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When Will Bonds Be #1?

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Now that Barry Bonds is back (and has his 704th career homerun, first of the 2005 season) I have decided it is time to put Ruth and Bonds numbers against each other to see just how close (or far away) Bonds is to achieving the goal of best player ever. I know there are some who will scoff at this when it involves Bonds, but I am relying purely on the numbers that have been provided for me; nothing more or less. Let's first take a look using an old standy at this site: Jay Jaffe's JAWS system.

Bonds is a superior fielder, and has more Batting Runs Above Replacement (BRAR) and Batting Runs Above Average (BRAA) than Ruth does, but he has done this in over 200 more games, which would account for some of the difference. The JAWS score is very close, and the Peak WARP is behind by exactly 1.0. With most players, you could expect only Career WARP3 to shift changing JAWS, but if Bonds can put in a healthy 2006 that scores better than 11.4 WARP3 (the first year of his peak, and the lowest of the 5) then he will have both increased career and peak values to help him contend against Ruth's daunting career. A season with 12.0 WARP3 would put Bonds 1.1 career WARP3 behind, and only 0.3 and 0.7 points of peak and JAWS value behind respectively. Close enough to call it a wash in most cases. Let's take a look at how some other metrics treat the two; moving on to Net Runs Above Average.

Using their career averages over the span of 162 games, Babe Ruth is exactly 1 NRAA better than Bonds. That my friends, is very, very close. This is a number that could shift drastically in the next year or two. If Bonds remains in the National League, his defense will most likely suffer, although if his bat keeps up it should offset it in the bigger scheme of things. If he is able to move to the American League where he can DH, he will not only be more rested and able to play more often, but his defensive stats will stand pat. It is amazing to look and see the career EqA's of these two behemoths by the way. .364 and .354 for Ruth and Bonds respectively. Seems almost fake when you consider some of the lower numbers we have settled for and considered impressive, like Andruw Jones and his .308 EqA this season (sorry, random dig at the MVP race).

These are just some assorted statistics that show just how close these two are yet again. There are two stats with huge differences in this table. First off, Bonds Power/Speed score is the best in history by a longshot. Second place all-time has a score of 490.41, held by Rickey Henderson. I think it is safe to say Bonds' spot is secured for now, even if someone lets Rickey make another comeback. Secondly, Ruth is ahead of Bonds in Win Shares, with 756, due to his pitching and hitting career. Ruth is basically hanging on at this point thanks to some excellent years on the mound. Consider that Win Shares are not adjusted like WARP3, and the difference becomes even smaller in my mind. By the way, as of the start of the 2005 season, Todd Helton was 4th all-time in slugging, one spot ahead of Barry Bonds. I cannot wait for people to question his Cooperstown candidacy. I will smote their ruin upon the mountainside with figures and charts.

One last item before I conclude this piece. There is a book titled "Baseball's All-Time Best Sluggers", authored by Michael Schell, which deals with listing the top 100 power hitters (read: sluggers) in history. He uses some extreme statistical analysis to figure out his list, and comes to this important conclusion: Babe Ruth is #1, Ted Williams is #2, and Barry Bonds is #3. Combine Bonds advantages over Williams and Ruth in the Power/Speed number and defensive portions of the game and you may well just have yourself the best player of all-time. I think WARP3 may be the safest way to go about this, solely because it incorporates his pitching and his hitting together and is adjusted for difficulty. If that is the case, Ruth should start looking over his shoulder, because a healthy Barry means a left in the dust Babe.