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.
If that wasn't enough, I wanted to compared run environments by league, like so:
In case you can't "order by lg r/g desc" in your mind, I've done it for you:
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.
Career RV/PA: .104
2008 comparison: Chipper Jones (.104)
Career RV/PA: .143
2008 comparison: Albert Pujols (.117)
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.
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?