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Hello, Barry!
2005-09-11 22:04
by Mike Carminati

After 142 games, the best player in the game returns to lead his team against the division leaders for a three game series. Barry Bonds will bat cleanup and play left, reportedly, for the Giants as they host the Padres, whom they trail by seven games.

Will it be too little, too late? Can Bonds really be Bonds again at age 41 after missing almost an entire season? Will Bonds even be able to contribute at all? Will it even matter given how far the Giants are back?

We'll have to wait to see, but I thought it might be interesting to look at the best performances ever by a player in twenty games or less. Given that Bonds has recorded arguably the best full season, or seasons, on record, can he fashion the best twenty-game season ever?

Here are the best based on no more than twenty games played and at least 50 plate appearances:

Monte Cross1894.442.520.8371.3572134324
Craig Wilson1998.468.490.7661.2563104727
Otto Krueger1900.400.543.6861.229133523
Walt Bond1962.380.426.8001.2266175024
Fred Lynn1974.419.490.6981.1882104322
Babe Ganzel1927.438.509.6671.1761134826
Mark Quinn1999.333.385.7331.1186186025
Fred Sington1938.358.493.6231.115255328
Hank Greenberg1936.348.455.6301.0851164625
Charlie Hickman1899.397.433.6511.0840156323
George Wright1871.413.453.6251.0780118024
Karim Garcia2001.311.360.7111.071594525
Elmer Valo1941.420.463.5801.043265020
Jimmy Zinn1929.381.447.5951.042184234
Jose Oliva1994.288.364.6781.0426115923
Alex Kampouris1941.314.444.5881.033295128
Joe Jackson1910.387.446.5871.0321117520
Bill Serena1951.333.490.5381.029143926
Homer Summa1922.348.400.6091.009164623
Luke Appling1945.368.478.5261.0051105738
Larry Hisle1980.283.421.5831.0046166033
Duke Farrell1903.404.466.5381.004085236
Jim Greengrass1952.309.373.5880.965246824

(Actually, the Jim Greengrass "Of Home" season is there because he was the leader in RBI among the group.)

Monte Cross had a 13-year career mostly as a starting shortstop after his monster 13-game 1894 season in Pittsburgh (224 OPS+) but never came anywhere near recreating those numbers over a full season. Craig Wilson was not the Pirate but the White Sox shortstop, who lasted just two more seasons. Lynn went on to an MVP/ROY season in 1975.

Most of these players were youngsters who parlayed a hot September callup into a starting job the nest spring, hardly Bonds' situation. To see comparable players to Bonds, I looked at just the forty-year-old or older set:

Rogers Hornsby1937.321.397.429.8251115641
Clyde Sukeforth1945.294.345.314.659015143
Ted Lyons1942.

Not quite as impressive a group even though it contains Hornsby, probably the best player on either list. Let's assume that Bonds continues his torrid pace and hits as well as the best player on the list for each category. That would give him a .468 batting average, a .543 on-base average, an .837 slugging average, a 1.380 OPS, 5 home runs, and 24 RBI. If that seems unrealistic, consider that a 1.380 OPS would be just his third highest in the last four years.

If gets especially hot, remember than he trails Ruth for second place all-time in homers by just 11. Of course, if he gets hot, he may go on to lead the league in intentional walks (Albert Pujols lead with 24 currently) or hit-by-a-pitch (Geoff Jenkins, 17).

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