It's now official. Barry Bonds is a man playing among boys. If we didn't know that after his 2001 season, when he shattered the single-season home-run record, we should now, after he led the majors in 2002 with a .370 batting average while drawing a phenomenal 198 walks.
But just how good has Bonds' 2001 and 2002 campaigns been? In the past, we had to rely on the traditional stats (home runs, RBI, ERA, etc.) when trying to assess a player's contribution to his team's performance. But some of those statistics either are deficient in measuring a player's overall performance, or can be, to some extent, dependent on the ability of his teammates.
Fortunately, the science of player evaluation took a giant leap forward with the introduction of Runs Created by Bill James a couple of decades ago. And it achieved another level of insight with James' groundbreaking Win Shares system earlier this year. In essence, Win Shares estimates the number of wins created by players in one neat number. While doing so, it puts pitchers and fielders in the same context as hitters, while trying to eliminate park illusions.