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Friday, July 29, 2011

Joe Posnanski: Saving Bonds

Pos, Bonds and the transfixed rate of Bob Costas.

My friend Bob Costas left a message for me yesterday. It was a very nice message—Bob is a great guy—but he also had a slight disagreement. Bob and I are very often on the same page when it comes to baseball, but he was reading a small essay I wrote in the magazine this week and he noticed this line:

”(Barry) Bonds and (Roger) Clemens are two of the best who ever played the game. If not for the steroid noise that surrounds them, you could make a viable argument that they are simply the two best ever.”

I should say that my thinking, when I wrote the line, was simply that if you took their numbers and performances at face value, you could make the viable argument that they are the two best ever. Bob, though, read it differently. He thought that I was actually saying without steroids Bonds and Clemens are two of the best ever, perhaps even THE two best ever. This did not bother him so much for Clemens, but it did bother him for for Bonds. He strongly disagrees.

We’ve had similar discussions before, and if I could summarize his thought, I think it goes something like this (and I am reworking this a little bit to get Bob’s opinion more precisely): Barry Bonds in 1998 was a great player. Truly great. But there was no argument to make for him as the best ever. In Bob’s words: He certainly wasn’t Ruth; he didn’t hit like Williams or Musial; as great an all-around player as he was he was not Mays and his career did not have the totality of Aaron. Bob thinks Bonds of 1998 could certainly be in the discussion as one of the 10 or 12 best non-pitchers of all time. But there was no argument for him as the very best. And there is no argument that can be made for him as the very best NOW either without steroids.

Repoz Posted: July 29, 2011 at 11:32 AM | 572 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: announcers, hall of fame, history, media, sabermetrics, television

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   101. Joe OBrien Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:36 PM (#3888432)
snapper,

I have a serious question that I don't mean to be insulting: have you ever been on a serious weightlifting program? Because it sounds like you think steroids alone cause Bonds to gain 35 pounds of muscle, instead of steroids, creatine, a high protein diet, squats, dead lifts and a bunch of other crap.

Remember, Gary Sheffield took the same drugs as Bonds, at least for awhile. Bonds invited him to stay at his house and work out together, and Sheffield quit because he didn't want to work as hard as Bonds demanded. So you have two hall of fame caliber hitters of similar ages taking the same drugs, and one ages well while the other ages better than any player ever. I say the difference is hard work and innate talent. I'm curious what other explanation there is.
   102. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:36 PM (#3888434)
we only care about Bonds because he was great as he was and he threw away universal praise

When you say "universal," do you mean on some other planet than the one on which 1980s/90s Barry Bonds played? Because that could be true.
   103. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:37 PM (#3888435)
Here are some stats for Bonds' big year in walks, 2004.

Right handers walked him 42% of the time, 23% intentionally. Left handers walked him less often, 29% overall and 13% intentional.

He hit .395 with a .957 SLG against righties. And .307 with a .571 SLG off lefties.

Make all those pitchers pitch to him, and the extra opportunities come disproportionally from right handed pitchers. Sure looks like his slugging percentage would be even higher than it actually was.


More data: Isolated Power: All-time 20 best seasons:

Barry Bonds .536 (.53571) 2001
Babe Ruth .472 (.47162) 1920
Babe Ruth .469 (.46852) 1921
Mark McGwire .454 (.45383) 1998
Barry Bonds .450 (.45040) 2004
Barry Bonds .429 (.42928) 2002
Mark McGwire .418 (.41844) 1996
Mark McGwire .418 (.41843) 1999
Babe Ruth .417 (.41667) 1927
Mark McGwire .410 (.41009) 1995
Sammy Sosa .409 (.40901) 2001
Barry Bonds .408 (.40769) 2003
Lou Gehrig .392 (.39212) 1927
Babe Ruth .386 (.38619) 1928
Jimmie Foxx .385 (.38462) 1932
Jeff Bagwell .383 (.38250) 1994
Barry Bonds .381 (.38125) 2000
Frank Thomas .376 (.37594) 1994

Oh, and the highest pre-juicing ranking for Bonds? In 1993, his .341 was 62nd. His 1999 .355 was 34th.
   104. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:43 PM (#3888442)
The moral indignation is limited when Manny Alexander wants to become Craig Counsell or JC Romero attempts to be Eddie Guardado; they were meh players just trying to be good, but Bonds was already far better than good. When that wasn't enough for him it reeked of greed and hubris.


The moral dimensions of steroid use are really the only thing about them that still interests me. I can't for the life of me understand why it's worse for Barry Bonds to use steroids than it is for Craig Counsell.

Even if you grant that, though, the question is: When did it become immoral for Bonds to use steroids? Perhaps he thought they would elevate his game to the level of his 2000 season, which was excellent but far from record-setting. If he had never gotten any better than that, would his steroid use have been more acceptable? And how exactly was he supposed to know that steroid use would turn him into a 73-homer hitter, as opposed to a 49-homer hitter?
   105. Bob Tufts Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:46 PM (#3888445)
moral indignation is limited when Manny Alexander wants to become Craig Counsell or JC Romero attempts to be Eddie Guardado; they were meh players just trying to be good


And in being borderline players trying to be good, they stayed in the major leagues longer and caused other "clean" players to wallow in the minors or have a shorter career - or no career at all. There are a lot more cases of greed and hubris in these mediocre players screwing over players than there are at the top of the food chain.

What is the perofrmance level at which one should be publcily condemned for using illegal PED's?

We read the Mitchell Report for big names - potential HOF'ers, MVP's and HR leaders - not utility players!

Tom - another coke!
   106. smileyy Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:46 PM (#3888446)
Bonds was already far better than good. When that wasn't enough for him it reeked of greed and hubris.


And when the people that he's better than are outperforming him using PEDs...?
   107. spike Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:47 PM (#3888447)
Babe Ruth took more performance-depressing drugs than Bonds took performance enhancing ones.

Let's see Bonds start drinking at 5 PM, stay out all night chasing skirt, come to the ball park without sleep, eat six hot dogs, drink a six pack of beer, and go out and put up a 200 OPS+.

Hell, in those days, team forbid players from working out, b/c they thought it wore them out for the season.


Converse fail. If a player could "naturally" be as good as Ruth with all his vices, wouldn't a player of Ruthian talent be like "better" and stuff if he not only didn't have the vices, but actively worked to improve the virtues?
   108. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:49 PM (#3888449)
If you think Bonds was juicing before 1998, then the addition of steroids cannot be used to explain how he went from a .600 slugger to an .850.


What I love about the claims that Bonds was always using is how originally the anti-Bonds contingent used to run around yapping about Bond's hat size increasing in his thirties. It seems they want to have it both ways- claim they were right about Bonds before everyone else (cuz they saw him get bigger and his HRs get longer) - AND also claim he was ALWAYS using

come on pick one or the other, you can't have both

The primary reason weight training was discouraged wasn't that they felt it wore players out, but rather it was thought to reduce bat speed.

What I had always heard was that you'd get "muscle bound," the main exhibit was how people endlessly claimed that's why Ruben Sierra stopped hitting- there is also Roy Smalley Jr. (actually Roy Smalley the 3rd per BBREF)- came in the league as a good glove no hit SS, very openly began lifting weights, went from 4-5 HR per year to 20ish...

also seemed to get very "stiff" in the field- later read he had back problems but at the time people were saying, "see, you can't lift weights and play baseball, you will get bound and lose fexibility)
   109. zenbitz Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:52 PM (#3888453)
Andy, what was the league iso in all those years?
   110. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 07:06 PM (#3888462)
Uprecidented levels of performance (for age and compared to established level of talent) aren't evidence of anything unless you can demonstate there's something unique to Bonds.

Not sure what this means.
What it means is that nobody else using steroids did anything like what Bonds did in his "unprecedented" years, either in absolute terms or relative to his past performance. Thus, you can't say, "Well, Bonds did so well, was so much better than before, that steroids obviously explain it."
   111. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 29, 2011 at 07:06 PM (#3888463)
And in being borderline players trying to be good, they stayed in the major leagues longer and caused other "clean" players to wallow in the minors or have a shorter career - or no career at all. There are a lot more cases of greed and hubris in these mediocre players screwing over players than there are at the top of the food chain.


