Building the Perfect Baseball Player
It's time to combat Bonds
By Adam Hoff
When I saw an article the other day announcing that Barry Bonds had broken his own record for Intentional Walks with 71, before the All-Star break no less, I knew it was time. Time to unveil a new force of nature. Time to bring a new Mr. Invincible to the baseball world. Time to give Bonds a run for his money.
Taking bits and pieces of all the other players in the game, we can assemble a better player. I'm sure of it. I think.
Okay, maybe our guy won't necessarily be better, but at the very least we can create a worthy opponent. Another star that determines the outcome of entire games, that draws intentional walks at a rate of one per game, and that strikes fear into the hearts of managers everywhere.
Here are the components of the uber-player:
Miguel Cabrera's Body. You have to start with the shell; the actual bone and tissue and muscle and skin. One thing about Bonds; he's old. Sure, he gets better seemingly every year, but he's not going to be around much longer. His body hurts and frankly, he's going to get bored before too long. Not a problem with Cabrera. He still can't drink legally and he's already been a World Series hero and an All-Star. And wait until you see the rest of the attributes will be adding to Cabrera's youthful frame.
Manny Ramirez's Ability to Hit Lefties. Our super stud is obviously going to be a switch hitter, but rather than simply choose the best switch hitter, we are going to pick two guys, one from each side of the plate. Oh yeah, and we're also going to infuse him with additional power, ability to hit for average, and an improved batting eye. Spare no expenses. For hitting lefties, there are several players to choose from who raise their game against southpaws. Mike Lowell, Jerry Hairston, and Marcus Giles all boost their averages over 100 points when a left-handed pitcher takes the hill. However, Ramirez is my guy. He's hitting .365/.500/.765 against lefties this year and if you projected out his at bats to a full season, he'd finish with 57 home runs, 72 doubles, and 150 RBI. Not bad.
Todd Helton's Ability to Hit Righties. Since we can't take Bonds (.390/.665/.924) against right-handed pitchers, we'll go with Helton. His .363 average is 15 points higher than his overall batting average and he has a nice 1.173 OPS to go with it. (And yes, I realize that Bonds' slugging percentage alone is almost that high. I don't care. We're charging ahead with the rest of the column.) Plus, he's hit all but two of his home runs against right-handers and would project out to 41 HR, 64 2B, and 128 RBI.
Okay, so chalk one up to Barry. (Who, by the way, would project out to 61 home runs and a positively silly 333 walks if he faced only righties all year.)
Jim Thome's Power. Adam Dunn makes a case when you consider pure power potential, but you've got to go with Thome at this point. He trails only Bonds in at bats per home run (10.03 for Thome, 8.17 for Bonds) and currently leads the league with 28 blasts. He has power to all fields, can reach any wall in any stadium, and can go on torrid hot streaks such as the 15-home run June he just put together. Nobody is talking about this, but Thome could join Barry in the Big Four Homer Club. 660 and passing Willie Mays is certainly not out of the question.
Bobby Abreu's Batting Eye. Abreu actually leads the league in unintentional walks with 69, although Bonds (who is fourth with 60 behind Abreu, Lance Berkman, and Frank Thomas) would undoubtedly have about 100 if he wasn't be intentionally walked 53 more times than anyone else. Nevertheless, Abreu has an underrated batting eye and has had an OBP of over .400 in all but one of his seven full major league seasons.
Albert Pujols' Day Game Proficiency. I'll tell you what, this whole premise is falling apart. Maybe instead of building the perfect player, I should just go category by category and show why Bonds is better than everyone else. Here, we can go with Pujols and his .328 average and .744 slugging percentage, plus projected All-Day-Games numbers of 63 home runs and 156 RBI. Not quite Bonds-levels -- considering his .469 average and 1.732 OPS (1.732! Are you kidding me?) to go with a projected home run total of 73 -- but we'll have to take it.
Jorge Posada's Night Moves. Here we'll go with the player making the biggest leaps during night games. Johnny Damon gives it a run by doing most of his damage at night and Todd Helton seems to hit better under the lights, but Posada runs away with this thing. I'm telling you, he must be a vampire. He hits 122 points higher during night games than day outings, posts an OBP that is 158 points higher, and a slugging percentage 204 points above his ghastly day mark. Plus, if he'd played all his games at night this year, he would have hit 14 home runs and driven in 51 runs by this point. It's safe to say that Posada would have been an All-Star once again had he played only after the sun went down, and that's why we want his nocturnal greatness infused into our superstar.
