Ted Williams vs. Barry Bonds

Disclaimer: I had no intention of taking this angle, but after about 400 words noticed it was a worthwhile one.

I was toying around in SQL, looking at single season high in certain statistics and threw in the formula for OPS. I set the at-bats criteria a little lower than I usually do because I wanted to include the seasons where Bonds walked 170+ times. It wasn't until after the fact that I realized I could've just ordered by plate appearances, but it makes little difference for this post. The number of ABs ended up being 350 or more, and I must say, even I didn't realize how good Ted Williams 1957 stacked up.

Player Year Team HR BB PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Bonds 2004 SFN 45 232 617 0.3619 0.6094 0.8123 1.4217
Bonds 2002 SFN 46 198 612 0.3697 0.5817 0.799 1.3807
Bonds 2001 SFN 73 177 664 0.3277 0.5151 0.8634 1.3785
Bonds 2003 SFN 45 148 550 0.341 0.5291 0.7487 1.2778
Williams 1957 BOS 38 119 546 0.3881 0.5256 0.731 1.2566
McGwire 1998 SLN 70 162 681 0.2986 0.4699 0.7525 1.2224
Thomas 1994 CHA 38 109 517 0.3534 0.4874 0.7293 1.2168
Bagwell 1994 HOU 39 65 479 0.3675 0.4509 0.75 1.2009
McGwire 1996 OAK 52 116 548 0.3121 0.4672 0.7305 1.1976
Mantle 1957 NYA 34 146 623 0.365 0.512 0.6646 1.1766

If that wasn't enough, I wanted to compared run environments by league, like so:

Player Year Team LG R/G
Bonds 2004 SFN 4.64
Bonds 2002 SFN 4.45
Bonds 2001 SFN 4.7
Bonds 2003 SFN 4.61
Williams 1957 BOS 4.23
McGwire 1998 SLN 4.6
Thomas 1994 CHA 5.23
Bagwell 1994 HOU 4.62
McGwire 1996 OAK 5.39
Mantle 1957 NYA 4.23

In case you can't "order by lg r/g desc" in your mind, I've done it for you:

Player Year Team LG R/G OPS
McGwire 1996 OAK 5.39 1.1976
Thomas 1994 CHA 5.23 1.2168
Bonds 2001 SFN 4.7 1.3785
Bonds 2004 SFN 4.64 1.4217
Bagwell 1994 HOU 4.62 1.2009
Bonds 2003 SFN 4.61 1.2778
McGwire 1998 SLN 4.6 1.2224
Bonds 2002 SFN 4.45 1.3807
Williams 1957 BOS 4.23 1.2566
Mantle 1957 NYA 4.23 1.1766

Bonds beats him in quantity, but goodness sakes , the average AL OPS in 1957 was .708! Williams had a .525 wOBA and that was as a 38-year-old. I did some quick data crunching and the ML average was .319. That means that over 600 plate appearances, Williams was 107 runs better than average.When old age and epic performances are brought to mind most of us will think about Bonds, and rightfully so. If anyone could top Williams 38-year-old season versus the league, it would have to be Bonds. Right? Well, of course. As a 39-year-old in 2004 Bonds had a wOBA of .538. League average was .330, meaning Bonds was 109 runs better. That's, um, amazing.

Rather than go through the processes of "anything Williams could do Bonds could do better" I gathered their career wOBA versus league average numbers for a concise analysis. Note that I did use real PA numbers.

Player Age Year PA PwOBA LgwOBA Runs
Bonds 21 1986 484 0.345 0.32 10.52
Bonds 22 1987 611 0.355 0.326 15.41
Bonds 23 1988 614 0.373 0.312 32.57
Bonds 24 1989 679 0.346 0.313 19.48
Bonds 25 1990 621 0.43 0.319 59.94
Bonds 26 1991 634 0.404 0.318 47.41
Bonds 27 1992 612 0.469 0.317 80.89
Bonds 28 1993 674 0.469 0.327 83.22
Bonds 29 1994 474 0.447 0.333 46.99
Bonds 30 1995 635 0.429 0.333 51.9
Bonds 31 1996 675 0.454 0.335 69.85
Bonds 32 1997 690 0.437 0.332 63
Bonds 33 1998 697 0.435 0.331 63.03
Bonds 34 1999 434 0.421 0.341 30.19
Bonds 35 2000 607 0.458 0.341 61.76
Bonds 36 2001 664 0.539 0.327 122.41
Bonds 37 2002 612 0.546 0.326 177.08
Bonds 38 2003 550 0.506 0.328 85.13
Bonds 39 2004 617 0.538 0.33 111.6
Bonds 40 2005 52 0.426 0.326 4.52
Bonds 41 2006 493 0.41 0.332 33.44
Bonds 42 2007 477 0.429 0.331 40.65

Career RV/PA: .104
2008 comparison: Chipper Jones (.104)

And Williams:

Player Age Year PA PwOBA LgwOBA Runs
Williams 20 1939 677 0.464 0.344 70.64
Williams 21 1940 661 0.458 0.333 71.27
Williams 22 1941 606 0.565 0.334 121.73
Williams 23 1942 671 0.522 0.323 116.11
Williams 27 1946 672 0.524 0.328 144.53
Williams 28 1947 693 0.507 0.336 103.05
Williams 29 1948 638 0.505 0.341 90.98
Williams 30 1949 730 0.51 0.344 105.37
Williams 31 1950 616 0.483 0.346 73.38
Williams 32 1951 674 0.464 0.337 74.43
Williams 33 1952 12 0.603 0.327 2.88
Williams 34 1953 110 0.59 0.336 24.3
Williams 35 1954 526 0.509 0.333 80.5
Williams 36 1955 417 0.508 0.327 65.63
Williams 37 1956 503 0.471 0.326 63.42
Williams 38 1957 546 0.525 0.319 97.81
Williams 39 1958 517 0.451 0.32 58.89
Williams 40 1959 331 0.351 0.319 9.21
Williams 41 1960 390 0.47 0.319 51.21

Career RV/PA: .143
2008 comparison: Albert Pujols (.117)

Bonds Williams
1310.99 1425.34

So without adjusting for park it appears Williams wins. Here's some other interesting comparisons:

Bonds five best average out to be 115.89, Williams to 118.16 runs.
Bonds seven best average out to be 104.31, Williams to be 111.37 runs.
Bonds ten best average out to be 91.80, Williams to 100.79 runs.


Bonds Williams
Pre-30 396.43 718.31
Post-30 914.56 707.03

There are still a few issues worth discussing and analyzing:

1) Park adjustments: Williams played in a hitters park his entire career, Bonds played in a pitchers park for most of his.

2) Talent adjustments: Williams played in an era with a ton of whites, some blacks, and not much else. Bonds played in the most diversified talent pool to date.

3) Enhancement adjustments: medical, technological, ect., clearly Bonds takes the advantage here.

4) Fielding: I didn't take it into account whatsoever. Was Bonds a better fielder than Williams? Can we prove so with a reliable metric?

I do want to ask something, and no it's not the predictable poll asking you to judge overall superiority. Instead, who had the more incredible oddities?

Reference

Fangraphs

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