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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Posnanski:  A Barry Bond thought

‘Elo kiddies, ‘elo kiddies
Whatcha gonna do when your head’s exploding?
You lead a life of crime
You know they’re out to get you

Baseball Reference has this cool thing called the Fan EloRater, where they have fans rank players against each other and then use the millions of rankings to form a list of the greatest players in baseball history. It’s a great concept and great way to show what fans think about the game.  Trouble is … it really is what fans think about the game — unfiltered and unaltered. Barry Bonds, at this moment, is ranked as the 84th best player ever. EIGHTY-FOURTH! Here are some of the players rated higher:

83. Roger Connor(???)
82. Derek Jeter
81. Kenny Lofton
80. Tim Raines
79. Joe Cronin
78. Ivan Rodriguez
77. Ryne Sandberg
76. Andre Dawson

But, of course, we know the reason why Bonds is ranked so low — people think he cheated. People don’t like him. People think he was a discredit to the game. And that’s fine; Barry Bonds basically asked to be despised with his attitude and the way he treated many people. I say: Loathe away. The trouble begins for me when people move on from loathing and try to change obvious history in order to fit into a neat narrative that fits how they want to see the game.

I guess this gets to the heart of why I really dislike the idea of keeping Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and a handful of others out of the Hall of Fame. By doing so, we replace history with moral judgment. We replace what happened with what we think should have happened.

Gonfalon Bubble Posted: June 19, 2014 at 05:16 PM | 103 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bonds, clemens, posnanski

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   1. bjhanke Posted: June 19, 2014 at 11:35 PM (#4731210)
The odd thing about the post is that Roger Connor, an 1890s 1B of considerable quality, may well be the best player on the list there. - Brock Hanke
   2. Walt Davis Posted: June 20, 2014 at 12:39 AM (#4731234)
FWIW, Bonds is already up to #82! And Jeter has dropped to #86 and Connor has dropped as well!!!

Sadly, Poz gets it slightly wrong in the detail -- Bonds is #82 ... among position players! ELO separates the two -- Clemens is #29 among pitchers which is silly but at least he's mixed in behind some HoFers and borderline guys. For example, he's ahead of Glavine, Smoltz, Drysdale, Marichal, Sutton and even St. Mariano.

Interestingly Larkin and Stargell (and Alomar) are behind Barry -- shows you want being a one-team, class guy will get ya. Meanwhile Rose is 35th and Shoeless Joe is 58th.

I realize that the fan EloRater is not the census and it’s not the Constitution. It is just a fun game that takes into account fans emotions as much as anything else — and, of course, Barry Bonds would rate very low on most people’s “most honorable players” or “most likable players” list. But I guess this gets to the heart of why I really dislike the idea of keeping Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and a handful of others out of the Hall of Fame. By doing so, we replace history with moral judgment. We replace what happened with what we think should have happened.

I guess it comes do this: We cannot change the basic fact that Bonds and Clemens, for all their flaws, were two of the greatest players in baseball history. And to be honest about it, we look petty and silly trying.


While I can't disagree with Poz here, I also can't blame folks who try to enforce the character clause(s). Like it or not, they're right in there among the criteria.

I mean, it is very silly in ELO ratings which aren't supposed to have a character component -- it's not supposed to matter whether he's got character flaws. But those who support Bonds for the HoF don't have the luxury of pretending those criteria aren't on the list. You either have to argue that what he did was not a "violation" of the character clause or that what he did on the field dwarfs what he did off the field such that he's still over the line. That's where no progress has been made.

But "Bonds was one of the greatest players ever" is no more persuasive to the anti-Bonds side than "Bonds was a no-good cheater" is persuasive to the pro-Bonds side. It is obvious by now that "OMG!! Look at the WAR!" is not going to carry the day. If you are going to engage on the issue of whether Bonds is morally fit for the HoF, then engage the issue and explain why he is.
   3. vivaelpujols Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:56 AM (#4731245)
or that what he did on the field dwarfs what he did off the field such that he's still over the line