Andruw Jones' Glove. I thought long and hard about taking Scott Rolen's leather, but let's face it; if you are going to build the ultimate baseball player, he's going to roam in center field. It's the only way. There's a reason why Willie Mays is in the "best player of all time" conversation despite the fact that Ruth, Bonds, and Williams were all statistically superior at the plate. It's the defense, baby. So, with apologies to Carlos Beltran, Jim Edmonds, and Mike Cameron, we're slapping Jones' glove on our composite star and getting to ready to blow everyone's collective mind with Web Gem after Web Gem.
Ichiro's Arm. Again, it was a close call between outfielder and infielder and I considered Rolen, Khalil Green, and Rafael "Father Time" Furcal. Ultimately though, we need an outfielder's arm to go with an outfielder's glove, so we're snagging Ichiro's cannon and daring opponents to run on us. Vlad Guerrero and Jose Guillen also belong in this conversation.
Dave Roberts' Basestealing. If I had to select the best basestealer in the game I'd probably take Carl Crawford or Scott Podsednik, because they are better at getting on base than Roberts. Plus, they are foundations of their respective offenses and will see 600 at bats year in and year out. However, when merely borrowing an attribute, we don't have to take such things into account. After all, our boy is going to have the batting eye of Bobby Abreu and the power of Jim Thome, not to mention Jorge Posada's night vision and the switch hitting combo of Manny and Helton. So yeah, he's going to get on base just fine. Therefore, it makes sense to take the guy with the most success at actually stealing bases. Crawford leads the league with 38 swipes (in 50 attempts) and Podsednik has been mighty impressive taking 34 of 38 bags, but I'm going with the Dodgers' Roberts. The guy missed almost a month and still has 28 steals in 29 tries. Works for me.
(By the way, these last three components are areas where our imaginary player is actually better than Bonds. Hooray!)
Vinny Castilla's (Surprise, Surprise) Home Cooking. You could always go with Bonds, who is hitting .418 with 14 of his 23 home runs at "pitcher's park" Pac Bell (or whatever it's called now). But again, that would defeat the purpose of this column. You could also take Pudge and his .404 average at Comerica. However, I'm focusing on disparity again and locking in on the newly nicknamed Vinny "I Love Coors Field" Castilla. You've got to be kidding me. He's hit 11 of his 16 home runs and collected a whopping 53 of his 71 RBI at home ... despite having almost the same exact number of at bats on the road. He's also hitting 164 points higher, getting on base 16% more of the time, and slugging an astounding 341 points higher. It's positively shameful, but we'll take that kind of home field advantage for our superstar.
Scott Rolen's Road Warrior Mentality. I love this guy. Rolen rakes everywhere, but his road production has been incredible this season. Despite getting 24 fewer at bats away from home, he's scored more runs, racked up 47 of his league leading 80 RBI, hit 13 of his 18 home runs, and is hitting .400 with a 1.240 OPS. If he never had to play in the loving environment of Busch Stadium Rolen's numbers could hypothetically look like this at the All-Star Break: .400/.468/.772 with 28 home runs and 102 RBI. Wow.
David Ortiz and his Extra Base Hits. Extra Base Hits is one of my favorite categories. In fact, Lou Gehrig's amazing 117 EBH season in 1927 still ranks as my personal favorite statistical achievement. That's why I'm paying special attention to Poppy this year. Ortiz has a chance to do something truly special: break the 100 EBH plateau, something that has only been done 15 times in the history of the game and six in the past times in the past 55 years (including that absolutely insane 2001 season in which Bonds, Helton, Sosa, and Luis Gonzalez all eclipsed 100). Poppy currently has 33 doubles and 23 home runs for a grand total of 56 EBH. Only teammate Manny Ramirez (26/28/54) has over 50 at the break. Here's to hoping that Ortiz gets there ... and that he gets some MVP consideration to boot.
There you have it; the Bizarro Bonds. Our guy may or may not be as good, but this compilation superstar at least gives the Giants great a run for his money.
Maybe if we all get bored enough we can come back and build the perfect pitcher. Somehow I'm guessing we'd probably just end up with Randy Johnson.
Adam Hoff is a columnist for WhatifSports.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by sitemail at adamo112.