On Barry Bonds

I won’t bother getting in to the steroids and all that, don’t feel like cursing enough at the moment to do that conversation justice so let’s move on.
To quote Field of dreams:

Shoeless Joe Jackson: The first two were high and tight, so where do you think the next one’s gonna be?
Archie Graham: Well, either low and away, or in my ear.
Shoeless Joe Jackson: He’s not gonna wanna load the bases, so look low and away.
Archie Graham: Right.
Shoeless Joe Jackson: But watch out for in your ear.

Pitchers can only control the outside of the plate if there’s a threat that they will come inside on the hitter. If the pitcher never comes inside then the batter’s free to hang out over the plate and wait for that outside pitch he knows is coming. Suddenly the pitcher only has half the plate to work with and the batter only has to cover half the plate.
Now let’s take a moment to examine the effects of the bleeping body armor Barry Bonds wears on his elbow and how it has affected his ability to “brave” the inside pitches so he can knock the outside pitches out of the park. The following table lists the playing year and the percentage of Bonds’ plate appearances in which he was hit by a pitch.

1986 .41%
1987 .49%
1988 .33%
1989 .15%
1990 .48%
1991 .63%
1992 .82%
1993 .29%
1994 1.27%
1995 .79%
1996 .15%
1997 1.16%
1998 1.14%
1999 .69%
2000 .49%
2001 1.36%
2002 1.47%
2003 1.82%
2004 1.46%
2005 0% (only 52 plate appearances)
2006 2.03%

Now then, to further split things up, I feel there are two important dates we need to consider. Bonds first started wearing protection on his elbow in 1992. The armor evolved over the next few years, getting bigger, and bigger, and more complex and the last change appears to have come in 2001 when he got the behemoth he now wears. So let’s take a look at the combined hit-by-pitch percentages for 1986-1991, 1992-2000, and 2001-Present:

1986-1991 .44%
1992-2000 .75%
2001-Present 1.46%

There’s a pretty clear progression there. The more armor Bonds wears the more he’s getting hit. He walks to the plate with enough armor to make Sir Lancelot feel at home and he doesn’t seem as gun shy about getting hit. He’s hanging in there on those inside pitches and getting plunked while he waits for a choice outside pitch he can hammer.
Of course this isn’t 100% conclusive, I’d hate to rule out the possibility that as time went on more and more pitchers just started trying to put it in the jackass’s ear.
Related: Editor & Publisher – “Barry Bonds’ HR Record Tainted by Elbow ‘Armor’?

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