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Saturday, December 22, 2007

N.Y. Times: Cole and Stigler: More Juice, Less Punch (RR)

What happens when you mix a professor of sociology with a professor of statistics? This…

Barry Bonds’s career has been the most scrutinized, and in fact his home run production in the years after he supposedly started taking drugs does show significant average gains. But individuals always vary, and choosing specific cases does not yield general conclusions.

What should not be overlooked is that Bonds’s profile is strikingly like Babe Ruth’s high performance level until near the end of his career, with one standout home run year — a year in which other players on other teams also exceeded their previous levels.

During the last six years of Ruth’s 22-year career he hit 198 — or 28 percent — of his 714 home runs; Bonds, in the last six years of his 22-year career, hit 195 — 26 percent — of his 762. There is no convincing way to demonstrate that Bonds’s performance owed more to drugs than Ruth’s did to his prodigious use of alcohol and tobacco.

Repoz Posted: December 22, 2007 at 12:33 PM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, steroids

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   1. GregD Posted: December 22, 2007 at 01:54 PM (#2652109)
This is the awesome.
   2. Misirlou has S.C.M.O.D.S Posted: December 22, 2007 at 02:38 PM (#2652113)
During the last six years of Ruth’s 22-year career he hit 198 — or 28 percent — of his 714 home runs; Bonds, in the last six years of his 22-year career, hit 195 — 26 percent — of his 762. There is no convincing way to demonstrate that Bonds’s performance owed more to drugs than Ruth’s did to his prodigious use of alcohol and tobacco.


During the last 6 years of Ruth's career he hit 28% of his HR in 29% of his career ABs.

During the last 6 years of Bond's career he hit 26% of his career HR in only 19% of his ABs.
   3. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: December 22, 2007 at 02:48 PM (#2652116)
Of course Bonds greatness the past six seasons (2002-2007, so thsi doesn't include 2001, which is odd) has been as much, if not moreso, due to his amazing OBP's. Of course he wouldn't get them if he wasn't a HR threat, but it is his pitch recognition and strike Zone judgement that made 2001-2004 so amazing. It is this factor that we should be analyzing in the face of HGH and Steroids. Do they help? I have no idea.
   4. Sexy Lizard Posted: December 22, 2007 at 07:10 PM (#2652216)
Roger Clemens is a case in point: a great pitcher before 1998, a great (if increasingly fragile) pitcher after he is supposed to have received treatment. But when we compared Clemens’s E.R.A. through 1997 with his E.R.A. from 1998 on, it was worse by 0.32 in the later period.


When he was aged 35-44. The fact he was pitching at all into his 40s is pretty amazing, and it would be silly to think that PEDs would make him better from 35-44 than he would have been before 35. What we can't measure is the difference between a PEDed Roger, 1998 onwards, with an unPEDed Roger, 1998 onwards.

I think generally this article misses the idea that PEDs are often, maybe most often used for injury recovery and to battle against aging.

There is no example of a mediocre player breaking away from the middle of the pack and achieving stardom with the aid of drugs.


That we know of.

What should not be overlooked is that Bonds’s profile is strikingly like Babe Ruth’s high performance level until near the end of his career, with one standout home run year — a year in which other players on other teams also exceeded their previous levels.


But the shape of Ruth's performance remained the same for the bulk of his career, while Bonds suddenly became a historically great home run hitter at age 35.

This article doesn't really give us very much, unfortunately.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: December 22, 2007 at 09:57 PM (#2652349)
During the last 6 years of Ruth's career he hit 28% of his HR in 29% of his career ABs.

During the last 6 years of Bond's career he hit 26% of his career HR in only 19% of his ABs.


Hmm... folks seem to be using Ruth's age 40 season in Boston as his 6th season and also including Bonds' 14 games in 2005 as a season. Still measured another way, Ruth hit 28% of his HR in 29% of his PA; Bonds hit 26% of his HR in 22% of his PA ... which is closer. (I think AB makes more sense in this context too but some folks do prefer PA.)

Another relevant point confounding the comparison is that Ruth didn't become a full-time hitter until he was 24. Without the years as a pitcher, he'd of course have many more career HR and a lower percentage in his last 6 seasons. Put another way, Ruth hit 30% of his post-24 HR in the last 6 seasons; Bonds hit ... whaddyaknow ... 29% of his post-24 HR in the last 6 seasons.

But the shape of Ruth's performance remained the same for the bulk of his career, while Bonds suddenly became a historically great home run hitter at age 35.

Again, while I agree with the point, I think this depends on how you measure it. In terms of HR/season, other than 2001, Bonds performance has remained the same for the bulk of his career -- very Aaron-like. Or Mays-like. Ruth, McGwire and Sosa are the only players to hit 50+ with any regularity.

For his career, Bonds has hit 1 HR per 16.5 PA; for the last 6 years, it's 1 per 14.4 (that's about 5 HR per 600 PA). For Ruth it's 1 per 14.9 career but 1 per 15.5 the last 6 (about 1.5 HR per 600 PA fewer). So Bonds has the edge there and did improve considerably later in his career.

Where Bonds really exploded of course was in AB/HR. Still, on contact the last 6, Ruth hit 383/754; Bonds hit 375/806 and those aren't that different. But yeah, Bonds' career rate is 352/720 so there was a massive jump there.

What Bonds did was unprecedented and there's no point arguing otherwise. A reasonable argument is that although unprecedented, great hitters often maintain at amazing levels even very late in their careers (Ruth, Williams, Aaron, Mays, etc.). Williams and Aaron (and a few others) put up some of the very best years of their careers in their late 30s early 40s. Steroids aside, there are reasons to think that today's great hitters (and players in general) should age even better. So that Bonds remained a great hitter and even had some top seasons late in his career isn't really surprising. What's surprising and unprecedented (far as I know) is the _consistency_ with which he performed above his career peak in those years.

But yeah, a lot of that was all those walks. Obviously he'd have hit even more HR if they'd pitched to him, but during that time, Bonds was practically walking on 2 balls rather than 4. Who knows what sort of AB/HR stats guys like Ruth or Williams could have put up if they had the luxury of zoning in to the degree Bonds was able to. I wonder how much our regular sense of expectation breaks down once a batter goes up there knowing they've got a 30-40% chance of walking. (Chicken-egg issues obviously)
   6. Phineus Fog Posted: December 23, 2007 at 05:34 AM (#2652523)
If any of you gentlemen had been sitting next to the great Babe on the bench when he ripped off one of his heroic
farts, you would not be speaking so lightly of this matter. I know, I was there.

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