How Many Would Bonds Have Hit?

I thought it’d be fun to crunch some numbers to find out how many more homeruns our all-time and single-season homerun king could have hit if he hadn’t played so many years in a home ballpark that was pitcher-friendly, and if he hadn’t been walked so much.

Barry Bonds

To make it fair for walks, I took the top-five in walks in the National League each year that Bonds was among the leaders, and I got the average. Instead of using some of Bonds’ abnormally high walk totals, I used the league-average so that he would hypothetically be getting the usual amount of at-bats. For instance, in 2004, Bonds had only 373 at-bats despite playing in 147 games. That was because he was walked an astronomically high 232 times, 120 of them intentional.First, I got the park factor of Bonds’ home stadium each season (from Wikipedia).

Park Factor

The above equation uses runs. I simply replaced them with homeruns.

Bonds played in Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium from 1986 to ’92, in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park from ’93 to ’99, and AT&T Park from 2000 to present.

When I found the park factor, I simply divided each season’s homerun total by its respective park factor. Here are the findings:

Bonds has 914 adjusted homeruns.

Then I found the top-five non-Bonds NL leaders in walks each year, which you can find here. You can switch years by editing the last four numbers in the URL. The link I provided gives you the 1989 NL leaders in walks.

I averaged the top-five non-Bonds walks leaders, and used that as Bonds “new” walks total.

Next, I calculated his at-bats per homerun using his actual totals in at-bats and homeruns for each year.

I found his “adjusted at-bats” by taking the season’s at-bats total, and adding to it the “adjusted walks,” which is Bonds’ actual walks total subtracted by his “new” walks total (the average of the top-five).

Bonds now has 980 adjusted homeruns.

Finally, I accounted for all of his intentional walks — at-bats in which he had a 0% chance to hit a homerun. I took his “adjusted AB” and added his intentional walks total to it, then divided by his HR/AB rate.

Bonds now has 1,056 adjusted homeruns — 300 more than Hank Aaron.

For reference, I did not adjust Bonds’ first three seasons, his injury-shortened 2005 season, or for 2007. The reason why is that his walks were pretty much average in his first three seasons, it would be pure 100% speculation to come up with a 2005 homerun total, and although there is nothing wrong with it, I did not want to fudge numbers of a season in progress.

You can download my spreadsheet by clicking here. There are two sheets: the first one has the math you have seen in the above screenshots; the second has the top-five leaders in walks every year from 1989 to 2006.

Please let me know if I fudged my math, either by leaving a comment, instant messaging me (UltraMegaOK1988), or by E-Mailing me (crashburnalley [at] gmail [dot] com).

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  1. GM-Carson

    August 17, 2007 03:16 AM

    Nice blog you have here. I’d be happy to add a link to my sites.

  2. Tom Hanrahan

    August 17, 2007 08:36 AM

    whatifs? are often nice postulations, and on the surface the author made what seem like reasonable asumptions. Of course, if Bonds really was going to hit ONE HUNDRED FORTY THREE home runs one year, maybe he WOULD get walked a lot??? Jesus Christ (or the flying spaghetti monster, if he/she was athletic) would almost never hit a home run in the major leagues; every AB would be a walk, and it’s silly to project otherwise.

  3. Mike

    August 17, 2007 11:20 AM

    What is the adjustment for steroids? Let’s see…would it be, just guessing, 300 less than Hank Aaron? While we are getting carried away with Fertilizer factors, you forgot to “adjust” Hanks HR’s with today’s “juiced” baseball. There were some parks not so friendly in Hank’s day, like Death Valley in the Polo Grounds. The only great park he was in was Fulton County Stadium, the rest were more formidable. There might be more adjustments, will have to investigate this further.

  4. billbaer

    August 17, 2007 02:47 PM

    Tom, that is why I made Bonds’ “adjusted walks total” an average of the top-five leaders in walks. Bonds was abnormally pitched around (both intentionally and unintentionally) and no one in baseball history has been able to match it.
    Mike, you’d first have to prove that Bonds used steroids. Then, you’d have to be able to quantify how much steroids helped Bonds (and it differs from person to person).
    Same with the “juiced” baseball. You’d have to prove that it is, in fact, “juiced,” and then you’d have to quantify how much it is “juiced.”
    As for Aaron, Milwaukee’s County Stadium favored pitchers more than hitters, but not by much.
    Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium was essentially neutral in terms of favoring hitters or pitchers.

  5. rret

    August 17, 2007 03:03 PM

    Bonds was a better baseball player then Aaron before 2000. He doesn’t need 73 homeruns or the record to prove it.

    And Aaron admitted to using greenies.

  6. gf

    August 17, 2007 03:08 PM

    I wonder what Bill Jenkinson would think about this…

  7. My Hero Zero

    August 17, 2007 05:01 PM

    The geek in me loves the math, but I think you’re missing a variable; the impact of expansion. While somewhat of a subjective factor, wouldn’t you have to adjust for the overall increase in HRs given up per 9 innings (and the subsequent rise in ERA) since Hank’s day? While that may not affect Bonds’ totals, it certainly limited Aaron’s.

  8. billbaer

    August 18, 2007 09:59 PM

    My Hero Zero,

    To account for expansion is something beyond my capabilities. That might be something the guys at Baseball Prospectus or The Hardball Times could embark on, as that would involve a plethora of databases and calculations.

    I don’t think the increase in homeruns given up per 9 innings by pitchers plays any sort of a factor in adjusting hitters’ homerun totals.

    Aaron actually played in parks that were slightly more hitter-friendly than Bonds did, so, if anything, Aaron’s homerun totals would go down (before adjusting for walks, of course, but he didn’t walk anywhere near as much as Bonds — 1,400 to 2,500).

  9. Steve K

    July 27, 2014 01:36 PM

    Bonds was a great player, but I feel like “what-ifs” like this are simply done to make him seem better than he was. A couple issues: I like the park adjustment idea, but I think it’s hard to make the case that playing where he did hurt him. Given that his home vs away HR totals were pretty much equal, I think it’s near impossible to make a case the park hurt him. SF was definitely a tough place to go deep, unless you happened to be a lefty pull-hitter. Therefore, IMO, you’re adjusting his total in an ill-advised manner for other players’ increased difficulty of hitting HRs there.

    Second, you seem to double-count intentional walks, since they’re part of walks too. Take them out of the walks adjustment thing if you’re going to do another separate calculation where you factor in intentional walks.

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