How Valuable Was Barry Bonds As An Offensive Force in 2007?

Fire Joe Morgan says quite valuable:

How Barry Bonds “Hurt” the Giants from a Baseball Standpoint in 2007: .276/.480/.565 in 126 games. 28 HR.

Yes, watching him play LF was painful. And yes, there will probably be a palpable sense of relief among the Giants’ players that he’s gone. But it’s not easy to find a hitter who can put up those numbers. Even if he can’t run, he was on base almost half the time.

I would say (uncontroversially) that he hurt the team far more from a non-baseball standpoint, in that he was a terrible sideshow who distracted everyone around him with his steroidiness. (That’s a word, I think.) And if the Giants are 5 games better in the standings next year, it will be because their excellent young pitchers are a year older and better, not because they lost a guy with a 156/170 OPS+ the last two years.

Those are indeed good numbers. Wait a minute. No they aren’t. OK, the OBP of .480 is excellent. The others, not so great for a left-fielder.

But even the OBP is suspect in this case, because Bonds didn’t drive in or score many runs with his great OBP. Generally speaking, a player must either score runs, or drive them in, to be considered productive offensively, no?

A high OBP, in and of itself, is not that useful. Heresy in the world of stats, I know. But the stat is meant to find players who will set up the team to score runs, and in Bonds’ case, I just don’t see evidence of that.

First, let’s face reality on Bonds’ high OBP. The Giants mostly sucked last year, and Bonds didn’t have much protection in the lineup. Walking him was a no-brainer in many situations, since the cost of doing so was seen as extremely low. So Bonds gets to walk a lot, which he likes since it pads his OBP, but it doesn’t mean he was contributing to their run totals. And to the extent that he did, it didn’t help much, because they finished 15th in runs scored. In the National League in 2007, this is ipso facto evidence that your offense stinks.

Next, a players’ high OBP might lead to scoring runs, but it would require that player to have enough speed and skill to be disruptive on the basepaths, or a solid OBP-oriented lineup that makes the pitcher pay for every baserunner (eg, the Red Sox). Unfortunately, Bonds can barely walk, much less run, and the Giants were pretty bad in the OBP department, with a .322 OBP, 14th in the league. And since that is including Bonds’ numbers, without him they were much, much worse. He walked 132 times; the guy with the second most, Ray Durham, walked only 53 times and struck out 75, to lead the team. This was not a lineup where one guy’s high OBP led to runs.

So … since he can’t score runs any more, he has to drive them in. Bonds drove in a total of 66 runs in ’07, in 126 games. From his 28 homers, he drove in 42 runs, with 16 solos, 10 two-run homers, and 2 three-run blasts. He drove in only 24 other runners all season. And he had only 14 doubles; that means 52 hits of his 94 hits were singles. This is production for a corner outfielder?

Ah, you say, but he only played 126 games, missing 36 games due to injury. Exactly right. He’s 43 years old, and he can’t play all the time. Another roster spot has to be used up to spell Bonds when he can’t play. And in ’08, he can’t be relied on to do even that much, and probably less. He and his backup are a platoon, to be replaced this year by either a single player or another platoon. The composite stats for Bonds and that other player must be weighed as a single value against either that new player or the new platoon. I don’t know who that other player is, so I can’t go very far into this point. But it simply isn’t valid to use Bonds’ numbers achieved over 126 games and ask where you’re going to get that level of production over 162. Bonds himself isn’t going to give it to you.

And I’m not sure how hard it really is to find a left field platoon to get 96 R and 84 RBI, with 36 HR, 0 triples, only 18 doubles, and 66 singles, for a total of 120 hits. Maybe those stats are harder to find than I realize, but they don’t scream out “irreplaceable”. Other than the HR numbers and the runs scored, they pretty much stink for a left fielder. Especially one who can’t move much any more. And when you factor in a younger player, with younger legs on both the basepaths and in the outfield, the possibility exists to both score, and prevent, even more runs. Even with a lower OBP.

So Bonds can’t score many runs, and he doesn’t really drive many in, and he can’t hit doubles or go get the ball with any authority in the outfield, and his HR numbers are OK but nothing overwhelming. Yet he plays a position that demands high offensive numbers.

I’m surprised Jim Hendry isn’t trying to get him for the Cubs.

OBP is a good stat, but with a player like Bonds, who is old and not mobile any more, on a team like the Giants, whose offense was not built for an OBP-oriented style of play, it’s usefulness is approaching zero.

Bottom line:  maybe Barry Bonds was still a useful player, but these stats sure don’t bear that out.

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