Note that the "think of the children" arguments apply almost entirely to the Manny Alexanders of the world rather than the McGwires and Palmeiros. If you want to keep high schoolers from using steroids, it's irrelevant that steroids might possibly turn a run-of-the-mill major leaguer into a Hall of Famer. Most high school ballplayers know already that they're not going to be good enough to play at an All-Star level, with or without steroids.

What a teenager is most going to respond to is the idea that steroids might possibly give him any sort of major league career at all, which he otherwise wouldn't have.
   112. GuyM Posted: July 29, 2011 at 07:09 PM (#3888465)
I compared Bonds through age 33 to Mantle, since with his great walk totals Mick seems a better match than Aaron or Mays. Mantle through the same age has 300 more PA, a better average, OBP, and slugging, and 10 points more in OPS+. Defensively you've got an average to slightly below CF vs a great left fielder. Mantle seems to me a clear cut above steroids-free Bonds.
I think this is right if you rate them relative to their leagues. But if you do a timeline adjustment, I think Mantle would be something like a 145-150 OPS+ hitter in Bonds' time. And through age 33, Bonds was considerably better than that.
   113. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 07:21 PM (#3888472)
Just put him in the Hall so we can end these discussions. It's no longer about whether he used, but whether he's going in. If you put him in the Hall, he ain't gettin' out, so people would be forced to accept that and move on.
   114. Bitter Mouse Posted: July 29, 2011 at 07:29 PM (#3888480)
Barry Bonds was one of my favorite players and gave me great joy when I got to watch him destroy pitching. Man should have got his ring.

And no I did not care about steroids before 1998*. If baseball really cared it would have negotiated actual testing and punishments because EVERYONE knew there were steroids in the game since at least the Bash Brothers (and really before then).

Great baseball player and perhaps an d-bag does well, circumvents the rules, and breaks cherished records. Clearly he is histories greatest monster. Sigh.

*Note: When I say I don't care about steroids I include all PEDs and I say it in a baseball context. In real life the law is important and if you break it you get consequences. In baseball you should follow the baseball rules, and if not you get baseball consequences. Why people insist on making this a MORAL issue is frankly odd, but whatever.
   115. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: July 29, 2011 at 07:33 PM (#3888481)
Oh, and the highest pre-juicing ranking for Bonds? In 1993, his .341 was 62nd. His 1999 .355 was 34th.


And notice that all such years were in one or another of two distinct offensive eras? Or as Zen said, what was the league ISO those years?

Anyway, wRT the slump in offense this year
I see a large league wide shift and I think the main causes could be:
1: The Ball
2: the weather
3: Change in umpiring/rules

What I notice is that offense is not down in the PCL*- 5.63r/g (.287/.360/.454), 2010 it was 5.22 r/g, 4.88 in 2009
4.40 in the IL, last year was 4.51, 2009 was 4.30...

The minors are subject to more and more stringent testing than the majors- and yet offense in the minors the last 10 years or so exhibits a lot of randomness- I'm pretty sure that drug testing has a minimal- if any- effect on league offense levels-

so why has the MLB r/g done this:
AL:
2009: 4.82
2010: 4.45
2011: 4.34
(lowest since 4.32 in 1992)
NL:
2009: 4.43
2010: 4.33
2011: 4.10
(lowest since 3.88 in 1992)

*Some guys in my keeper roto league were fighting over Collin Cowgill, .354/.430/.554 in AAA, of course the PCL as noted is at .287/.360/.454, and Cowgill's team, Reno, is at 4500 feet, and is hitting .314/.394/.529, far from being a hot prospect, Cowgill's got nothing on Chris Davis (.368/.405/.824) or Tony Rizzo (.371/.448/.734) or Kyle Banks (.351/.421/.716) in fact in context he's not even as good as Nick Evans (IL: .329/.378/.480)

You can't compare raw numbers straight up from the 1920s and 1993-2009 to any other era
   116. dlf Posted: July 29, 2011 at 07:35 PM (#3888485)
I've always found it odd that fans for generations have lauded players for playing in spite of not taking care of themselves. From Pete Alexander coming in to face the Yanks with a collosal hang over, to Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle or George Brett partying all night and slamming homers all day, to the frequently inebriated Whitey Ford or Rube Wadell, to Bill Lee and Dock Ellis and his fantastic outing, we have glorified people who excelled despite not devoting themselves to their craft. On the contrary, we have decided to make the use of anabolic steroids the sum of all evil. And those anabolic steroids do what? Why they allow a person to exercise more often and for longer periods of time without breaking down. I can certainly understand creating arbitrary rules against certain actions including use of pharacological assistance, but in the absence of clear rules, I simply do not understand why we cheer someone pissing away their talent while criticizing those who attempt to improve.
   117. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 29, 2011 at 07:44 PM (#3888493)
moral indignation is limited when Manny Alexander wants to become Craig Counsell or JC Romero attempts to be Eddie Guardado; they were meh players just trying to be good


And in being borderline players trying to be good, they stayed in the major leagues longer and caused other "clean" players to wallow in the minors or have a shorter career - or no career at all. There are a lot more cases of greed and hubris in these mediocre players screwing over players than there are at the top of the food chain.

What is the perofrmance level at which one should be publcily condemned for using illegal PED's?


Of course there shouldn't be any particular performance level that determines whatever moral condemnation one chooses to assign to a player, and if there were no evidence that any particular drug helped any players improve their previously exhibited talent levels, the moral condemnation should be left to Miss Grundy's Sunday School.

But while on a moral scale Barry Bonds is no worse than Manny Alexander, and in a perfect world wouldn't rate any more condemnation for his steroid use than anyone, the real world context of this discussion usually boils down to the Hall of Fame, and when the Manny Alexanders of the world aren't a part of that discussion to begin with, they'll escape most of the public pillory. That may be a double standard, but the same sort of double standard gets laid on presidents and other prominent people in the news when it comes to adultery and bad behavior in general, and I don't see what's so particularly remarkable about it.

------------------------

Andy, what was the league iso in all those years?

I'd appreciate it if you might tell me where I could find it. I got the leaderboard list from Baseball Almanac, but couldn't find any overall league numbers on BB-Ref's league pages.

While it's not identical to ISO, the NL's slugging averages went up by a fair amount between 91-95 and 00-04---by an average of 38 points (.383 to .421). But that league increase pales beside Bonds's personal average increase of 174 points (.608 to .782) during those same two periods.
   118. Bob Tufts Posted: July 29, 2011 at 07:57 PM (#3888502)
Son, we live in a world that has outfield walls, and those walls have to be breached by men with bats. Who's gonna do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep and you curse the steroids. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That while tragic, steroids probably saved baseball. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, helped save the game. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me to clear that wall, you need me at the plate. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very entertainment that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a glove, get on the mound and stand opposed. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
   119. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:01 PM (#3888509)
From 1993-2009, NL ISO was .153
from 1969-1992 it was .120


From 1993-2009, AL ISO was .159 (batting average was .270)
from 1969-1992 it was .129

from 1920-1941, AL ISO was .120, batting average was .282 (including pitchers hitting)

The 20s and 1993-2009 were the two highest offense eras in MLB history- but it's not a symmetrical comparison, batting averages in the 20s were much higher than now - POWER peaked 1993-2009
   120. GuyM Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:07 PM (#3888512)
so why has the MLB r/g done this:
AL:
2009: 4.82
2010: 4.45
2011: 4.34
(lowest since 4.32 in 1992)
NL:
2009: 4.43
2010: 4.33
2011: 4.10
(lowest since 3.88 in 1992)

Now this is an interesting question. I suspect multiple causes are at work. BABIP is down a bit, so a de-juiced ball is possible. But that could also reflect a greater focus on giving playing time to strong defenders. And strikeouts are up a bit, which presumably can't be a function of the ball. I suspect there has been at least a subtle increase in the size of the strikezone (perhaps as a result of pitch f/x?). The proportion of pitches that are called balls has decreased from 37.6% in 2009 to 36.9% this year -- not a huge change, but it tilts the playing field toward pitchers a bit.
   121. robinred Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:15 PM (#3888518)
Not exactly: we only care about Bonds because he was great as he was and he threw away universal praise in pursuit of a mixed adulation over tainted achievement. The moral indignation is limited when Manny Alexander wants to become Craig Counsell or JC Romero attempts to be Eddie Guardado; they were meh players just trying to be good, but Bonds was already far better than good. When that wasn't enough for him it reeked of greed and hubris. It's not fair and it's totally selective, but there it is.


