Building the Perfect Baseball Player
It’s time to replace Bonds
By Adam Hoff
When I saw an article the other day announcing that Barry Bonds was off crutches for the first time since his third surgery, 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. Time to run another version of “Building the Perfect Player.”
Taking bits and pieces of all the other players in the game, we can assemble a player as dominant as Bonds has been over the past decade. 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 replacement for the injured slugger. 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 was getting better seemingly every year, but he’s not going to be around much longer. His body hurts and “he’s just tired.” Hard to see him hanging around for more than one or two more seasons. Not a problem with Cabrera. He’s barely old enough 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 we will be adding to Cabrera’s youthful and capable frame.
Vlad Guerrero’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. Many Ramirez and Albert Pujols murder lefties. However, Vlad is my guy. Last year he hit .342 with a 1.157 OPS against lefties and if you projected out his at bats to a full season against lefthanded pitching, he would have finish with 59 jacks.
David Ortiz’s Ability to Hit Righties. Since we can’t take Bonds (.395/.652/.957 in 2004) against right-handed pitchers, we’ll go with Papi. Travis Hafner and Todd Helton were slightly more impressive last year, but they’ve both had slow starts in ’05, so they don’t do us much good. Ortiz’s .326 average was 25 points higher than his overall batting average in 2004 and he had a nice 1.082 OPS to go with it. Plus, he’s hit 9 of his 10 home runs and driven in 25 of his 27 runs this season against lefthanders. Also wanted to mention that his middle name is Americo, which is sweet.
Adam Dunn’s Power. Jim Edmonds (11.86) and Jim Thome (12.08) were two and three in at bats per home runs (behind Bonds at 8.29) in 2004, but Adam Dunn (12.35) makes a case when you consider pure power potential and how each of those players have started the season. Dunn has already had three multi-homer games in this young season and took Prior about 500 feet a couple of weeks ago. Give our superstar Dunn’s power (but not his ability to hit for contact) and watch him hit some bombs.
Bobby Abreu’s Batting Eye. Abreu actually led the league in unintentional walks with 117 last year, and drew 127 total free passes, although Bonds led the league with an astounding 232 bases on balls (maybe the craziest stat ever). 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.
Derek Lee’s Day Game Proficiency. Pujols makes a good case based on 2004, but Lee gets the nod based on his incredible numbers from the first month and a half of this season. He’s had half his at bats in the natural light and has hit 7 of his 12 home runs, driven in 25 of his 37 runs, and his ratios are all considerably higher than at night (average is 69 points higher and OPS is almost 300 points better). He’s been one of the best players in baseball so far this season and considering that he plays a lot of day games in Chicago, he’s a perfect fit.
Frank Thomas’ Night Moves. Thomas hasn’t done anything but get Ozzie Guillen mad at him this year, but his 2004 stats are incredible. I’m telling you, he must be a vampire. His OPS was nearly 400 points higher during night games last year. Put it this way: if he had played a full season (500 at bats) of nothing but day games, he would have hit 54 home runs and driven in 145 runs. It’s safe to say that Thomas 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, Torii Hunter, and Jim Edmonds, 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 much 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 Adam Dunn, not to mention Frank Thomas’ night vision and the switch hitting combo of Vlad and Ortiz. So 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. Podsednik leads the league with 24 swipes in 29 attempts (coming off 70-for-83 last year) and Crawford is 71 of 87 over the past two seasons, but I’m going with the Padres’ Roberts. The guy only garnered 319 at bats last year and still had 38 steals in 41 tries. Plus, he stole perhaps the most important base in the history of baseball in Game 4 of the ALCS last year, so he’s got that going for him.
(By the way, these last three components are areas where our imaginary player is actually better than Bonds. Hooray!)
Troy Glaus’ Home Cooking. It doesn’t seem to matter where “home” is for Glaus, but he certainly hits better there. He’s hitting almost 200 points higher at Bank One this year and over the past two seasons has hit a home run every 9.35 at bats while sitting in the home dugout, as opposed to one every 16.16 trips to the dish while playing on the road. That’s significant. I feel better about going with Glaus instead of a Rockies player, so apologies to Todd Helton and Clint Barmes.
Scott Rolen’s Road Warrior Mentality. I love this guy. Rolen rakes everywhere, but his road production was incredible last season. Despite getting 14 fewer at bats away from home, he scored more runs, racked up 73 of his 124 RBI, hit 24 of his 34 home runs, and hit .346 with a 1.156 OPS. If he never had to play in the loving environment of Busch Stadium, Rolen’s numbers would hypothetically have looked like this: .346/.432/.724 with 50 home runs and 149 RBI. Wow. He’s struggled a bit everywhere this season (still hitting 84 points higher on the road), but I’ll give him a free pass for now. If he can’t pick it up, we might have to look to Mike Sweeney, who is hitting 140 points higher and has hit 8 of his 9 home runs away from Kauffman Stadium in 2005.
Albert Pujols 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 Pujols gets a special nod here. Last year Albert mashed 99 extra base hits to fall one short of reaching 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). This year Pujols has 21 extra base hits, four off the major league lead … and he hasn’t even gotten hot yet. Honorable mention to David Ortiz, who had 91 EBH last year and is tied with Derek Lee for the lead this year with 25.
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 Roger Clemens.
Adam Hoff is a columnist for WhatifSports.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.