Um that's pretty easy. With the exception of players who were specifically banned by MLB (Rose, Joe Jackson), no player anywhere close to Bonds in terms of stats has been excluded from the HOF because of the character clause. So you'd have to argue that Bonds was uniquely despicable, in a completely different league than other guys who surely failed the character test (Cobb for being #######, Perry for cheating). Even then it's a suspect argument because Cobb wasn't a borderline HOFer, he was a slam dunk. So his bad character barely counted against him at all. So basically you'd have to argue that no other HOFer in the history of baseball has failed the character test, or you have to argue that it's suddenly ok, now, to change the weighting so that character is given like 60% of the criteria (welcome to a David Eckstein HOF).
   4. Bhaakon Posted: June 20, 2014 at 05:21 AM (#4731262)
Um that's pretty easy. With the exception of players who were specifically banned by MLB (Rose, Joe Jackson), no player anywhere close to Bonds in terms of stats has been excluded from the HOF because of the character clause. So you'd have to argue that Bonds was uniquely despicable, in a completely different league than other guys who surely failed the character test (Cobb for being #######, Perry for cheating).


Nowhere in the voting guidelines are voters required, or even asked, to follow the precedent set by previous elections, and thank god. Otherwise they'd be forced by rule to vote for every player better than Catfish Hunter. It lists six criteria, three of which are arguably related to PED use (integrity, sportsmanship, and character).

Since, as you say, the BBWAA had no opportunity to vote on the players proven to have bet on games, and most of them played nearly a century ago anyway, there's really very little precedent to guide voters on extreme on-field violations of the character clause (which many voters and fans obviously consider PED use to be). The closest I can think of is ball doctoring, but that's never been viewed as more than shenanigans, it was once perfectly legal (there was even a push in the '60's to re-legalize it), and it's likely that Gaylord Perry's reputation for doctoring delayed his HOF election.
   5. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 20, 2014 at 06:11 AM (#4731266)
But, of course, we know the reason why Bonds is ranked so low — people think he cheated. People don’t like him. People think he was a discredit to the game. And that’s fine; Barry Bonds basically asked to be despised with his attitude and the way he treated many people. I say: Loathe away. The trouble begins for me when people move on from loathing and try to change obvious history in order to fit into a neat narrative that fits how they want to see the game.

But they're not "changing history". They're simply factoring in their opinions about steroids into their evaluation of a player.

And anyway, what that #82 ranking almost certainly amounts to is a whole bunch of #1 through #5 votes negated by a bunch of votes where Bonds got left off the ballot altogether. IOW it's no more meaningful than a mid-range presidential approval rating, or the division over whether Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame. That division is hardly "new news", so why should this ranking surprise anyone?
   6. Good cripple hitter Posted: June 20, 2014 at 06:32 AM (#4731268)

And anyway, what that #82 ranking almost certainly amounts to is a whole bunch of #1 through #5 votes negated by a bunch of votes where Bonds got left off the ballot altogether.


That's now how ELO ratings work. BB-Ref gives you two players who are already ranked. You choose the better player.

From the FAQ:

For example, suppose Barry Bonds ("BB") has a rating of 2500 and Babe Ruth ("BR") has a rating of 2450. The win probabilities for each player are:

P(BB wins) = 1 / (1 + 10^((2450 - 2500) / 400)) = 0.571
P(BR wins) = 1 / (1 + 10^((2500 - 2450) / 400)) = 0.429

If BB wins then the new ratings are:

BB_new = 2500 + 24 * 0.429 = 2510
BR_new = 2450 - 24 * 0.429 = 2440

While if BR wins then the new ratings are:

BB_new = 2500 - 24 * 0.571 = 2486
BR_new = 2450 + 24 * 0.571 = 2464
   7. Rennie's Tenet Posted: June 20, 2014 at 07:00 AM (#4731270)
In ranking the best players, it's completely orthodox procedure to ask if a player would be adaptable to different eras and playing conditions. Getting a unique lift from a needle is no different than getting a unique lift from the fair foul rule.
   8. An Athletic in Powderhorn™ Posted: June 20, 2014 at 07:30 AM (#4731273)
[Pedantry]

Elo is not an acronym. It's the name of the guy who created the rating system.

