Defying law of averages

Barry Bonds and Ichiro are headed for 2004 batting titles. If so, it would be the most diverse pair in MLB history.

Originally Published: September 17, 2004
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

Has there ever been a more fascinating, more historic, yet more totally dissimilar set of prospective batting champs than Barry Bonds and Ichiro Suzuki?

Suzuki
Suzuki

Bonds
Bonds

Not that us Useless Info-maniacs can recall. Let's take a look:

  • Through Thursday, these two guys had almost the same batting average (.374 for Bonds, .369 for Ichiro). But if they keep up their current paces, Ichiro will wind up with 259 hits -- 119 more than Bonds (140).

    In fact, as loyal reader Bret Turner observed, there was a time when it appeared as if Ichiro might finish with twice as many hits. Well, needless to say, no hitting champ has ever doubled his fellow champ's hit total.

    And even though Ichiro won't do that, he is going to become the first champ in history to outhit the other league's batting champ by more than 100 hits. The current leader board, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau:

    90 -- 1911 (Ty Cobb 248, Honus Wagner 158)
    84 -- 1942 (Ted Williams 186, Ernie Lombardi 102)
    80 -- 1958 (Richie Ashburn 215, Ted Williams 135)

  • Then again, the obvious reason for that hit disparity is that these two guys play slightly different styles of baseball, you might say.

  • Through Thursday, Ichiro had drawn 177 walks since he arrived on American shores four years ago. Bonds had drawn 177 walks just since April 27.

  • Ichiro had 72 multi-hit games. Bonds had 70 multi-walk games.

  • Since July 1, Ichiro has had more five-hit games (3) than Bonds has had five-at-bat games (2).

  • According to the Mariners, Ichiro had almost as many infield singles (50) as Bonds had singles (58).

  • And, as loyal reader (and math professor) Nick Ormes suspected, Ichiro is on pace to get 701 official at-bats, the most ever by a modern batting champ. Bonds, on the other hand, is on pace to finish with 375 official at-bats, the fewest ever by a modern batting champ (at least in non-strike years).

    More Useless Ichiro Information

  • Try to digest the fact that this man, Ichiro Suzuki, has had three 50-hit months this season. Before he came along, nobody had gotten two 50-hit months in a season since 1936 (Joe Medwick). And no one had even gotten three in a career since Pete Rose.

    Ichiro Suzuki
    The hits keep coming for Ichiro, if not the runs.

  • Ichiro's 56 hits in August were the most by any player in any month in at least a half-century. But there has been a lot of dispute over the last man to do that.

    Despite some reports that the last player to get that many hits in a month was Jeff Heath in 1938, loyal reader Trent McCotter disputes that note. McCotter says his review of official American League day-by-days shows that Dale Mitchell (more famous for making the last out in Don Larsen's perfect game) got 59 hits in August, 1948.

  • It tells you all you need to know about the Mariners' season that here is Ichiro, on the trail of the all-time hits record -- and he isn't even in the top 10 in his league in runs scored.

    Since 1990, according to Elias, only three players have gotten 200 hits or more, led their league and not made the top 10 in runs scored:

    1996 -- Paul Molitor 225 hits, 23rd in runs (99)
    1998 -- Dante Bichette 219 hits, T-18th in runs (98)
    2001 -- Rich Aurilia, 206 hits, 11th in runs (114)

    Ichiro's current rank (through Thursday): 19th (with 90). Bernie Williams had 101 fewer hits -- but had scored three more runs.

  • But Ichiro, of course, is way over 200 hits. He's already over 230, in fact. And only two players in history ever got more than 230 hits without scoring 100 runs -- Joe Torre (230 hits, 97 runs) in 1971 and Freddie Lindstrom (231 hits, 99 runs) in 1928.

  • The year George Sisler set the all-time hits record (with 257, in 1920), he scored 137 runs. Ichiro, on the other hand, is on pace to become the first player in history to have 150 more hits than runs.

    The current record-holder in that department, according to Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, is Kirby Puckett:

    140 -- Kirby Puckett, 1989 (215 hits, 175 runs)
    138 -- George Sisler, 1929 (205 hits, 67 runs)
    138 -- Felipe Alou, 1968 (210, 72)
    137 -- Heinie Manush, 1938 (241, 104)

    More Useless Bonds Information

  • Another very cool record Bonds has a shot at is most times reaching base (by hit, walk or hit-by-pitch). The record is 381, by Babe Ruth. Bonds' pace through Thursday: 376. Here are the only seasons of 350 or more since 1900, according to Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Encyclopedia:

    Barry Bonds
    APReaching base is Barry Bonds' specialty in 2004.

    381 -- Babe Ruth 1923
    358 -- Ted Williams, 1949
    356 -- Barry Bonds, 2002
    353 -- Babe Ruth, 1921

  • Here's one more way to look at Bonds' 105 intentional walks this year. That's more intentional walks than all of these active players have walks in more than 1,500 career at-bats:

    Shea Hillenbrand -- 84 BB, 2,121 AB
    Bengie Molina -- 86 BB, 2,034 AB
    Einar Diaz -- 89 BB, 1,908 AB
    A.J. Pierzynski -- 76 BB, 1,853 AB
    Cesar Izturis -- 78 BB, 1,737 AB
    Juan Uribe -- 88 BB, 1,608 AB
    Randall Simon -- 80 BB, 1,588 AB
    Juan Castro -- 98 BB, 1,575 AB

  • The Devil Rays have drawn 204 intentional walks in the history of their franchise (all seven seasons of it). That's 125 fewer than Bonds has drawn by himself in the same time.

  • One of the amazing things about Bonds' chase of home run No. 700 is that he has made almost the entire trip from 400 to 700 just since age 35. Only 30 active players have hit 277 home runs. Bonds has hit 277 just since he celebrated his 35th birthday (a mere five years and two months ago).

  • And here's another way to look at the magnitude of 700 homers:

    Think about George Brett's Hall of Fame career. Now think about all Alex Rodriguez already has accomplished in his career.

    Add their two careers together, and they still don't equal as many home runs as Bonds has now (378 for A-Rod, 317 for Brett come to 695 combined).

  • The way Bonds towers over everyone he plays against was never more striking than it was in the last two cities the Giants visited.

    In his final game in Arizona last Sunday, according to the East Valley Tribune's Ed Price, Bonds had more than seven times as many homers (697-92) and more than twice as many at-bats (2,692-1,125) as all the players in the Diamondbacks' lineup put together.

    Meanwhile, as loyal readers Ryan Shough and Divy Ravindranath report, Bonds arrived in Milwaukee the next day with more career homers (699) than all the position players on the Brewers' 40-man roster (plus Brooks Kieschnick) combined (699-643).

  • Finally, one more Bonds stat that boggles our mind:

    Even if he had zero hits this year (i.e., subtract his hit total from times on base), Bonds still would have a higher on-base percentage (.378) -- just counting his walks -- than Juan Pierre (.373), Vladimir Guerrero (.377), David Ortiz (.373), Milton Bradley (.363) or Rafael Furcal (.352). Among about 600 others.

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

    Jayson Stark | email

    Senior Writer, ESPN.com