News Item: Bobby Bonds died on Saturday at age 57.
The following article is meant to be a tribute to Bobby Lee Bonds in a Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT sort of way.
My attachment with Bonds goes back 35 years. In fact, I watched him hit a grand slam in his first game in the major leagues in 1968--the only player in the modern era to accomplish that feat. The Giants were playing the Dodgers and the game was on TV in the Los Angeles market, as was the custom in those days for all the games the Dodgers played at Candlestick Park.
I also saw Bonds perform in person many times after the Yankees traded him to the California Angels in 1976. Bonds was the Angels best offensive player in 1977 when he hit 37 homers and stole 41 bases along with 103 runs scored and a career-high 115 runs batted in. Expectations were high for the Angels that year as Gene Autry reached into his saddlebags and signed Bobby Grich and Joe Rudi in the dawn of free agency. However, Grich and Rudi got hurt and only played in 116 combined games. The starting rotation was comprised of Frank Tanana, Nolan Ryan, and two days of cryin'. As a result, the Angels ended the season with a disappointing won-loss record of 74-88, fifth in the division. Bonds was traded in the off-season to the Chicago White Sox and was later dealt to the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals, and Chicago Cubs.
I played APBA, the baseball board game with dice and player cards, back in those days and had Bobby Bonds on my team. One look at Bonds' APBA card and seeing the 1s, 5s, 11s, and 14s (especially the 14*s) taught me as much about sabermetrics and the benefits of power, speed, and walks as reading the first edition of The Bill James Baseball Abstract in 1977. While my friends extolled the virtues of high-average hitters such as Matty Alou, Ralph Garr, Ken Griffey Sr., Bill Madlock, and Bake McBride, I began to get a feel for what really created runs well before the runs created stat was developed by James.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG SLG OBA OPS
BONDS 7043 1258 1886 302 66 332 1024 914 1757 461 169 .268 .471 .353 .824
LG AVERAGE 6977 876 1826 291 51 159 816 688 1007 129 72 .262 .386 .329 .715
POS AVERAGE 7063 971 1895 313 58 205 901 766 1159 150 83 .268 .416 .341 .757
As detailed above, the strength of Bobby Bonds was his extraordinary power and speed. He hit home runs at more than twice the league rate and stole bases at over three times the league rate. Bonds also walked about 33% more than the league average. Even though Bonds' batting average was about equal to the league average, his unique combination of power, speed, and walks resulted in generating far more runs (382) and RBI (208) than his peers for the same number of outs.
RC RCAA RCAP OWP RC/G ISO SEC BPA
BONDS 1216 315 203 .629 5.96 .203 .374 .553
LG AVERAGE 897 0 0 .500 4.40 .125 .231 .428
POS AVERAGE 1010 112 0 .547 4.95 .148 .266 .461
Bonds created 315 more runs than the league average and 203 more than those who played the same position. His Offensive Winning Percentage (.629) and Bases Per Plate Appearance (.553) were significantly above the league and positional norms. What set apart Bonds from the crowd the most was his Isolated Power (.203) and his Secondary Average (.374), highlighting his power, speed, and ability to get on base via walks.
Bobby Bonds is perhaps best known for his 30-30 seasons. He and his son, Barry Bonds, hold the record with five each. Bobby entered the 30-30 club in his first full season in 1969. He repeated the achievement in 1973, joining Willie Mays as the only players to in baseball history to go 30-30 twice. Bonds then passed Mays in 1975 when he became the first Yankee ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season--a feat unmatched until Alfonso Soriano turned the trick last year.
NUMBER OF 30 HR - 30 SB SEASONS
T1 Bobby Bonds 5
T1 Barry Bonds 5
3 Howard Johnson 3
T4 Raul Mondesi 2
T4 Ron Gant 2
T4 Willie Mays 2
T4 Vladimir Guerrero 2
T4 Sammy Sosa 2
T4 Jeff Bagwell 2
T10 Dante Bichette 1
T10 Jose Canseco 1
T10 Bobby Abreu 1
T10 Joe Carter 1
T10 Jose Cruz Jr. 1
T10 Eric Davis 1
T10 Ellis Burks 1
T10 Hank Aaron 1
T10 Tommy Harper 1
T10 Preston Wilson 1
T10 Barry Larkin 1
T10 Dale Murphy 1
T10 Alex Rodriguez 1
T10 Alfonso Soriano 1
T10 Darryl Strawberry 1
T10 Larry Walker 1
T10 Ken Williams 1
T10 Shawn Green 1
There have been only 27 players who have put together a 30-30 season in more than 100 years of baseball. These players have performed this combo 43 times. The father-son team of Bobby and Barry Bonds account for 23% of these seasons.
