Barry Bonds, circa 1997

So, I was flipping through the STATS 1997 Baseball Scoreboard and came across a fun article about Barry Bonds on pages 73-75. The question asked was this: “What will the rest of Bonds’ career look like?”

As a reminder, here is what Bonds had done through 1996:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SB BA OBP SLG
1583 5537 1121 1595 333 51 334 993 1082 380 .288 .404 .548

The article then used Bill James’ Brock6 system to project the remainder of Bonds’ career. Here’s a year-by-year look at Brock6′s projections in 1997 versus what Bonds actually did (I’m including only the stats that were provided in the original article):

1997
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 526 113 149 38 109 131 34 .283
actual 532 123 155 40 101 145 37 .291

Looks about right to me. The projection is peering only one year into the future, so most of the inputs are known and we should expect it to be reasonably accurate.

1998
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 520 110 144 36 108 138 33 .277
actual 552 120 167 37 122 130 28 .303

The projection underestimates Bonds’ batting average, but otherwise this is pretty spot on.

1999
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 506 108 138 34 105 138 32 .273
actual 355 91 93 34 83 73 15 .262

Okay, here’s the drop in batting average. This isn’t surprising given Bonds’ age—he’s 34 years old now, so some slippage should be expected. Same with the stolen bases. The projection does nail homers (though Bonds reaches the predicted total in 151 fewer at-bats).

2000
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 492 102 132 32 98 132 30 .268
actual 480 129 147 49 106 117 11 .306

Nice rebound season for Bonds. The power spike in ’99 was legitimate, and his batting average is back to where it was in ’98. Again, stolen bases are declining, which is fine for a guy in his mid-30s.

2001
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 476 95 126 30 93 130 28 .265
actual 476 129 156 73 137 177 13 .328

I love the fact that James nailed the at-bats. The rest of these numbers are pretty far out of whack. Conditions change, and the best forecasting systems may not be able to account for this.

2002
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 459 90 120 28 88 127 27 .261
actual 403 117 149 46 110 198 9 .370

A year after breaking the single-season home-run record, Bonds wins his first NL batting title, at age 37.

2003
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 443 84 114 26 81 123 23 .257
actual 390 111 133 45 90 148 7 .341

The huge disconnect between projection and reality continues.

2004
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 426 79 107 24 76 120 22 .251
actual 373 129 135 45 101 232 6 .362

Bonds wins the second of two career NL batting titles and demolishes the single-season record for walks. He is now 39.

2005
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 410 74 101 22 71 117 20 .246
actual 42 8 12 5 10 9 0 .286

Bonds is hurt.

2006
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 392 68 95 20 66 113 18 .242
actual 367 74 99 26 77 115 3 .270

At age 41, Bonds finally begins his decline phase. This is roughly the season that Brock6 predicted for Bonds in 2002, when Bonds won his first batting title.

2007
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 327 55 78 14 52 95 14 .239
actual 340 75 94 28 66 132 5 .276

The projection has Bonds declining further, while reality has Bonds repeating his ’06 performance.

2008
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 226 37 53 9 35 66 9 .235
actual reply hazy, try again

If he gets the chance, Bonds will beat this projection.

Career
  AB R H HR RBI BB SB BA
Brock6 10740 2136 2952 647 1975 2512 670 .275
actual 9847 2227 2935 762 1996 2558 514 .298

This is a remarkably accurate career projection. Brock6 nailed the hits, RBI and walks, and it wasn’t too far off on runs scored. It missed badly on homers, stolen bases and batting average.

In hindsight, it probably was a bit much to expect Bonds to continue stealing 20+ bases a year into his late 30s. As for the jump in home runs… I have a theory, but it’s not particularly original. In fact, you’ve probably heard it from every single person on the planet already, so we’ll just leave it at that.

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