Bonehead Sportswriter of the Month:
Bob Nightengale, Sports Weekly:
Bonds a Giant loss, but donít tell rest of team

by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
April 5, 2005

"The Giants are still going to win the National League West. The only difference is they wonít run away with it. Well, at least not until August."

~Bob Nightengale, doubtless on an illegal substance far more dangerous than steroids are.

This would have been an idiotic statement to make with a healthy Barry Bonds playing for the Giants. But this article was published in the March 23-29 issue of Sports WeeklyÖ after it was already known that the best hitter in the game would be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Nightengale offers up two nuggets of evidence for why a team of old, fading players can sustain the loss of the one player in baseball history to improve going into his 40ís, A.K.A. the only player on the Giantsí roster to post an OBP over .368 in a full season last year (.609), A.K.A. the man who produced nearly 22% (185/850) of the Giantsí runs last season.

  1. "This enables the Giants to use their secret weapon: Pedro Feliz."
  2. Well, this secret weapon was actually used in 144 games last year, second only to Bonds (147) and Marquis Grissom (145) on San Francisco. It seems to me that Felipe Alou didnít have any problems getting this marginal bat into the lineup card in a year when Bonds was healthy. Not that anyone should want an OBP of .305 in his lineup, particularly to replace someone who had an OBP of .609 that same year.

    Ah, but Nightengale argues that Feliz "had only five fewer hits and nine fewer RBI in April [than Bonds did] last season." So leaving aside the fact that Feliz made 21 more outs, hit eight fewer homers, and scored 16 fewer runs than Bonds in April last season, Nightengale dismisses the significance of 9 RBI per month. Quick math calculates that to be a difference of about 54 RBI over the course of a season.

    We could crunch similar numbers for Michael Tucker, but you know, whoever we plug in from San Franciscoís bench full of sorry veterans isnít going to match up well to Barryís output.

  3. "Theyíre really only missing Bonds for about 50 at-bats. He walked the rest of the time."
  4. A few months ago I concocted an in-depth study of how Bondsí walks are about as valuable as anything he could do swinging the bat. Briefly, it shows that in addition to Barryís aforementioned 185 Runs Produced, his 232 walks led to gobs of runs scored by the Giants that do not show up in Bondsí stat line. But since thatís a bit complicated for someone with Bobís apparent misunderstanding of baseball to grasp, let me leave him the following equations:

    Bonds walking = runs scored

    Feliz/Tucker making outs = innings ended

    Basically, avoiding outs is a very good thing, and itís disturbing to find that not only is there a prominent sportswriter out there who does not understand this, but that he could find a quote from J.T. Snow to reaffirm his sentiment: "He gets walked and pitched around so much that youíre really not missing that many at-bats." To parallel Asher, Disingenuous veteran statements about the importance of walking have reached an all-time Snow.

Look, in 2004, the Giants went 4-11 in games that Barry did not appear (or 2-7 in April and May, since thatís all some people are willing to look at). That means that San Francisco had a .592 winning percentage in games that Bonds played in, and a .267 winning percentage in games that he was absent for. These are undoubtedly some of the most disparate numbers of this kind ever, and Bondsí supporting cast isnít likely to be better than it was last year.

Nightengaleís last words in the article are as follows: "The calmness and tranquility in the Giantsí clubhouse is actually scary." I imagine that the clubhouse will get a lot scarier in mid-May, when the Giants will be battling Arizona and Washington for the NLís worst record.




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.