[/Pedantry]

I'm in favor of giving Bonds full credit for everything. The Hall obviously is not. That used to bother me, but around the time of the Rice election I accepted that the Hall and I have very divergent points of view on who they should be enshrining. So I don't give their opinions much more weight than they give mine.
   9. Joey B. has reignited his October #Natitude Posted: June 20, 2014 at 07:58 AM (#4731283)
Joe P.: the lickspittle's lickspittle.
   10. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 20, 2014 at 08:07 AM (#4731288)
And anyway, what that #82 ranking almost certainly amounts to is a whole bunch of #1 through #5 votes negated by a bunch of votes where Bonds got left off the ballot altogether.

That's now how ELO ratings work. BB-Ref gives you two players who are already ranked. You choose the better player.


I stand corrected on the methodology, but that methodology still allows for a huge amount of subjectivity. Without that subjectivity, it's hard to imagine any ranking that would put Bonds lower than #5 or #6, and that's being conservative. I'd keep him out of the Hall of Fame, but that's because I see that as an honor as well as a reflection of statistical greatness. But by any reasonably objective measure, his stats speak for his value, and other than (maybe) Ruth, who in the hell could possibly rank above Bonds when you factor in his all-around skills and the vastly improved talent pool in his era?
   11. Bitter Mouse Posted: June 20, 2014 at 08:27 AM (#4731298)
who in the hell could possibly rank above Bonds


The top position players are likely: Ruth, Bonds, Wagner, Williams and Mays. I think you can make a case for almost any order. Bonds lower than 5th or 6th (like you said) is pretty much madness.
   12. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 08:38 AM (#4731304)
If you are going to engage on the issue of whether Bonds is morally fit for the HoF, then engage the issue and explain why he is.


Because suddenly invoking the character clause for steroids when it wasn't invoked for amphetamines is applying a new standard and thus is dishonest.

Next?
   13. JE (Jason) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 08:46 AM (#4731311)
Posnanski: A Barry Bond Thought

"Bond. Barry Bond."

Yeah, I can see Barry ranked behind Sean, Roger, Timothy, and Daniel. He's got to be neck and neck with George though.
   14. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 08:48 AM (#4731312)
Because suddenly invoking the character clause for steroids when it wasn't invoked for amphetamines is applying a new standard and thus is dishonest.


Not all drugs are equivalent in the eyes of the law, why should they be equivalent in the eyes of normal people?
   15. Greg K Posted: June 20, 2014 at 09:19 AM (#4731324)
I stand corrected on the methodology, but that methodology still allows for a huge amount of subjectivity. Without that subjectivity, it's hard to imagine any ranking that would put Bonds lower than #5 or #6, and that's being conservative. I'd keep him out of the Hall of Fame, but that's because I see that as an honor as well as a reflection of statistical greatness. But by any reasonably objective measure, his stats speak for his value, and other than (maybe) Ruth, who in the hell could possibly rank above Bonds when you factor in his all-around skills and the vastly improved talent pool in his era?

To be fair, he could still be "left off the ballot" in an ELO ranking. If people just flat out always voted for the other player. Though I would guess that more people would leave Bonds off a list of Top 100 or Top 500, than would rank Olmedo Seanz as a better player than him in a head of head match up.
   16. Bitter Mouse Posted: June 20, 2014 at 09:29 AM (#4731327)
If you are going to engage on the issue of whether Bonds is morally fit for the HoF, then engage the issue and explain why he is.


Because MLB as a whole (teams, coaches, players, heck even fans) did not care about Steroids enough to really do anything about it steroids during the time period Bonds is alleged to have used steroids. Its use had been common knowledge for well over a decade and no one cared, not really. Once there was a hubbub, then we saw how fast MLB could move and testing with teeth was put in place. And once testing was in place Bonds never failed a test.

Punishing someone, even if you are really sure it happened, for something when obviously no one cared is changing the rules after the fact and is unfair, more unfair than using the steroids (which were easily available to everyone) was in the first place.

You will never hear one negative word from me about applying the rules in MLB. That is what they are for. But when something is clearly common place and has been for years and years, selectively applying a nebulous standard like "character clause" for the first time retroactively is just wrong.

