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May 23, 2001

Aim For The Head

Barry Bonds and the Three True Outcomes

by Keith Woolner

This week's question was sent in by Andrea Trento:

We all saw Barry Bonds's ridiculous weekend, but lost in his home-run barrage has been the fact that he has seven singles so far this year. That's 22 home runs, 10 doubles, and seven singles. His isolated slugging is .593, thanks to an .898 slugging percentage and a "pedestrian" .305 batting average. As far as I know, the highest in history was Ruth in 1920: .847 slugging and .376 BA, giving him a .471 isolated slugging.

On a related note, who is the single season "true outcome" king? It's hard not to pull for Rob Deer's memorable .179 campaign (89 walks, 175 strikeouts, and 25 home runs in 540 plate appearances for a .535 TO average), but it looks like Mark McGwire's slightly more memorable 1998 beats him out. Including hit-by-pitches as walks, Big Mac had 168 walks, 155 strikeouts, and 70 home runs in 681 plate appearances, a .562 TO average! Bonds, incidentally, is at .537 right now. This is all just off the top of my head; is there someone obscure I'm missing?

Thanks for writing, Andrea.

Andrea actually raised a couple of questions, first about isolated slugging and how Bonds's amazing start measures up, and second about the leaders in the tongue-in-cheek "Three True Outcomes" category.

Let's start with the isolated slugging question. Bonds is off to a truly otherworldly start, posting an isolated slugging more than 100 points beyond the all-time record for a single season. In fact, only two players have ever posted more than a .400 ISO: Babe Ruth and Mark McGwire combined to do it seven times. Bonds is topping Ruth's all time ISO mark by more than 25% so far this season. Here's a list of the top seasons by isolated slugging (300 at-bat minimum):

Year Player                 Team   AB    H   TB   AVG   SLG   ISO

1920 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 458 172 388 .376 .847 .472 1921 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 540 204 457 .378 .846 .469 1998 Mark McGwire SLN-NL 509 152 383 .299 .752 .454 1996 Mark McGwire OAK-AL 423 132 309 .312 .730 .418 1999 Mark McGwire SLN-NL 521 145 363 .278 .697 .418 1927 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 540 192 417 .356 .772 .417 1995 Mark McGwire OAK-AL 317 87 217 .274 .685 .410 1927 Lou Gehrig NYA-AL 584 218 447 .373 .765 .392 1928 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 536 173 380 .323 .709 .386 1932 Jimmie Foxx PHA-AL 585 213 438 .364 .749 .385 1994 Jeff Bagwell HOU-NL 400 147 300 .368 .750 .383 2000 Barry Bonds SFN-NL 480 147 330 .306 .688 .381 1994 Frank Thomas CHA-AL 399 141 291 .353 .729 .376 1995 Albert Belle CLE-AL 546 173 377 .317 .690 .374 1930 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 518 186 379 .359 .732 .373 1997 Mark McGwire 2TM 540 148 349 .274 .646 .372 1923 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 522 205 399 .393 .764 .372 1961 Mickey Mantle NYA-AL 514 163 353 .317 .687 .370 1938 Hank Greenberg DET-AL 556 175 380 .315 .683 .369 1930 Hack Wilson CHN-NL 585 208 423 .356 .723 .368 1926 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 495 184 365 .372 .737 .366 1924 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 529 200 391 .378 .739 .361 1922 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 406 128 273 .315 .672 .357 1994 Albert Belle CLE-AL 412 147 294 .357 .714 .357 1938 Jimmie Foxx BOS-AL 565 197 398 .349 .704 .356 1999 Barry Bonds SFN-NL 355 93 219 .262 .617 .355 1994 Kevin Mitchell CIN-NL 310 101 211 .326 .681 .355 1997 Larry Walker COL-NL 568 208 409 .366 .720 .354 1925 Rogers Hornsby SLN-NL 504 203 381 .403 .756 .353 1956 Mickey Mantle NYA-AL 533 188 376 .353 .705 .353 1929 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 499 172 348 .345 .697 .353 1994 Ken Griffey Jr. SEA-AL 433 140 292 .323 .674 .351 1961 Roger Maris NYA-AL 590 159 366 .269 .620 .351

Another way to look at the uniqueness of Bonds's season thus far is to look at his ISO/AVG ratio, which is equivalent to looking at how many extra bases he's averaging per hit. Bonds's 1.944 is 28% higher than the all-time best performance in this category. Bonds's past two seasons are also among the top seasons by this measure, including the best ever by someone not named McGwire.

Maybe it's not so surprising that Bonds, of all players in the game today, is setting such a phenomenal pace. Perhaps more interestingly, well over half the top seasons ever have occurred since 1990, giving another indication of how much the offensive game has changed in recent years. Here's the list (300+ AB minimum)