You're about halfway there. It is easy to argue that borderline guys using was actually ethically worse than what Bonds did, except of course to tightasses like Costas. One reason for that is that borderline guys using, it could be argued, possibly took jobs away from other AAAA guys and also put pressure on them to use to stay in the game, perhaps jeopardizing their health. Bonds was going to be in the majors until he was 41 or 42 anyway.

I remember a few years ago Gary Bennett, the long-time backup dead-bat catcher, tested positive. The thread dropped off BTF after about 40-50 posts.
   122. robinred Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:20 PM (#3888520)
I see Bob Tufts (who actually played professionally) already covered my point in 105.
   123. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:23 PM (#3888523)
we only care about Bonds because he was great as he was and he threw away universal praise in pursuit of a mixed adulation over tainted achievement. The moral indignation is limited when Manny Alexander wants to become Craig Counsell or JC Romero attempts to be Eddie Guardado;


Being the morally consistent paragon of virtue that I am, I would refuse to induct any of these men into the Hall of Fame.
   124. Bob Tufts Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:24 PM (#3888524)
Robinred - I'm still more ticked at the Giants and Royals players that did cocaine, which inhibited their ability to play and our team's chances to win.
   125. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:24 PM (#3888526)
If Bonds had held a press conference at the end of the 1998 season to announce that he was retiring because he was tired of trying to compete with all these ####### cheaters, he'd be a hero to Bob Costas and Mike Lupica to day. Of course, Lupica and Costas would have torn him to shreds at the time, but nobody would talk about that any more.


Bonds made over $150 million in baseball salary alone after 1998. While being a hero to Mike Lupica is nice and all, I think that would have been a bad trade.
   126. Walt Davis Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:24 PM (#3888527)
The walks-ISO connection ...

At normal rates, there's probably not a large one -- i.e. high ISO hitters tend to get walked more for obvious reasons.

But at the extreme end where teams were walking Bonds 200+ times a year? For all intents and purposes, Bonds went to the plate as if the count was already 3-1 and he could focus on a pitch to drive. In those days, it seemed every pitcher tried to throw two perfect pitches and, if those missed, just walked him (intentionally or "unintentionally"). It's a bit of an exaggeration but Bonds was playing in a league where you get a walk on 2 balls. If you did that for everybody, you'd see ISOs and BAs skyrocket.

Small sample (and purely for fun, not for evidence):

Jose Bautista, after 2-0: 512 BA, 951 SLG with 31 unintentional walks in 72 PAs.
Bonds 2002, after 2-0: 433 BA, 881 SLG with 61 unintentional walks in 144 PAs.

The difference is Bonds got to 2-0 a lot more often. Also

Bautista, ahead*, 393/893 (BA/SLG)
Bonds 2002, ahead, 371/790

*that's when the PA ends on a pitch in which the batter is ahead in the count.
   127. SandyRiver Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:25 PM (#3888528)
So what? You didn't make any stipulation to that effect in your initial formulation of the rule. You just said "top your best previous performance (in a HoF career) at ages 36-39" - which Vance did. His age 37 and age 39 seasons are the two highest ERA+ campaigns of his career, and his age 36-39 seasons are, by far, the highest four-year stretch of (B-R) WAR at any point in his career.

Quite true.
Also, quite misleading. Vance's top ERA+ season ranks 56th all time. Bonds' 36-39 seasons rank 3,1,10,2. Comparing the two is like saying a mackerel is like a marlin because they're both fish.
   128. Lassus Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:25 PM (#3888529)
Snapper will cast the first stone.


BTW, robin - HA HA HA HHHHHA HA HA HAHHAHA BWAHHHHA HAHHAHAHAHH

Ah that felt good. I hope you watched all four games. :-D
   129. robinred Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:29 PM (#3888531)
Robinred - I'm still more ticked at the Giants and Royals players that did cocaine,


Royals' players used coke?!!!???

As Ray might say, never heard a word about it.
   130. robinred Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:31 PM (#3888533)
BTW, robin - HA HA HA HHHHHA HA HA HAHHAHA BWAHHHHA HAHHAHAHAHH


I have watched the Padres more this week. They have actually won one.


And at least the Reds' owner didn't invest with Bernie Madoff.
   131. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:36 PM (#3888537)
What I love about the claims that Bonds was always using is how originally the anti-Bonds contingent used to run around yapping about Bond's hat size increasing in his thirties. It seems they want to have it both ways- claim they were right about Bonds before everyone else (cuz they saw him get bigger and his HRs get longer) - AND also claim he was ALWAYS using


In the absence of clear evidence or honest confession but in the presence of partial evidence indicating chicanery, it's hard to work up much sympathy for someone who "cheats" based on the argument that we don't know the exact duration of the perfidy.

What I had always heard was that you'd get "muscle bound,"


This was the argument against weight lifting for boxers for decades, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if the exact same conventional wisdom permeated baseball circles during this same period. The assertion is partially true - if you train like a bodybuilder you'll develop muscle but lose flexibility - but only partially. And as with the examples of Cy Young and Honus Wager listed here, several outstanding early boxers did indeed lift weights (Jeffries being the most famed for it) as part of their training, although bodyweight exercises and "labor-based" exercises such as wood-chopping, ditch-digging, and hod-carrying were still the preferred methods of developing strength and muscle.
   132. Cris E Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:38 PM (#3888538)
>>we only care about Bonds because he was great as he was and he threw away universal praise

When you say "universal," do you mean on some other planet than the one on which 1980s/90s Barry Bonds played? Because that could be true.



Well 'praise' might have been the wrong word then. I was kind of thinking 3 MVP awards and appearing in the top five in seven of his first nine seasons showed appreciation for skills. And that's only through 1998. Reasonable people can have long talks about how loved he was(n't), but he was respected.
   133. Dan The Mediocre Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:45 PM (#3888541)

In the absence of clear evidence or honest confession but in the presence of partial evidence indicating chicanery, it's hard to work up much sympathy for someone who "cheats" based on the argument that we don't know the exact duration of the perfidy.


So what you're saying is that you know you have no basis on which to make your claims, but because Bonds is a bad person anything goes?
   134. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:45 PM (#3888542)
snapper,

I have a serious question that I don't mean to be insulting: have you ever been on a serious weightlifting program? Because it sounds like you think steroids alone cause Bonds to gain 35 pounds of muscle, instead of steroids, creatine, a high protein diet, squats, dead lifts and a bunch of other crap.

Remember, Gary Sheffield took the same drugs as Bonds, at least for awhile. Bonds invited him to stay at his house and work out together, and Sheffield quit because he didn't want to work as hard as Bonds demanded. So you have two hall of fame caliber hitters of similar ages taking the same drugs, and one ages well while the other ages better than any player ever. I say the difference is hard work and innate talent. I'm curious what other explanation there is.


Hell no. Why would I life weights? They're heavy.

I'm not claiming Bonds didn't work hard, even extraordinarily hard. That has no bearing on my criticism of him.
   135. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:51 PM (#3888546)
I think the argument is that Bonds had a world class lab designing special drugs, and most of the other guys were getting random crap mailed from Dr. Nick Riviera in the DR.
Except for the fact that there's no evidence for that. Plus the fact that "designer" drugs are designed primarily to be less detectable, not to magically increase OPS by more than regular drugs.
   136. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 08:56 PM (#3888547)
I've always found it odd that fans for generations have lauded players for playing in spite of not taking care of themselves. From Pete Alexander coming in to face the Yanks with a collosal hang over, to Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle or George Brett partying all night and slamming homers all day, to the frequently inebriated Whitey Ford or Rube Wadell, to Bill Lee and Dock Ellis and his fantastic outing, we have glorified people who excelled despite not devoting themselves to their craft. On the contrary, we have decided to make the use of anabolic steroids the sum of all evil. And those anabolic steroids do what? Why they allow a person to exercise more often and for longer periods of time without breaking down. I can certainly understand creating arbitrary rules against certain actions including use of pharacological assistance, but in the absence of clear rules, I simply do not understand why we cheer someone pissing away their talent while criticizing those who attempt to improve.

Because it's human. Just like all of us show up at work hung over, or not feeling our best, so do our heroes. Guys who have fun with their fame are a lot more appealing than single minded workaholics.

Also, at heart, we care who is the best baseball player, not who puts up the best WAR. If Ruth could top Bonds stats fat and drunk and chasing tail, while Bonds was working out like a madman, and shooting up designer drugs, that says Ruth was better. We also would much rather hang out with or be Ruth.

