Bonds walking to more records
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
OK, so Barry Bonds won't set the single-season home run mark again in 2002. That doesn't mean there aren't some pretty impressive records that will fall by the wayside as he continues his move towards Cooperstown.
Walks and on-base percentage may not be as sexy as the home run: There won't be any clever commercials trumpeting, "Chicks love the bases on balls." But Bonds is taking plate discipline to a new level.
Assuming nothing happens to slow him down, Bonds will set a walks record for the second year in a row. His 73 homers in 2001 may have been impressive, but that only beat a three-year-old mark. Last year, Bonds drew 177 walks, besting Babe Ruth's record of 170 set in 1923.
This year, Bonds is threatening to make a mockery of that record. As of August 9, Bonds had already received 127 free passes to first.
All those bases on balls lead to an even higher on-base percentage. Bonds had a .515 OBP in 2001, the eighth best single-season mark in baseball history. The four men occupying the top seven spots -- Ted Williams, John McGraw, Babe Ruth and Billy Hamilton -- are all in the Hall of Fame.
Williams set the standard with a .5528 mark in 1941. Since 1957 only Mickey Mantle with a .512, and Bonds last year, have topped the .500 plateau in that time.
All of this makes what he's doing this year even more ridiculous. Bonds was getting on base at a .565 clip, edging Williams' record which has stood for more than 60 years. For comparison's sake, the Major League average OBP in 2002 is .330.
"It wasn't a record I ever expected to see broken," noted baseball author and historian Bill James said. "It seemed like it was out of reach, unless the game moved in that direction.
"On-base percentage, historically, has been very stable. Not that much has really changed. It seemed like such a high number, I didn't expect anyone to break it."
Add it to the increasingly long list of things Bonds has done that people couldn't possibly have expected. Even if he doesn't approach last year's numbers in other categories -- James is among many who think Bonds' 2001 was the greatest season by a hitter -- he's still doing some unbelieavable things.
Last year, Bonds' .863 slugging was the best single season mark in baseball's history. He's "slipped" to .808 so far this season. That would put him fourth on the all-time list, and the second highest total (behind his SLG percentage in 2001) since 1927.
Then there's OPS, on-base + slugging. Last year, Bonds put up a 1.378 OPS, the second highest-total ever. This year, he's at 1.373.
"I don't think he'll match last year, then again no one ever has," James said. "All that's saying is it isn't the greatest season ever. That's certainly not a put-down."
And it shouldn't eclipse what he is accomplishing this year. By possibly setting records in walks and on-base percentage, he could be changing how many hitters approach the game.
"The real impact of it [is that] Bonds has establshed, and you see other people copying it, you don't have to swing at pitches out of the strike zone in order to get more good pitches to hit," James said. "Chasing pitches doesn't give you more good pitches to hit, it gives you less. Bonds has been extremely disciplined about not swinging at any bad pitches."
If he continues at this pace, he might go down as the most disciplined hitter in history.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.