Elbo: Barry’s ’04

Even before talk of steroids, supplements and hormones became the big story of the Giants’ spring training season, one thing seemed obvious about Barry Bonds’ 2004: it would be a little quieter, in terms of production, than the past few years.

What can we really expect out of the six-time MVP this year? I’d guess that 130-135 games is a reasonable estimate of his playing time, barring significant injury or bereavement. He played 130 games last year while fighting chronic injuries and dealing with the illness and death of his father. While he presumably won't go through anything comparable to the latter again, he's likely to deal with the former for the rest of his playing days.

I do expect his home run totals to be down. Whether it’s because he’s off the juice, or because he’s turning 40, or whatever other reason, I don’t expect him to be in the high 40s again. Thirty-five to 40 is a reasonable guess. If anything else goes wrong, maybe even the high 20s is a possibility. It’s hard to imagine him continuing to hit 40 homers a year into his 40s (although he’s done plenty of things that were hard to imagine!).

His walk total has to drop sometime too. Maybe if the homers go, the walks will too. That could actually mean he sees better pitches to hit, which brings me to the crux of this post:

He should try to hit .400 this year.

Since his astonishing 2002, when he finished at .370 and reminded us that he can hit for average whenever he wants to, this has been in the back of my mind. How many times have we wondered what would happen if he just tried to punch the outside pitch the other way, thereby defeating the defensive shifts that he’s faced for several years now? How many doubles would he have to hit before the league gave up trying to defend him as if he were a pure pull hitter?

Almost everyone is expecting his home run total to drop, though we'll never really know the reason why. We’re going to hear this debate all summer: “Of course he was juiced – look at his numbers this year.” “He’s 40 years old! Of course he’s going to stop hitting them like crazy sometime!” But wouldn’t it be great for Barry, and for baseball, if he eased up on the homers and went for the other untouchable milestone? He could try to do something for which steroids don’t help you. And it would be just one more great achievement from the greatest player around. He’d still hit some homers, sure, but he’d manage to divert attention from his homers (and by extension his body chemistry) to his BA.

I’m not saying a person can just choose to hit .400. If it were that easy, someone would have done it sometime in the last 60 years. But if you’re like me, you’ve always wondered what would happen if Barry stopped swinging for the fences so often, and just tried to get base hits. He could have an OBP of .600, fer chrissakes. Hit for average, Barry, on purpose, and you might even help your team even more than you have all along.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com