Finally, there is something psychologically wrong with a person who's response to being one of the 15 greatest players of all time, and a multi-millionaire, is let me shoot up some drugs and spend all day in the gym, rather than have some fun with it. The Barry Bonds mentality is the same one that leads already rich traders and hedgies to insider trading.
   137. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:00 PM (#3888550)
Well that's all well and good, but that doesn't really address the possibility that Bonds had been using various anabolic agents for his entire career. The 1998 cutoff seems unsupportable.
There's even less evidence that he was taking them before 1998 than after. And if he were taking them before 1998, then the notion that the improvement in his performance late in his career comes from steroids is even more nonsensical.
   138. Walt Davis Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:02 PM (#3888552)
POWER peaked 1993-2009

As did K's. Batters took a different approach (maybe because PEDs allowed them to) and on-contact BA/SLG was at historic highs.

As that post suggests (but I haven't bothered to verify!), ISO hasn't necessarily bounced around much historically (post-deadball) and a lot of the variation in offense was BA-driven. The shift in the 90s was towards power at the price of Ks.

(Go to b-r's "league" pages Andy and the AL encyclopedia to find league rates over time)

Anyway, AL ISO this year is 143 -- lowest in a while but still relatively high historically. It was 161 as recently as 2009 which is right in line with the sillyball era (high was 167 in 2000).

If you look at on-contact numbers (on-contact BA/SLG, overall BA/SLG):

2011 AL: 318/497 ... 256/399
2009 AL: 332/533 ... 267/428
2000 AL: 336/540 ... 276/443

So we have seen a big drop over the last couple of years but the difference between 2000 and 2009 is mostly the increased K rate in 2009. (And 2000 was the silliest year of the sillyball era.)
   139. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:02 PM (#3888553)
And in being borderline players trying to be good, they stayed in the major leagues longer and caused other "clean" players to wallow in the minors or have a shorter career - or no career at all. There are a lot more cases of greed and hubris in these mediocre players screwing over players than there are at the top of the food chain.

What is the perofrmance level at which one should be publcily condemned for using illegal PED's?

We read the Mitchell Report for big names - potential HOF'ers, MVP's and HR leaders - not utility players!


Sure, they're just as bad or worse, morally speaking.

But no one wants to debate whether it was steroids that made Manny Alexander put up a 56 OPS+ when Rafael Belliard only had a 46.
   140. Buzzkill Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:06 PM (#3888558)
@87 Snapper - I saw him play baseball, live, often and was amazed.

I never followed him off the field. I have my own life to lead.
   141. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:07 PM (#3888559)
In the absence of clear evidence or honest confession but in the presence of partial evidence indicating chicanery, it's hard to work up much sympathy for someone who "cheats" based on the argument that we don't know the exact duration of the perfidy.

So what you're saying is that you know you have no basis on which to make your claims, but because Bonds is a bad person anything goes?


I don't know if Bonds is a bad person or not, so please feel free to transfer my argument (which can be summarized as "we know he juiced but don't know when he started") to Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmiero, or any number of other players who were purportedly good eggs. This isn't really a personal argument against Bonds.
   142. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:11 PM (#3888565)
Well that's all well and good, but that doesn't really address the possibility that Bonds had been using various anabolic agents for his entire career. The 1998 cutoff seems unsupportable.

There's even less evidence that he was taking them before 1998 than after. And if he were taking them before 1998, then the notion that the improvement in his performance late in his career comes from steroids is even more nonsensical.


Well that would beg the assumption that his routine and pharmacopia remained unchanged during his entire career, which upon any amount of reflection would seem even more unsupportable.
   143. valuearbitrageur Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:14 PM (#3888567)

Wouldn't be surprised? If you knew anything about baseball you'd know weightlifting was verboten until Frootloops and others in the 80s. Wait, you were the guy who said that the twig armed Bonds of his teens and twenties must have been on steroids too, right? Ok, that explains it.

The problem with the steroids argument against Bonds is they simply don't make that much difference. League HR rates barely budged after testing started, you can knock less than 10% off offensive numbers in the 3-4 year pre and post averages.

The truth is Bonds had a huge advantage over his historical counterparts, the acceptance of weight-lifting. He clearly didn't adopt it heartily until his mid 30s, and that's the key reason his end of career performance is so historically amazing. Who knows what his base performance level in his 20s if he had actually worked as hard at the weights as he did in his late 30s?

The key benefit of most steroids is they allowed him to lift harder and more often, they increased his recovery time. If you take those away he still works out like a madman, still gets almost as huge, still hits a #### load of HRs after age 35, still shatters records, losing maybe 10% at most.

The whole moral indignation about a supremely blessed athlete not resting on his natural abilities and using a substance allowed by Baseball's CBA to help him work harder than almost everyone else escapes me at this moment.
   144. dlf Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:16 PM (#3888569)
Royals' players used coke?!!!???

As Ray might say, never heard a word about it.


John Mayberry, Willie Wilson, Vida Blue, Willie Aikens, Darryl Porter, Jerry Martin ...

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1121833/index.htm
   145. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:24 PM (#3888576)
As that post suggests (but I haven't bothered to verify!), ISO hasn't necessarily bounced around much historically (post-deadball) and a lot of the variation in offense was BA-driven. The shift in the 90s was towards power at the price of Ks.

(Go to b-r's "league" pages Andy and the AL encyclopedia to find league rates over time)


I'm sure I'm missing something, Walt, but that was the page I'd originally gone to, and here are the categories I found on the NL page in order to compare the league rates with Bonds:

League Year-By-Year Batting--Averages
All stats are per game · Totals are Below · Glossary · SHARESHARE [X] · CSV · PRE · LINK · More Tools
Year Tms #Bat BatAge R/G G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB


I need some sort of a road map to find ISO in there, and if you can point the way I'd appreciate it. There are all sorts of hidden corners of BB-Ref I'm sure I've yet to discover.

EDIT: Jesus, did I just screw up the page? All I did was copy and paste.

EDIT 2: I've removed the copy and paste, but trust me, I couldn't find any ISO numbers on that NL league page under batting stats.

EDIT 3: Never mind, it was all Value Arb's fault. BAD Value Arb!
   146. valuearbitrageur Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:25 PM (#3888579)
We also would much rather hang out with or be Ruth.


I'm pretty sure Miller Huggins would vehemently disagree with this statement.
   147. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:32 PM (#3888586)
Wouldn't be surprised? If you knew anything about baseball you'd know weightlifting was verboten until Frootloops and others in the 80s.
Wait, you were the guy who said that the twig armed Bonds of his teens and twenties must have been on steroids too, right? Ok, that explains it.


If you knew anything about the internets you'd know not to ruin the formatting for everybody.
   148. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:40 PM (#3888594)
But there was no argument for him as the very best. And there is no argument that can be made for him as the very best NOW either without steroids.


Sure there is. The argument is that steroids don't improve baseball performance.
   149. Walt Davis Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:45 PM (#3888598)
I need some sort of a road map to find ISO in there

Or our old friend subtraction. :-)

ISO = SLG - BA

Now if you're not the sort of bloke (or bird) who likes to do 433 - 277 in your head, I can understand your frustration.

EDIT: Also, if you're ever looking for league attendance totals, they're exactly where you'd expect them -- on the pitching stats page! :-)
   150. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:49 PM (#3888600)
Bull-####. You don't top your best previous performance (in a HoF career) at ages 36-39.

There is nothing comparable in the greenies Mays and Aaron took to whatever Bonds was doing in the early 2000's. Every other great player in history was below their peak and in decline in those ages.


What Bonds was also doing in the early 2000s was working out like a fiend. Clearly. If he had never taken a steroid he still did that.
   151. AJMcCringleberry Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:50 PM (#3888602)
Babe Ruth took more performance-depressing drugs than Bonds took performance enhancing ones.

