Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, and Baseball-Reference

By Jason Wojciechowski on November 18, 2006 at 6:31 PM

Baseball Reference now has splits, box scores, and game logs! The site is now clearly the best website on the entire internets. How many times have I wanted some split or other, but could only get it on ESPN, and that only for the last three to five years or so? Want to know how Barry Bonds hit "late and close" in 1993? Try .368/.438/.868. It's right there.

Now, a caveat is that these aren't exact, apparently, because there are a few plays missing here and there from the play-by-play files. That said, as long as the split you're looking at is a meaningful sample of plate appearances anyway, a few missing PA's isn't going to kill your analysis. In other words, so long as you're not trying to decide how Bonds is going to hit in extra innings this year by looking at his numbers in overtime in 1993, you're in good shape.

The reason I was on the site in the first place was to look at how Barry Bonds hit last year. The A's are apparently heavy in the race to sign him, particularly now that Frank Thomas is gone. Keith Law noted on ESPN that Bonds won't come nearly as cheap as Thomas did. That's true, but there are a number of other considerations.

First, Thomas wasn't as cheap as the $500,000 or whatever was announced before the year anyway, since he presumably earned pretty much every incentive he could, pushing the contract to its max value (which, as I recall, was something in the range of $2-3 million). Now, granted, Bonds isn't going to come for even that little, but it's still good to keep in mind that Thomas wasn't making rookie money last year.

Second, with Barry Zito out the door, that's nearly eight million dollars coming off the payroll. That kind of analysis is always a little superficial, but there is some effect.

Third, the A's played four home playoff games last year, with the extra revenue that entails. That's got to make Lew Wolff happy and also hopefully have him salivating for more.

The failure of Dan Johnson to emerge (85 OPS+) and Daric Barton's injury troubles (just 45 games played last year) mean that the A's need a DH, and none is going to be forthcoming from within the organization. Barry Bonds, even in the age of strict drug testing, even at 41, even coming off a year in which he played just 14 games, hit 270/454/545 last year. Amusingly enough, Thomas also hit .270 and slugged .545. The difference is that Thomas's OBP was "just" .381. In other words, yes, Bonds will cost more than Thomas did this year.

On the other hand, it's not obvious that Bonds will cost more than Thomas is making with Toronto ($18 million over two years, with $9 million of it coming as a signing bonus; there's also a $10 million vesting option for 2009, based on plate appearances). Further, Bonds is less of a liability on the bases (he managed three steals last year), is probably less likely to have his injury recur in a major way, and could certainly still play the outfield if he had to (though the defensive drop off from any of the A's outfielders to Bonds would be enormous).

What it really comes down to is whether Bonds is asking for $15 million or $10 million. If it's the former, I don't think the A's pay. If it's the latter, I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen.