First, note that this is speculative fiction. I know that Barry Bonds is going to be 53 in July. I know that his body wouldn’t hold up for a full season. This is the kind of article that exists because the real season is still a week away.
On the other hand, Bonds is hitting batting practice dingers.
Barry Bonds is out here hitting homers ... pic.twitter.com/e1Clvd8HQ3— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) March 26, 2017
And last year, Bonds beat Giancarlo Stanton and the rest of the Marlins in an impromptu home run derby.
Bonds hit at least four dingers and afterward, as any 51-year-old hitting contest winner has the right to do, told the rest of the group to "pick up the balls."
So we know that Bonds can hit a baseball 400 feet or farther. We suspected as much, but there’s proof. That doesn’t mean he can hit a 99-mph fastball, or that he’d be giddy to step in against Aroldis Chapman. He would be a shell of his former self.
That would be a problem if his former self wasn’t a robot lord from the future.
In Bonds’ last season, he hit .276, with a .480 on-base percentage (which hasn’t been topped since) and 28 home runs in 477 plate appearances. He was 42 years old at the start of the season and 43 when he was ignored by 30 teams that totally couldn’t use him. That helps us guess what he might have hit when he was 44 or 45. It means very little right now.
There isn’t any evidence from the past to help us, either. The ageless Julio Franco played until he was 48, but he was pretty lousy in his last two seasons. The oldest player in baseball history to get a hit was Charley O’Leary, who was 58, but that was a one-off stunt. There hasn’t been a player in baseball history who got anything like regular at-bats in his 50, pinch-hitting or otherwise.
We’ll have to assume he doesn’t have the bat speed to catch up with the fastball of the average whippersnapper unless he’s sitting on a particular location. He would be one of the most extreme all-or-nothing pinch-hitters of the last 100 years, relying on his wits and eye. Which, again, might be enough to make him an average pinch-hitter, even at 52 years old.
We’re all just guessing, here. I’ll go with ...
FUN: So much
It would be worth negative WAR. He would either be pinch-run for in every game, or he would be the worst baserunner in history.
But when he got a hold of one of those pitches, just one, it might make the entire season worth watching. It’s a beautiful dream.
As is, it’s just something fun that lets me put a video of his batting-practice homer in here. Would Bonds be an average hitter if he were in the majors today? Probably not. Would he be better than 99.999 percent of the 21-year-olds on this planet? Oh, heck yes.
There’s a small part of me that wonders if he could still put up a .400 OBP and that I’m being too conservative. Seems like he has mind control powers that would get him at least a walk every four plate appearances or so. We’ll never know, but at least we can argue about it.