I just love that we live in a world where this makes Ruth the good guy and Bonds the bad guy.
   152. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 10:34 PM (#3888620)
And then you've got the degree of the improvement, which nobody who
keeps dragging up these late career Aaron / Bonds comparisons ever seems
to mention. I feel like a Fact Checker in the wake of a Sarah Palin speech
in listing these numbers for the umpteenth time, but WTH maybe at some
point it'll sink in. And remember, these are era-adjusted stats, not raw numbers:

Age 26-30 OPS+
Aaron: 155, 161, 170, 179, 153
Bonds: 160, 205, 204, 183, 168

Age 35-39 OPS+
Aaron: 177, 148, 194, 147, 177
Bonds: 188, 259, 268, 231, 263


And then you've got the degree of the improvement, which nobody who
keeps dragging up these late career Foxx / Aaron comparisons ever seems
to mention. I feel like a Fact Checker in the wake of a Sarah Palin speech
in listing these numbers for the umpteenth time, but WTH maybe at some
point it'll sink in. And remember, these are era-adjusted stats, not raw numbers:

Age 26-30 OPS+
Foxx: 186, 182, 155, 128, 182
Aaron: 155, 161, 170, 179, 153

Age 35-39 OPS+
Foxx: DNP, -32, 113, DNP, DNP
Aaron: 177, 148, 194, 147, 177
   153. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 10:36 PM (#3888622)
And since those OPS+ numbers I listed the first time around
evidently didn't register, here are those same OPS+ numbers averaged
out for your viewing convenience:

Age 26-30
Aaron 164, Bonds 185

Age 35-39
Aaron 169, Bonds 252

Improvement from 26-30 to 35-39: Aaron 3%, Bonds 36%. Those numbers aren't going away.


And since those OPS+ numbers I listed the first time around evidently
didn't register, here are those same OPS+ numbers averaged out for
your viewing convenience:

Age 26-30
Aaron 164, Foxx 166

Age 35-39
Aaron 169, Foxx 101

Improvement from 26-30 to 35-39: Foxx -39%, Aaron 3%. Those numbers aren't going away.
   154. Lassus Posted: July 29, 2011 at 11:01 PM (#3888629)
I have watched the Padres more this week.

The Wright Brothers weep.
   155. Steve Treder Posted: July 29, 2011 at 11:15 PM (#3888642)
Babe Ruth took more performance-depressing drugs than Bonds took performance enhancing ones.


I just love that we live in a world where this makes Ruth the good guy and Bonds the bad guy.

Word. Merit is achieved by those trying less than their best, not those maximizing every available means to perform their best. What a country!
   156. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: July 29, 2011 at 11:31 PM (#3888653)
It's from the book Game of Shadows


The Sean Bean character dies.
   157. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 11:46 PM (#3888663)
Wait, you were the guy who said that the twig armed Bonds of his teens and twenties must have been on steroids too, right? Ok, that explains it.


A more accurate restating of my position would be that we don't know when Bonds started dabbling in PEDs. And of course I'm sure you're trolling me just a little bit with the notion that the absence of an overtly brawny physique allows us to discount steroid abuse; in terms of professional fighters who have failed PED tests you can regale your eyes to the Adonis-like pulchritude of Tim Sylvia, Josh Barnett, and the living legend himself, Royce Gracie. And these are professional ass-kickers - I swam against a guy who was busted for steroids 6 months later and he looked like he just crawled off a desert island.
   158. robinred Posted: July 29, 2011 at 11:50 PM (#3888667)
Because it's human. Just like all of us show up at work hung over, or not feeling our best, so do our heroes. Guys who have fun with their fame are a lot more appealing than single minded workaholics.

Also, at heart, we care who is the best baseball player, not who puts up the best WAR. If Ruth could top Bonds stats fat and drunk and chasing tail, while Bonds was working out like a madman, and shooting up designer drugs, that says Ruth was better. We also would much rather hang out with or be Ruth.

Finally, there is something psychologically wrong with a person who's response to being one of the 15 greatest players of all time, and a multi-millionaire, is let me shoot up some drugs and spend all day in the gym, rather than have some fun with it. The Barry Bonds mentality is the same one that leads already rich traders and hedgies to insider trading.


One of the more convoluted and odd BondsHaterBoy rationalizations I have read, particularly coming from a guy with your value system. It's OK that you love Ruth and hate Bonds, but trying to couch what is simply an emotional reaction in faux-analytical terms is pointless. Ruth probably could have had an even better career if he had been more like Honus Wagner and less like Keith Richards, but attempting to spin that as why he was a better human being than Bonds is makes very little sense. Based on what we know about Barry Bonds, his desire to be the best is the most admirable thing (indeed, maybe the ONLY admirable thing) about him.
   159. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 29, 2011 at 11:59 PM (#3888672)
Well, Ray, you've certainly proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jimmie Foxx's age 35-39 career went into a tailspin, not unlike the great majority of players who managed to last that long. I'm not sure what that has to do with Bonds vs Aaron, or more pertinently, what it has to do with Bonds's unprecedented improvement over himself during those same years.

All you've shown is that (a) Aaron held up a lot better than most late career superstars, a point nobody disputes; and that (b) Bonds's late performance made his own earlier performance look almost like that of a 190 lb. weakling. Unfortunately, that's what it is about Bonds that stands out so starkly in comparison to everyone else---including Aaron---and it's Bonds's comparison to himself that you so studiously try to brush aside or ignore.
   160. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 12:12 AM (#3888680)
Well, Ray, you've certainly proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jimmie Foxx's age 35-39 career went into a tailspin, not unlike the great majority of players who managed to last that long. I'm not sure what that has to do with Bonds vs Aaron, or more pertinently, what it has to do with Bonds's unprecedented improvement over himself during those same years.


Do you not understand that "unprecedented improvement" means that steroids can't explain it? Steroids are quite precedented.

All you've shown is that (a) Aaron held up a lot better than most late career superstars, a point nobody disputes;


In fact, before Bonds began making a push at Aaron's record, everyone knew that breaking Aaron's record was going to be very, very difficult precisely because of Aaron's late-career push. Nobody claimed that Aaron's late-career push was the result of drugs.

and that (b) Bonds's late performance made his own earlier performance look almost like that of a 190 lb. weakling. Unfortunately, that's what it is about Bonds that stands out so starkly in comparison to everyone else---including Aaron---and it's Bonds's comparison to himself that you so studiously try to brush aside or ignore.


I don't ignore it all; I addressed it, above. Bonds quite clearly made a series of changes to his approach as he aged. He worked out a ton, made a conscious decision to build upper body strength (with or without steroids), traded speed for power, and began hitting balls in the air more. Bonds was also a great player, and great players do great things, and don't age like normal players. To boil all of that down to "steroids!!!!" is irrational.
   161. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 12:23 AM (#3888686)
To follow up on my last point, I believe that if you take the 10 greatest players in history, odds are that one of them is going to do something that blows everyone else away.
   162. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 12:30 AM (#3888693)
I just love that we live in a world where this makes Ruth the good guy and Bonds the bad guy.


Awesome.
   163. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 30, 2011 at 12:35 AM (#3888697)
Well, Ray, you've certainly proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jimmie Foxx's age 35-39 career went into a tailspin, not unlike the great majority of players who managed to last that long. I'm not sure what that has to do with Bonds vs Aaron, or more pertinently, what it has to do with Bonds's unprecedented improvement over himself during those same years.

Do you not understand that "unprecedented improvement" means that steroids can't explain it? Steroids are quite precedented.

and that (b) Bonds's late performance made his own earlier performance look almost like that of a 190 lb. weakling. Unfortunately, that's what it is about Bonds that stands out so starkly in comparison to everyone else---including Aaron---and it's Bonds's comparison to himself that you so studiously try to brush aside or ignore.

I don't ignore it all; I addressed it, above. Bonds quite clearly made a series of changes to his approach as he aged. He worked out a ton, made a conscious decision to build upper body strength (with or without steroids), traded speed for power, and began hitting balls in the air more. Bonds was also a great player, and great players do great things, and don't age like normal players. To boil all of that down to "steroids!!!!" is irrational.


Except that I'm not "boiling all of that down to steroids", with or without the four !!!!. I've said a million times here that Bonds was a fabulous player, possibly the greatest ever if you ignore steroids and adjust for league strength, and even without steroids he's still almost certainly in the top half dozen. And I've also many times acknowledged the other factors that helped his power numbers, such as his changed swing, etc. Try as you might to pretend that I am, and I'm sure you'll continue to do so, I'm not going the Kevin route, bless his heart.

But while "boiling it down" to nothing but steroids is crazy, it's also crazy not to acknowledge that they clearly helped, even if you can't quantify how much they helped with any precision. "Great players do great things", but that still leaves the fact that no "great player" in 135 years worth of Major League history has ever improved at age 35 to anywhere remotely the degree that Bonds did. Your essential argument here is that Bonds somehow discovered a way to walk on water at an age when 98% of players begin rapid declines, and when only a tiny sliver of players, "great" or otherwise, manage to show even the tiniest improvement at all. I give you credit for trying, but it just doesn't wash.
   164. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 30, 2011 at 12:36 AM (#3888698)
To follow up on my last point, I believe that if you take the 10 greatest players in history, odds are that one of them is going to do something that blows everyone else away.

Yeah, but nobody else ever blew everyone else away by discovering a bottomless Fountain of Youth.
   165. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 12:54 AM (#3888709)
To follow up on my last point, I believe that if you take the 10 greatest players in history, odds are that one of them is going to do something that blows everyone else away.


I was blown away that Barry would expect me to believe he thought he was spending all that money on flaxseed oil.
   166. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 12:54 AM (#3888712)
But while "boiling it down" to nothing but steroids is crazy, it's also crazy not to acknowledge that they clearly helped, even if you can't quantify how much they helped with any precision.


The second half of that sentence makes the first half nonsensical.

If you can't "quantify how much they helped with any precision," then you obviously can't conclude that they "clearly helped."

Do you see why I call some of the arguments of the anti-steroidists irrational?
   167. Ron J Posted: July 30, 2011 at 01:11 AM (#3888729)
#165 I'm blown away that you know that Bonds spent a lot of money on what he claimed to believe was flaxseed oil. I'm not aware of any publicly available breakdown of the money he paid out to Greg Anderson.

We do know he wasn't overly generous. One of the members of the grand jury asked Bonds why he wasn't more generous to Anderson. To which Bonds responded that he was keeping his money.
   168. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 01:19 AM (#3888735)
I was blown away that Barry would expect me to believe he thought he was spending all that money on flaxseed oil.


All what money?
   169. Brian C Posted: July 30, 2011 at 02:18 AM (#3888787)
that still leaves the fact that no "great player" in 135 years worth of Major League history has ever improved at age 35 to anywhere remotely the degree that Bonds did.

As written, this statement suffers from an extreme sample size bias, doesn't it? How many "great players" have there been?

Also, I'd suggest Randy Johnson as a rebuttal, even given the limitations of your statement. Perhaps pitchers are different, but if that's true, your sample size gets even smaller and more meaningless.
   170. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 30, 2011 at 02:20 AM (#3888790)
But while "boiling it down" to nothing but steroids is crazy, it's also crazy not to acknowledge that they clearly helped, even if you can't quantify how much they helped with any precision.

The second half of that sentence makes the first half nonsensical.

If you can't "quantify how much they helped with any precision," then you obviously can't conclude that they "clearly helped."


Right, Ray, I realize that with you every argument has to be quantified with absolute precision to be acknowledged at all. Can you quantify how much three square meals a day might add to a player's hitting? Of course not. But can you therefore say that "we don't know" whether or not they "clearly helped" at all?

And when you see a 35 to 39 year old player improve on his previous peak years WAY beyond the extent that any other player in the history of baseball has ever done before**---and when we know he used steroids during that period---you don't need to quantify it with any statistical precision to be able to draw a reasonable conclusion that those steroids were "clearly" part of what led to that improvement.

Do you see why I call some of the arguments of the anti-steroidists irrational?

Sure, it's because you call any argument "irrational" if it doesn't coincide 100% with your selective interpretation of unpleasant facts. Everyone's "irrational" except you and those who toe your party line.

**Sorry if the boldfacing offends you, but since you've been impervious to this factual statement up to now, I thought it might need added emphasis.
   171. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 30, 2011 at 02:25 AM (#3888792)
that still leaves the fact that no "great player" in 135 years worth of Major League history has ever improved at age 35 to anywhere remotely the degree that Bonds did.

As written, this statement suffers from an extreme sample size bias, doesn't it? How many "great players" have there been?


Be my guest, Brian. You've got your pick of 135 years worth of players since the National League was founded in 1876. Find one (1) whose improvements after age 35 have remotely matched those of Barry Bonds.

Oh, and pack a lunch or two, because it's going to be a long, long search.
   172. Bob Tufts Posted: July 30, 2011 at 02:27 AM (#3888794)
Boldfacing is similar to enhancing your argument. I'm calling for a Strunk % White commission to do a report.

Ray, when you do the analysis, also adjust for the fact that when the National League started, the average age at death for men and women in the US was just over 40 years and it is almost double that now!
   173. Brian C Posted: July 30, 2011 at 02:33 AM (#3888798)
WAY beyond the extent that any other player in the history of baseball has ever done before

That solves the sample size issue, anyway.

Cap Anson is a solid, non-pitcher example. And on the pitching side, Jamie Moyer's career has been as much of an outlier as you're claiming Bonds is. Weird things happen.
   174. Walt Davis Posted: July 30, 2011 at 02:34 AM (#3888799)
no "great player" in 135 years worth of Major League history has ever improved at age 35 to anywhere remotely the degree that Bonds did.

True enough I suppose but I thought Ray's point was clear enough -- great players generally do _something_ nobody's done before. No great player was a great hitter and a damn fine, maybe HoF caliber pitcher like Ruth (not to mention all his HRs). Before Bonds, no great player had the late career that Aaron had (although most great players have great late careers -- it's a big part of what makes them great). No great player combined offense and defense and baserunning the way Willie Mays did. No great player had the durability of (Lou Gehrig. I doubt any great player understood hitting better than Ted Williams. No great pitcher, except maybe Walter Johnson, ever dominated the way Pedro did. No great player ever stole bases the way Rickey did. Prior to Eddie Mathews, the career record for HR by a 3B appears to be Al Rosen at 192. Ernie Banks comfortably had the HR record before he moved off of SS after age 30 (by about 90 over Cronin). No C ever lasted as long or had the late career that Fisk had. (Not sure I consider Fisk "great" really.)

It's nice to inflate your claim by calling on 135 years of ML history but, in fact, you're talking about the distribution of late careers across a sample of 10-20 all-time great players. Bonds is the extreme case so far, no doubt, but we don't have a clue what that distribution looks like.
   175. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 02:56 AM (#3888813)
#165 I'm blown away that you know that Bonds spent a lot of money on what he claimed to believe was flaxseed oil.


Hey, those BALCO boys don't work cheap. Boxer Shane Mosley said one round of treatment at BALCO cost him just under $2000 plus $900 for every batch of "vitamins" Victor Conte mailed to his house. Sprinter Darwin Chambers said his treatments ran up to $30,000 a year. And then there's this. I don't think the BALCO boys were giving these folks the good stuff and holding out on Barry.
   176. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:04 AM (#3888820)
WAY beyond the extent that any other player in the history of baseball has ever done before

That solves the sample size issue, anyway.

Cap Anson is a solid, non-pitcher example.


Cap Anson from 26 to 30: 162

Cap Anson from 35 to 39: 167

Impressive, but hardly Bondsian in terms of improvement

And on the pitching side, Jamie Moyer's career has been as much of an outlier as you're claiming Bonds is.

Moyer was a late blooming junkballer whose most "dominant" season produced an ERA+ of 132 at age 40, exactly 2 points higher than he'd attained at age 30. But you want to take Jamie Moyer as a comparison to Barry Bonds, go for it. I'm sure that Ray will be glad to serve as your lawyer.

------------------------------

no "great player" in 135 years worth of Major League history has ever improved at age 35 to anywhere remotely the degree that Bonds did.

True enough I suppose but I thought Ray's point was clear enough -- great players generally do _something_ nobody's done before.


Which is a truism, but how many of them have beaten their own best years after turning 35, and done it to the extent that Bonds did, and for five years in a row to boot? That's a feat that's a hell of a lot more "outlier" than hitting .388 at age 39 after you've hit .406 at age 22, or raising your OPS+ by five whole points, as Aaron did. Those examples you cite are all swell, and could be added to almost ad infinitum, but the feats they describe are in no ways comparable in degree to Bonds, and "the degree" is the heart of the argument that can't be ducked or evaded by citing minuscule improvements here or there.

It's nice to inflate your claim by calling on 135 years of ML history but, in fact, you're talking about the distribution of late careers across a sample of 10-20 all-time great players. Bonds is the extreme case so far, no doubt, but we don't have a clue what that distribution looks like.