Year Name                 Team   AB    H   TB   AVG   SLG   ISO    XB/H

1998 Mark McGwire SLN-NL 509 152 383 .299 .752 .454 1.520 1999 Mark McGwire SLN-NL 521 145 363 .278 .697 .418 1.503 1995 Mark McGwire OAK-AL 317 87 217 .274 .685 .410 1.494 1997 Mark McGwire 2TM 540 148 349 .274 .646 .372 1.358 1999 Barry Bonds SFN-NL 355 93 219 .262 .617 .355 1.355 1973 Dave Kingman SFN-NL 305 62 146 .203 .479 .275 1.355 1996 Mark McGwire OAK-AL 423 132 309 .312 .730 .418 1.341 1961 Roger Maris NYA-AL 590 159 366 .269 .620 .351 1.302 1994 Matt Williams SFN-NL 445 119 270 .267 .607 .339 1.269 1920 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 458 172 388 .376 .847 .472 1.256 1962 Harmon Killebrew MIN-AL 552 134 301 .243 .545 .303 1.246 2000 Barry Bonds SFN-NL 480 147 330 .306 .688 .381 1.245 1921 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 540 204 457 .378 .846 .469 1.240 1979 Mike Schmidt PHI-NL 541 137 305 .253 .564 .311 1.226 1992 Rob Deer DET-AL 393 97 215 .247 .547 .300 1.216 1969 Reggie Jackson OAK-AL 549 151 334 .275 .608 .333 1.212 1979 Gorman Thomas MIL-AL 557 136 300 .244 .539 .294 1.206 1999 Sammy Sosa CHN-NL 625 180 397 .288 .635 .347 1.206 1928 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 536 173 380 .323 .709 .386 1.197 1998 Greg Vaughn SDN-NL 573 156 342 .272 .597 .325 1.192 1998 Jose Canseco TOR-AL 583 138 302 .237 .518 .281 1.188 1992 Mark McGwire OAK-AL 467 125 273 .268 .585 .317 1.184 1989 Kevin Mitchell SFN-NL 543 158 345 .291 .635 .344 1.184 1946 Hank Greenberg DET-AL 523 145 316 .277 .604 .327 1.179 1995 Albert Belle CLE-AL 546 173 377 .317 .690 .374 1.179 1980 Mike Schmidt PHI-NL 548 157 342 .286 .624 .338 1.178 1999 Greg Vaughn CIN-NL 550 135 294 .245 .535 .289 1.178 1927 Babe Ruth NYA-AL 540 192 417 .356 .772 .417 1.172 1938 Hank Greenberg DET-AL 556 175 380 .315 .683 .369 1.171 1995 Paul Sorrento CLE-AL 323 76 165 .235 .511 .276 1.171 1950 Ralph Kiner PIT-NL 547 149 323 .272 .590 .318 1.168 1961 Mickey Mantle NYA-AL 514 163 353 .317 .687 .370 1.166 1995 Jay Buhner SEA-AL 470 123 266 .262 .566 .304 1.163 1991 Rob Deer DET-AL 448 80 173 .179 .386 .208 1.163 1973 Willie Stargell PIT-NL 522 156 337 .299 .646 .347 1.160 1963 Harmon Killebrew MIN-AL 515 133 286 .258 .555 .297 1.150 1998 Ken Griffey Jr. SEA-AL 633 180 387 .284 .611 .327 1.150 1991 Sam Horn BAL-AL 317 74 159 .233 .502 .268 1.149 1995 Mickey Tettleton TEX-AL 429 102 219 .238 .510 .273 1.147 1996 Brady Anderson BAL-AL 579 172 369 .297 .637 .340 1.145 1957 Duke Snider BRO-NL 508 139 298 .274 .587 .313 1.144

The Three True Outcome questions was addressed by Rany Jazayerli during his brief abduction by the Russ Branyan Fan Club last year, so let me summarize by saying that Bonds's .537 TTO% would be the third highest ever by a batting qualifier.

To take a slightly different look on things, Bonds currently has a pretty small differential between his HR total (23) and his strikeout total (31). If Bonds were to continue popping homers like he has been doing lately, and were to finish with more home runs than strikeouts, then he'd almost certainly set a new TTO% record for a batter with more HR than SO. Only four batters have ever managed a .250 TTO% with more HR than SO (300+ PA minimum), and Bonds would be in pretty elite company if he were to join them:

Year Name                   Team   PA  HR   BB   SO  TTO   TTO%

1941 Ted Williams BOS-AL 604 37 145 27 209 .346 1955 Ted Williams BOS-AL 417 28 91 24 143 .343 1950 Ted Williams BOS-AL 416 28 82 21 131 .315 1936 Lou Gehrig NYA-AL 716 49 130 46 225 .314 1929 Mel Ott NY1-NL 664 42 113 38 193 .291 1934 Lou Gehrig NYA-AL 690 49 109 31 189 .274 1948 Johnny Mize NY1-NL 658 40 94 37 171 .260 1950 Johnny Mize NYA-AL 305 25 29 24 78 .256 1947 Johnny Mike NY1-NL 664 51 74 42 167 .252

Bonds would also have a shot at the highest TTO% of any player whose lowest TTO total wasn't home runs (either BB or SO). There have been several free swingers who homered more often than they walked, and still managed a .350 TTO% or higher. They're not quite as impressive as the group above, but there are at least a couple of MVP winners in the crowd.

Year Name                   Team   PA  HR   BB   SO  TTO  TTO_R

1975 Dave Kingman NYN-NL 542 36 34 153 223 .411 1976 Dave Kingman NYN-NL 510 37 28 135 200 .392 1996 Sammy Sosa CHN-NL 541 40 34 134 208 .384 1979 Dave Kingman CHN-NL 589 48 45 131 224 .380 2000 Glenallen Hill 2TM 321 27 19 76 122 .380 1983 Jesse Barfield TOR-AL 419 27 22 110 159 .379 1986 Cory Snyder CLE-AL 432 24 16 123 163 .377 1995 Craig Paquette OAK-AL 301 13 12 88 113 .375 1987 Cory Snyder CLE-AL 615 33 31 166 230 .374 2000 Geoff Jenkins MIL-NL 564 34 33 135 202 .358 2000 Tyler Houston MIL-NL 301 18 17 72 107 .355 1996 Andres Galarraga COL-NL 691 47 40 157 244 .353 1992 Juan Gonzalez TEX-AL 632 43 35 143 221 .350

Keith Woolner is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by clicking here.

Keith Woolner is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Keith's other articles. You can contact Keith by clicking here

Related Content:  Babe Ruth,  Mark Mcgwire,  Cory Vaughn,  Al,  Nl

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