Barry Bonds perjury trial finally began this week, four years after he was indicted and four years since he last played with the San Francisco Giants. So now seems like a good time to take a look back at what the fuss was all about.
Below is a comparison of Bonds to Babe Ruth by age using home runs per 500 at bats and wOBA (weighted On Base Average; an overall look at a hitter’s ability. Think OPS, but better. MLB average is ~.320).
If we look at the players’ home run rates, what we see is that Bonds and Ruth careers mirrored each other. Ruth put up some absurd numbers at age 25 and 26, two to three years before a player typically peaks statistically. From ages 27 through 35, Ruth’s and Bonds’ home run rates are very similar, before Bonds went on his famous late-career surge.
If we look at wOBA, we see that Ruth was consistently a better overall hitter than Bonds. Ruth’s .510 career wOBA is still tops all-time, while Bonds ranks 11th (.439) just ahead of Joe DiMaggio. But it wasn’t until Bonds’ age 36 season, the year he hit 73 home runs, that he bested Ruth in wOBA for a single season.
It really is too bad Bonds career has been tainted by the (alleged?) use of steroids. Up until the age of 35, Bonds wasn’t quite Ruthian, but he was in the neighbourhood same area code.
all data via Fangraphs.com