Fine, check back in another 135 years and see if you can find some better examples by then.
   177. tshipman Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:13 AM (#3888825)
There's a fairly good probability that BALCO drugs work like a Vesper good--i.e., as their price goes up, they become more attractive to professional athletes, rather than less attractive.


Btw, if people really want to engage in counterfactual arguments that Bonds would have performed much worse off the juice, they need to account for the possibility that Bonds' previous career was underrated due to the juice biasing the baseline.
   178. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:14 AM (#3888826)
The second half of that sentence makes the first half nonsensical.

If you can't "quantify how much they helped with any precision," then you obviously can't conclude that they "clearly helped."


Right, Ray, I realize that with you every argument has to be quantified with absolute precision to be acknowledged at all.


Utter strawman. You admitted you can't quantify how much they helped with any precision.

Can you quantify how much three square meals a day might add to a player's hitting? Of course not. But can you therefore say that "we don't know" whether or not they "clearly helped" at all?


Yes, of course I can say that. We don't know whether three square meals helps more than two, or more than two square meals plus a glass of Ensure, or whether three square meals plus eight hours of sleep plus a change in batting approach plus a change in workout regimen plus a change in weight training goals can be distilled to the one factor "three square meals."

Do you see that there are a number of factors involved, not just one?

And when you see a 35 to 39 year old player improve on his previous peak years WAY beyond the extent that any other player in the history of baseball has ever done before**---and when we know he used steroids during that period---you don't need to quantify it with any statistical precision to be able to draw a reasonable conclusion that those steroids were "clearly" part of what led to that improvement.


Yes, you do. We "know he used steroids during that period." We also know he made a number of other changes, including dietary (maybe it was just the "three square meals" that did it).

What you simply cannot get around is the fact that many other players used steroids and didn't see this kind of a late-career surge. If you can't "quantify it with any precision" you can't draw any conclusion at all. How do we know that Bonds is a better hitter than Melky Cabrera? Because we can quantify it. How do we know that Jeter hits lefties better than he hits righties? Because we can quantify it. How do we know that hitters tend to peak at ages 26-28? Because we can quantify it. How do we know that Coors Field inflates offense? Because we can quantify it.

What you're doing is the equivalent of saying "Kevin Long clearly helped Curtis Granderson, even if we can't quantify how much Long helped with any precision." If you can't quantify it with any precision, it makes no sense to accept the premise.
   179. smileyy Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:17 AM (#3888829)
Sprinter Darwin Chambers said his treatments ran up to $30,000 a year.


That's dirt cheap when you're talking professional athlete. If it has a 1% chance of extending a role-players career by a year, its a good value.

To me, that's just more ammunition for the pro-Bonds camp. Its not like he was paying BALCO $10M a year to be the greatest ever, something not every athlete could do. He was enhancing himself in ways that were open to many other ballplayers, and he was still outperforming them.
   180. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:21 AM (#3888832)
True enough I suppose but I thought Ray's point was clear enough -- great players generally do _something_ nobody's done before. No great player was a great hitter and a damn fine, maybe HoF caliber pitcher like Ruth (not to mention all his HRs). Before Bonds, no great player had the late career that Aaron had (although most great players have great late careers -- it's a big part of what makes them great). No great player combined offense and defense and baserunning the way Willie Mays did. No great player had the durability of (Lou Gehrig. I doubt any great player understood hitting better than Ted Williams. No great pitcher, except maybe Walter Johnson, ever dominated the way Pedro did. No great player ever stole bases the way Rickey did. Prior to Eddie Mathews, the career record for HR by a 3B appears to be Al Rosen at 192. Ernie Banks comfortably had the HR record before he moved off of SS after age 30 (by about 90 over Cronin). No C ever lasted as long or had the late career that Fisk had. (Not sure I consider Fisk "great" really.)


We can add to that the example of Mariano Rivera. No great reliever ever outclassed all other pitchers in history on a per-innings basis for 15 years without having even an average year -- until Rivera did it. Is Andy prepared to argue that Rivera is on steroids, or otherwise cheating in some way? Doctoring the ball? After all, no other pitcher has done this.

No pitcher did this. Until Rivera did it.

The fact that Bonds had a unique late-career surge proves nothing.
   181. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:25 AM (#3888834)
And, hell:

Mariano Rivera, ages 25-34: 190 ERA+
Mariano Rivera, ages 35-41: 236 ERA+

Increase: 24%.

Andy?
   182. Mash Wilson Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:37 AM (#3888840)
Hey, I started the "Rivera is doctoring the ball" bandwagon back in like 1999. Been proudly driving it ever since!
   183. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:45 AM (#3888842)
Which is a truism, but how many of them have beaten their own best years after turning 35, and done it to the extent that Bonds did, and for five years in a row to boot?


Rivera turned in his two best ERA+s after he turned 35.

His seasonal ERA+s in order of best to worst, with his age next to the season. 35 and older seasons bolded:

319 - age 38
308 - age 35

267 - age 33
262 - age 39
260 - age 29
252 - age 36
240 - age 26
239 - age 27
238 - age 40
233 - age 28
232 - age 34
229 - age 41
192 - age 31
170 - age 30
163 - age 32
144 - age 37
84 - age 25

In a 17 year career, his best ERA+s -- by a massive margin -- come at ages 38 and 35, respectively. His fourth best comes at age 39. Five of his top six ERA+s come after age 33.

He posts a 183 ERA+ in his 20s, a 217 ERA+ in his 30s, and a 235 ERA+ in his 40s. Though I'll grant you that if we remove the year he started, when he was working a different role, his ERA+ in his 20s jumps to 243. Still, what he has done after turning 35 and now into his 40s is sui generis.
   184. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:46 AM (#3888844)
Sprinter Darwin Chambers said his treatments ran up to $30,000 a year.

That's dirt cheap when you're talking professional athlete. If it has a 1% chance of extending a role-players career by a year, its a good value.


Oh, I'm not saying that BALCO "vitamins" weren't a good investment for their clientele, I'm saying that you don't pay that much money expecting flaxseed oil.
   185. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:46 AM (#3888845)
Can you quantify how much three square meals a day might add to a player's hitting? Of course not. But can you therefore say that "we don't know" whether or not they "clearly helped" at all?

Yes, of course I can say that. We don't know whether three square meals helps more than two, or more than two square meals plus a glass of Ensure, or whether three square meals plus eight hours of sleep plus a change in batting approach plus a change in workout regimen plus a change in weight training goals can be distilled to the one factor "three square meals."

Do you see that there are a number of factors involved, not just one?


Er, yes, Ray, I've acknowledged that point countless times ever since these steroids threads began, including right on this very page of this very thread. What I've failed to see in return, however, is an admission on your part that steroids might even be one of those factors. This is like talking to the laundry guy in Seinfeld who won't admit that he might have shrunk Jerry's shirt.

We can add to that the example of Mariano Rivera. No great pitcher ever outclassed all other pitchers in history on a per-inning basis for 15 years without having even an average year -- until Rivera did it. Is Andy prepared to argue that Rivera is on steroids, or otherwise cheating in some way? Doctoring the ball? After all, no other pitcher has done this.

Except that his "power" after age 35 wasn't anything that he hadn't shown before, as shown by his K/9 rates, which peaked at age 26, and which have remained more or less steady throughout the course of his career.

And, hell:

Mariano Rivera, ages 25-34: 190 ERA+
Mariano Rivera, ages 35-41: 236 ERA+

Increase: 24%.


Top K/9 rate: 10.9, age 26
Top BB rates: 0.8 (age 38), 1.1 (age 41), 1.3 (age 36)

If steroids help your control, you've got a point. If lowering your walk rate doesn't improve your ERA+, let me know how. And if a pitcher's control is comparable to power spikes a la Bonds, you've got a winner.

The fact that Bonds had a unique late-career surge proves nothing.

Again, it's the degree of that power surge that stands out, no matter how much you try to dismiss it. But I'm sure you'll keep on trying well into the night. Pleasant dreams.
   186. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:49 AM (#3888846)
And, hell:

Mariano Rivera, ages 25-34: 190 ERA+
Mariano Rivera, ages 35-41: 236 ERA+

Increase: 24%.

Andy?


