and the IBB: How Historic is this Walk in the Park?
35…68…61… No we’re not calling a football play, those are Barry Bonds Intentional base on balls (IBB) totals for the past three years. And if you aren’t aware of it, like just about everything else Mr. Bonds has been doing these past few years, these totals are historic…though we would hazard to guess they are not the type of history that Bonds would like to be making. Before we speak more centrally about Bonds, a bit of history on the IBB is in order.
The IBB first became a statistic in 1955, too late to encompass the careers of some of the greatest powers hitters of all-time, hitters like Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams (for most of his career at least). However a quick glance of the top 10 HR hitters of all-time and the years they played reveals that all but one of the players in the top 10 (Ruth) played the majority of their careers almost entirely after the invention of the IBB stat:
One would expect a review of the all time
leaders in IBB to reflect how these power hitters, as well as other great
power hitters of the past 50 years, have been respected by opposing
managers. What is surprising in this case is that many of the top 30 IBB
players of all time are a varied lot of excellent hitters, but not solely
HR bashing cleanup hitters. Here is the list of the top 30 players in
terms of the IBB they received during their careers. A few of these names
might surprise you.
CAREER TOTALS (through the 2003 Season)
* Bold indicates still active
** In case you were wondering, Mark McGwire finished his career with 150 IBB’s.
Rusty Staub, the red headed Expo and Met? Ted Simmons, the painfully slow catcher/dh? Tony Gwynn, the greatest singles hitter of the past 25 years? Wade Boggs, the AL version of Gwynn? Chili Davis…Chili Davis???? Wow is right. It seems that in the past 50 years the IBB has not only been reserved for the HR hitting cleanup hitter but just about any hitter who was accomplished (be they singles hitters, average hitters or homerun hitters).
Since this story revolves around Barry Bonds, its absolutely no surprise to anyone that he leads the list with 484. But 484 IBB…that means that Bonds has roughly 40% more IBB than his next closest pursuer Henry Aaron (293), a staggering difference. How staggering? For comparison sake, if Bonds were to have 40% more HR’s than Aaron (755) he would finish his career with 1057 homeruns!
Here are Bonds career totals for IBB (1986-2003): 2,3,14,22,15,25,32,43,18,22,30,34,29,9,22,35,68,61 (this of course does not take into account the time he was “unintentionally intentionally walked” in his career, a total that cannot be recorded definitively). With 129 IBB over the last 2 years (02-03’), Bonds has received almost 27% of his career total during that time. And if those two yearly figures sound high to you they should…they are the two highest single season totals of all time.
* As of May 11th, Bonds has received 27 IBB in 30 Games, over 120 plate appearances, a total that already ties him for the 24th highest single season total of all time.
So out of the top 20 single season totals for the IBB, Bonds has the top 2, 4 out of the top 8, and 7 of the top 20. These figures detail the significance of the destructive nature of Bonds’ at bats and the managers’ reticence to pitch to the man in anything resembling a sporting manner.
Another way we thought to address this issue was to compare the number of IBB to the plate appearances (PA) of the top 30 players in their careers. In the chart below, we list the players career PA followed by a figure which represents how many PA were required to attain one IBB.
* Bold indicates leading total.
A player such as Pete Rose, who holds the all-time record for career at bats, appears as the 23rd ranked player all time in IBB. However, when we break down his total per PA, we realize that the only reason he is on the is list is because of that PA total (he finishes at the bottom of our top 30 list at one IBB per every 95.2 PA). The average of all 29 players (322,580 PA and 6035 IBB), minus Bonds, is one IBB per every 53.5 PA (Bonds sits at one every 22.7). Bonds next closest pursuer on this list is Willie McCovey with one IBB every 37.3 PA…an advantage of almost 40% for Bonds. In fact, the only hitter who there is a partial record of IBB that can compare to Bonds is a hitter who we mentioned at the beginning of this article… Ted Williams. Perhaps Mr. Williams can offer some competition for Bonds?
In the last 6 seasons of Williams’s career when the IBB was recorded, he had 2704 PA and accumulated 86 IBB. Therefore the rate he produced in his last 6 seasons was one IBB per every 31.4 PA, a total which would place him 2nd on the list to Bonds. If we extrapolate this ratio out for his whole career of 9789 PA (7706 at bats), at a rate of one per 31.4 PA, we end up with a total of 312 IBB for Williams in his career (again a total which would place him second all time). We also have to realize that while this is a speculative endeavor when it comes to hypothesizing how many IBB Williams would have had, we are using his accumulated stats for the final 6 years of his career. This means that we are not taking into account the prime years of his career where he most assuredly would have received IBB’s at a higher rate. Therefore, we feel that this estimate should be regarded as a very fair one.
In closing, Bonds IBB rate and total dwarf all of the competition, a significant representation of the stature of this all time great. In fact, Bonds has been intentionally walked so often in his career that if you were to add up all the feet he was given on his intentional free passes (484 times, 90 feet per walk), he has been intentionally walked 8.25 miles! Maybe we should buy him some Mephistos or Birkenstocks instead of cleats.
LATE ADDITION: Unbeknownst to the author, Jayson Stark of Espn.com was concurrently working on the same story of Bonds IBB. While our two stories are vastly different in details, my story deals mostly with the historical comparison while his is more directly dealing with his 2004 season, we believe that you would likely be very interested in the work that he has done in this area. You might want to take a look at the Jayson Stark story as well. View ariticle.
Did you know that three man in baseball history have averaged 200 hits a season for one calendar decade?
1920-1929 Rogers Hornsby, 2085
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