Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/11/14
In the past I’ve written on a handful of occasions about how sometimes I like to just get lost playing with Barry Bonds‘ statistics. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate Bonds’ performances at the time — it’s that I think it can take years to appreciate what he did fully. One could make it his life’s pursuit to arrive at a true understanding and appreciation of Bonds’ statistical record. There were good players, and there were great players, and then there was Barry Bonds, who occupied his own level. Sure, maybe he only got up there with the help of a biochemical jetpack, but lots of people were using the machinery and couldn’t get far off the ground. If you just want to look at numbers, Bonds’ are the best to look at, because they’re straight-up absurd. Given what Bonds accomplished, then, one has to be careful not to be too casual about drawing comparisons. There is no more flattering offensive comp, so few will ever exceed the threshold of acceptability. But Chris Davis is, if nothing else, giving it his best try. What follows is a comparison between Davis and Bonds, and the frightening thing is I don’t think it’s a stretch. This isn’t a thing one notes lightly. Generally, the top of any leaderboard will feature a competition between a handful of players. Players who are the best at that particular skill. For example, right now, Carlos Gomez has nine triples. But Jean Segura and Starling Marte have eight triples, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Denard Span have seven. These are some of baseball’s premier triples-hitters, and while they’re all probably great at hitting triples, they’re not exceptionally great. They’re similarly great, which I don’t mean as a slight; it’s just the reality. It’s hard to be similarly great at something. Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado are similarly great defensive third basemen. They’re both incredible. Of course, it’s harder still to be exceptionally great at something, because this is a league of the world’s best baseball players. You have to have standout skills to be eligible for participation in the first place. Major League Baseball is selective for the best. The players who’re great at something are the best of the best. The players who’re exceptionally great are the best of the best of the best, and this is where we can find Chris Davis, at least in one category. Isolated slugging is a simple statistic, because its two components — slugging percentage and batting average — are simple statistics. ISO is just SLG – BA, and right now, Chris Davis leads baseball at .396. The league average is .148. Among qualified players, Carlos Gonzalez is in second at .308, and Miguel Cabrera is in third at .307. In other words, Davis presently has a lead of 88 points. For the sake of comparison, last year Josh Hamilton finished as the league leader, at .292. He beat Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion by 15 points. The year before, Jose Bautista was the league leader, at .306. He beat Curtis Granderson by 16 points. Usually, the top of the ISO leaderboard is competitive between elite-level sluggers, but right now Davis is by himself. For Davis’ ISO to drop from .396 to .308, he’d have to go hitless in his next 85 at-bats. Not only is Davis, right now, baseball’s best power hitter — it isn’t even arguable. I looked at the window between 1950-2013, and identified the biggest single-season differences between first and second place in ISO among qualified hitters. Understanding that 2013 is only half over, here’s the top ten: Season Player ISO Lead 2001 Barry Bonds 0.536 0.127 1998 Mark McGwire 0.454 0.115 2004 Barry Bonds 0.450 0.109 2013 Chris Davis 0.396 0.088 1996 Mark McGwire 0.418 0.078 1981 Mike Schmidt 0.328 0.077 1989 Kevin Mitchell 0.344 0.073 1999 Mark McGwire 0.418 0.071 1973 Willie Stargell 0.347 0.071 1995 Albert Belle 0.374 0.070 Davis’ 88-point lead would rank fourth-biggest in what one might consider recent baseball history. Just ahead of him is Barry Bonds, and just behind him is Mark McGwire. McGwire was an exceptional player before Bonds was an exceptional player in the same category, and now Davis is wedging himself in, as a less-recognizable but equally-effective slugger of baseballs. Right now, in terms of isolated slugging, Chris Davis is the best of the best of the best. He’s so consistently doing so much good for the Orioles that Orioles relievers have to pay vigilant attention, lest they be broken: Because the season’s half over, and not all the way over, we have to consider what could happen from this point forward. When dealing with rate statistics, it doesn’t make sense to say a guy is on pace for X — he’ll be on pace for the same rate he has today. Instead of figuring out what a guy’s on pace for, it’s smarter to examine the projections. Here, we have both ZiPS and Steamer projections of end-of-season numbers. ZiPS thinks Davis will end up with a 44-point ISO lead over Cabrera. Steamer thinks the difference will be 51 points. Big gaps, both of them, but smaller gaps. It’s perfectly reasonable of the systems, because Davis has blown away his track record. Yet, last September, Davis’ ISO was .340. He’s projected the rest of the way in the mid-.200s, and if you think Davis has just reached a new level of contact consistency, then the track record means less and the recent performance means more. The recent performance is exceptional, as Davis owns the ISO of Justin Upton and Prince Fielder, summed together. Davis has shown no hint of slowing down as he’s already two away from matching last year’s home-run total. He’s maybe the biggest reason the Orioles are where they are. From the start of his professional career, Chris Davis had the potential to be maybe the greatest power hitter in baseball. Lots of players have that kind of potential, and almost every time, they end up with too many holes and they fall well short of their ceilings. Davis is reaching his ceiling, and he’s been up there long enough to paint a pretty picture. This season is looking a lot like Chris Davis’ Sistine Chapel.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Blue Jays OF tears meniscus in freak sprinkler accident

Death threats show why some fans take sports too seriously

Five bubble teams playing well heading into March

Falcons release Steven Jackson

Bill Walton has some words of advice for Derrick Rose

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Five under-the-radar National Player of the Year candidates

Judge overturns Peterson suspension; NFL to appeal

Dez Bryant's mother in 2012: Dez threatened to knock me out

Full offseason breakdown for all 32 NFL teams

Brandon Bostick received death threats after botched play

Ex-Louisville player charged with rape, sodomy

WATCH: Sidney Crosby catches teammate's stick in mid-air

WATCH: Vanderbilt coach tells own player 'I'll f-ing kill you'

Are the Kings willing to trade DeMarcus Cousins?

Johan Santana signed by Blue Jays to minor league deal

Leafs trade David Clarkson to Blue Jackets For Nathan Horton

Panthers acquire Jaromir Jagr from Devils

Russell Westbrook is surging into the MVP conversation

HBO picks up The Rock’s football series, ‘Ballers’

The key offseason moves for every MLB team

Giancarlo Stanton gets first-ever customized facemask

Ronda Rousey, Arianny Celeste have verbal sparring match

Dallas sportscaster back with another powerful essay

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Bostick death threats show why some fans take sports too seriously

Russell Westbrook is surging into the MVP conversation

Five-round NFL Mock Draft

Key offseason moves for every MLB team

Rousey, Arianny Celeste get into it

Dallas sportscaster back with another powerful essay

The parallels of Rose and Hardaway

Offseason breakdown for all 32 NFL teams

On Josh Hamilton's addiction and feeling alone

Judge rules against AP's suspension

Why the Lions should let Suh walk

Chris Jones charged with rape, sodomy

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.