Bonds is also in exclusive company when it comes to career HR and SB as he is one of only four players with 300 of each. Interestingly, when Barry Bonds joined the group in 1996, Bobby was coaching first base and Andre Dawson was playing left field for the Florida Marlins. The game was played at Candlestick so it's possible that Mays may have been among the 15,711 fans to witness this historic event.
PLAYERS WITH > 300 CAREER HR AND SB
1 Willie Mays 660 338
2 Barry Bonds 652 500
3 Andre Dawson 438 314
4 Bobby Bonds 332 461
Bobby's son, Barry, became the only player to hit 500 homers and steal 500 bases earlier this summer. Bobby had more SB than Mays and Dawson but hit fewer HR. Bobby Bonds overlapped the end of Mays' career and the beginning of Dawson's career. In my mind, Bonds was a cross between Reggie Jackson and Cesar Cedeno. He ran a little bit better than Reggie but didn't have quite the same power, yet he had more power than Cedeno but not as much speed. As a lead-off hitter, Bonds was the pre-cursor to Rickey Henderson--a player who struck fear in opponents from the first pitch to the last pitch. Eric Davis and Darryl Strawberry had similar tools as Bonds, yet it could be argued that none of these three players lived up to the high expectations that were placed upon them when they became big leaguers.
Bobby Bonds ranks fourth in the power/speed number developed by James, trailing only his son, Rickey, and Willie. The following list is one of the most talented group of players I have ever seen based on one statistical ranking. Eight of the top ten are either in the Hall of Fame or will be as soon as they become eligible. The best outfielders from the 1950s-on are all among the top 20 other than Mickey Mantle, who ranks 44th in power/speed. As a side note, I thought it was interesting to find three second basemen (Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg, and Roberto Alomar) on this list and no shortstops.
POWER/SPEED CAREER LEADERS
1 Barry Bonds 546.49
2 Rickey Henderson 487.50
3 Willie Mays 447.05
4 Bobby Bonds 386.01
5 Joe Morgan 385.90
6 Andre Dawson 365.78
7 Hank Aaron 364.22
8 Reggie Jackson 324.56
9 Paul Molitor 319.61
10 Sammy Sosa 317.67
11 Eric Davis 311.94
12 Ryne Sandberg 309.93
13 Don Baylor 309.25
14 Frank Robinson 302.64
15 Dave Winfield 301.44
16 Cesar Cedeno 292.26
17 Joe Carter 291.79
18 Tim Raines 280.90
19 Roberto Alomar 280.13
20 Jose Canseco 279.15
Although the players mentioned above seem to be better fits, Baseball-Reference.com has determined that the following ten players are the most similar to Bonds in terms of career statistics. Bobby Murcer is an interesting link, given the fact that he was on the other end of the high-profile, controversial deal between the Yankees and Giants--a trade, by the way, that failed to deliver the desired results to either team. It may be fitting that his comparables, like Bonds himself, are all on the outside of Cooperstown looking in. If baseball had a Hall of Fame for good players, then Bonds and most of these players would have made it on the first ballot.
Ron Gant (907)
Reggie Smith (888)
Jack Clark (884)
George Foster (883)
Fred Lynn (875)
Roy Sievers (868)
Dick Allen (866)
Ellis Burks (865)
Bobby Murcer (864)
Rocky Colavito (862)
Unfortunately, based on the Hall of Fame standards set by Bill James, Bobby Bonds comes up a tad short. He was a very good player in his day, but his peak and career numbers don't quite measure up to the players in the HOF.
Black Ink: Batting - 6 (Average HOFer ~ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 132 (Average HOFer ~ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 35.8 (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 65.5 (Likely HOFer > 100)
Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia
Although Bobby will never be enshrined in Cooperstown, he will most definitely be enshrined in my mind as one of the truly special players I had the privilege of watching.
"...and Bobby Bonds can play for everyone."
--Terry Cashman, "Willie, Mickey & The Duke (Talkin' Baseball)"
Thank you for the memories, Bobby. You will be missed by us all.