Revised, to remove the year he started:

Mariano Rivera, ages 26-34: 218 ERA+
Mariano Rivera, ages 35-41: 236 ERA+

His ERA+ still *improves* after he turns 35, which includes 1 2/3 years into his 40s.
   187. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 03:56 AM (#3888849)
We can add to that the example of Mariano Rivera. No great pitcher ever outclassed all other pitchers in history on a per-inning basis for 15 years without having even an average year -- until Rivera did it. Is Andy prepared to argue that Rivera is on steroids, or otherwise cheating in some way? Doctoring the ball? After all, no other pitcher has done this.

Except that his "power" after age 35 wasn't anything that he hadn't shown before, as shown by his K/9 rates, which peaked at age 26, and which have remained more or less steady throughout the course of his career.


You're moving to K rate now? Did Clemens see an increased K rate after 35? (Answer: No.)
   188. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 30, 2011 at 04:10 AM (#3888853)
If steroids help your control, you've got a point. If lowering your walk rate doesn't improve your ERA+, let me know how. And if a pitcher's control is comparable to power spikes a la Bonds, you've got a winner.


Hey, everybody! Over here! I think I can see the goalposts!
   189. Brian C Posted: July 30, 2011 at 04:35 AM (#3888862)
Cap Anson from 26 to 30: 162

Cap Anson from 35 to 39: 167

Impressive, but hardly Bondsian in terms of improvement

If we use WAR though (from BR), we get:

Anson 26-30: 20.5
Anson 35-39: 29

That's an improvement of 41.4%

For Bonds, we get:
Bonds 26-30: 42.6
Bonds 35-39: 56.1

That's an improvement of 31.7%

Fangraphs WAR tells the same story:
Bonds 26-30: 42
Bonds 35-39: 55.6
32.4% improvement

Anson 26-30: 18.4
Anson 35-39: 26.4
43.5% improvement

If you add up 25-30 and 34-39, which is no less arbitrary than the periods you've chosen to focus on, the difference is even more in Anson's favor. In short, I think it's fair to say that Anson's "remotely" similar in this respect. In fact, it's not unreasonable to say that Anson is possibly an even better case than Bonds of a remarkable late career surge.

Except that his "power" after age 35 wasn't anything that he hadn't shown before, as shown by his K/9 rates, which peaked at age 26, and which have remained more or less steady throughout the course of his career.

What utterly disingenuous bs. Your challenge was to find one player who's "improved" dramatically. Given an example that you thought couldn't be found, since you didn't think your challenge through at all, your response is to change the terms of the debate. Now we're looking for players who "improved" for certain reasons that fit your pre-judged criteria of what does and does not constitute steroid usage.

But players, as you must know, use steroids for different reasons. Some use them to bulk up, sure. But some use them to recover faster from injuries, or to combat fatigue. It's not unreasonable to think that a player like Rivera might use PEDs to be able to keep up high workloads, especially as he gets older (note to everyone: I am in no way implying that Rivera used PEDs). In fact, I'd say that PEDs could improve a player in this way - keeping an aging pitcher out on the mound every couple days - much more plausibly than PEDs suddenly turning a player into the best hitter ever at age 35.

(Once again, I note: I am in no way implying that Rivera used PEDs. I am only speaking generally. Again - I am not implying that Rivera used PEDs.)
   190. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 30, 2011 at 04:42 AM (#3888865)
Anson 26-30: 18.4
Anson 35-39: 26.4
43.5% improvement


Y'know, the fact that the season was roughly twice as long during Anson's latter career might have something to do with this.
   191. Brian C Posted: July 30, 2011 at 04:48 AM (#3888867)
Y'know, the fact that the season was roughly twice as long during Anson's latter career might have something to do with this.

####, of course. Not sure how I forgot to account for that.

Well, the only thing left to do is provide a good example, and acknowledge that I ###### up here.
   192. robinred Posted: July 30, 2011 at 04:51 AM (#3888868)
acknowledge that I ###### up here.


I think this may be a BTF first.
   193. Brian C Posted: July 30, 2011 at 04:56 AM (#3888870)
I think this may be a BTF first.

Don't get me wrong - it was tempting to argue that adjusting to the longer season and nonetheless excelling at an advanced age was so exceptional that it outdid Bonds and thus my point still stood. I wanted to argue that being 35 in 1887 terms arbitrarily adjusted to being 55 in 2000 terms, and even with the juice, Bonds couldn't have lasted until he was 55, and that if you didn't see my point you're just crazy and blinded by selective interpretation of unpleasant facts, and if anything this made me more right than I was before.

But ... that would have all been stupid.
   194. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 05:20 AM (#3888875)
I think this may be a BTF first.


The very first time I tried to post a news item, I ###### up the title and admitted it. Of course, I also routinely kill threads.
   195. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 05:35 AM (#3888877)
Lest we forget, wholesome, nutritious alcohol was an ILLEGAL DRUG throughout most of Ruth's career!

In the absence of clear evidence or honest confession but in the presence of partial evidence indicating chicanery, it's hard to work up much sympathy for someone who "cheats" based on the argument that we don't know the exact duration of the perfidy.

This is an impressive amount of bullsh!t packed into one sentence.
   196. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 05:50 AM (#3888880)
This is an impressive amount of bullsh!t packed into one sentence.


I call it "obfuscative jerkoffery."
   197. Dan Evensen Posted: July 30, 2011 at 05:51 AM (#3888881)
Interesting thread. I chuckled after Andy's era-adjusted OPS+ stats were ignored, but the crowds clamored for league ISO when he mentioned Bonds' place among the career single-season ISO leaderboard, as if adjusting for era there is going to tell us something that OPS+ didn't.

The absolute best part, though, was Ray's 152 and 153, which don't even address the question originally being posed. Very well trolled, Ray.

Seriously, you guys have been talking past each other for months now. Give it a rest.
   198. Dan Evensen Posted: July 30, 2011 at 05:56 AM (#3888887)
But at the extreme end where teams were walking Bonds 200+ times a year? For all intents and purposes, Bonds went to the plate as if the count was already 3-1 and he could focus on a pitch to drive. In those days, it seemed every pitcher tried to throw two perfect pitches and, if those missed, just walked him (intentionally or "unintentionally"). It's a bit of an exaggeration but Bonds was playing in a league where you get a walk on 2 balls.

I remember fondly the days of "Pitch to Bonds" on Primer, back in Fall 2002. For me, the sport itself was almost unwatchable back then, as most pitchers seemed to take the "throw two perfect pitches or walk him" strategy to just about every at bat.

Still, you've got to hand it to Bonds for being able to make it count when he got the pitch he wanted. It's not like pitchers weren't walking Ruth back in the day.
   199. Walt Davis Posted: July 30, 2011 at 06:24 AM (#3888895)
Those examples you cite are all swell, and could be added to almost ad infinitum, but the feats they describe are in no ways comparable in degree to Bonds, and "the degree" is the heart of the argument that can't be ducked or evaded by citing minuscule improvements here or there.

Bullshit.

Yes, what Bonds did late career was unprecedented. So what? That's what made him inner circle ... just like Ruth's unprecedented onslaught and Rickey's steals and Brooks's glove, etc. You picked out the one unprecedented thing that Bonds did and now claim this very unprecedented nature as proof of something.

You're not seriously going to argue that, compared to what came before, what Bonds did is even within light years of what Ruth did are you?

Rickey Henderson stole 50% more bases than the guy in 2nd. From ages 35-44, Henderson stole 311 bases in just over 1000 games -- nobody can possibly match that.

Brooks Robinson 22-30: 137 defensive runs
Brooks Robinson 31-39: 150 defensive runs

Ozzie 23-30: 110 defensive runs
Ozzie 31-37: 110 defensive runs

Defense usually ages much worse than offense.

Stargell 23-30: 136 OPS+
Stargell 31-37: 163 OPS+ (139 OPS+ from 36 to 40)

So Stargell (and many others) can be better in their 30s and as good in their late 30s but Bonds, a clearly superior athlete to Stargell and playing 20 years later, can't be better?

Edgar Martinez was certainly a better hitter ages 36-40 than he was in his late 20s (but not as good as ages 31-35).

From ages 34-41, Tony Gwynn put up a 140 OPS+ compared to 129 before then.
   200. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 30, 2011 at 07:25 AM (#3888903)
Hey, everybody! Over here! I think I can see the goalposts!


They'll be gone by the time we get there.

I don't see why OPS+ is fine to prove steroids were likely a huge factor in Bonds's surge, but ERA+ is not fine for Rivera.
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