NARoss Barnes137322.425

Note that a number of these champs (demarcated by an +) won their titles in an era in which the rules to qualify for the title were different and they wouldn’t win under today's rules. Also, Ted Williams' 1954 season is listed (with an asterisk) because under today's rules he would have won the title (even though Bobby Avila has the title in the record books). Williams walked too often and back then qualification was based on your at-bats total.

One last tangent: here are all the batting champs how would lose their titles if today's rules were in force. I encourage MLB to do as they did with no-hitters, go back and drop the batting titles that were given to men who just had to play in either 60% of their team's games or 100 games for a season. Believe me, we won't miss them. (Note: the adjusted batting average reflects the current rule of adding in hitless at-bats to bring the batter's plate appearance total to the minimum):

YrLgBAShouldabeenHABBAActualHABPAMinPABA Titleadj BA
1954AL.345Ted Williams133386.345Bobby Avila189555638477.4.341.341
1942NL.318Enos Slaughter188591.318Ernie Lombardi102309347458.8.242.330
1940NL.317Stan Hack191603.317Debs Garms127358385477.4.282.355
1932AL.364Jimmie Foxx213585.364Dale Alexander (2 tms)144392454472.8.351.367
1926NL.336Paul Waner180536.336Bubbles Hargrave 115326365477.4.262.353
1914AL.344Eddie Collins181526.344Ty Cobb127345414474.3.313.368
1902AL.361Charlie Hickman (2 tms)193534.361Nap Lajoie (2 tms)133352385421.6.342.378
1886AA.340Pete Browning159467.340Guy Hecker117343378421.6.303.341

One final note, though Williams should have won the title in 1954, many point to his 1955 season as another example of his being screwed over by the lousy qualification rules. Actually, his plate appearance total for that year is well below the minimum (by 60). His .356 becomes an adjusted average of .300, forty points behind Al Kaline.

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