I know, think of the children! Well there are plenty of bad people in the HoF (Hi Ty Cobb!). To after the fact decide that this matters, when the culture of the game clearly accepted the behavior while it was happening, is hypocritical. I have no problem in banning or discounting players who fail steroid tests since testing was put in place and it has become verboten, but to apply that standard to people from before then is unfair.
   17. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: June 20, 2014 at 09:32 AM (#4731331)
Because suddenly invoking the character clause for steroids when it wasn't invoked for amphetamines is applying a new standard and thus is dishonest.

Actually, no. The voting criteria were the same when the writers evaluated the stars of the amp era. Under those criteria, they elected the amp era stars and haven't elected the roid era stars.

There's nothing remotely "dishonest" about that. It would have been "dishonest" if they'd changed the criteria to keep the roid era stars out, as they changed the rules to keep Pete Rose out. That was dishonest.
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 09:40 AM (#4731335)
Without that subjectivity, it's hard to imagine any ranking that would put Bonds lower than #5 or #6, and that's being conservative.

I don't think that's all that conservative. I think Henry Aaron's 35+ career is about the best case for a clean Bonds. Aaron aged as well as anybody, ever, without chemical enhancement. Give Bonds 150 OPS+ and 31 WAR for age 35+ and he ends up around a 155 OPS+, 135 career WAR.

Strictly numerically, that would put him behind Ruth, Mays, Aaron, Cobb, T Williams (war credit), and in a scrum with Speaker, Wagner, Hornsby and Collins. So, 6th through 10th, but that's not being particularly conservative.

Personally, I'd probably put Bonds 12th. I think I'd move Mantle and Gehrig ahead of him, in additional to those 9.
   19. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 09:46 AM (#4731338)
I don't think that's all that conservative. I think Henry Aaron's 35+ career is about the best case for a clean Bonds. Aaron aged as well as anybody, ever, without chemical enhancement.


Amps. If not steroids.
   20. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 09:48 AM (#4731340)
Amps. If not steroids.

Are you saying Barry never used amps?

If you want, I'm happy to dock Aaron, and Bonds, and whoever else you claim used amps. What do you want to call it? 10 WAR?

Of course we have the little problem that stimulants are still prevalent in MLB, you just have to get a Dr. to write you a BS prescription, and say you have ADHD.

I'm more inclined to think stimulants have been part of the baseline performance pretty much forever. Are caffeine and nicotine that much worse than amps as stimulants?
   21. DanG Posted: June 20, 2014 at 09:51 AM (#4731346)
But "Bonds was one of the greatest players ever" is no more persuasive to the anti-Bonds side than "Bonds was a no-good cheater" is persuasive to the pro-Bonds side. It is obvious by now that "OMG!! Look at the WAR!" is not going to carry the day. If you are going to engage on the issue of whether Bonds is morally fit for the HoF, then engage the issue and explain why he is.
My initial thought is that more than 90% of the Elo Rater players have never heard of Roger Connor.

Next, I think that, given their history, the BBWAA voters and the HOF have enormous chutzpah to be passing moral judgment on anybody.

As for “persuading” the anti-Bonds crowd, you might as well try persuading fish not to swim. The vast majority of the un-Bonded set are acting from emotion: they HATE Bonds; he’s a cheater; he’ll make the Hall when they pry the ballot from my dead, ink-stained fingers.

The sensible solution is to scrub the phrase “integrity, sportsmanship, character” from the HOF election rules. Call me when that happens. And even if they made that change many voters would still apply their personal moral code to HOF candidates, simply out of habit.
   22. Bitter Mouse Posted: June 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM (#4731353)
Actually, no. The voting criteria were the same when the writers evaluated the stars of the amp era. Under those criteria, they elected the amp era stars and haven't elected the roid era stars.


The written criteria have not changed, the application of that criteria did change.

And I don't know why you included amps in your reply to me, Amps are irrelevant to my argument. If you want to yell about amps versus steroids feel free to discuss with Ray. I have opinions on the subject, but that is not the argument I presented.
   23. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: June 20, 2014 at 10:14 AM (#4731368)
The written criteria have not changed, the application of that criteria did change.

No, it didn't. Same criteria, same application.

If you want to yell about amps versus steroids feel free to discuss with Ray. I have opinions on the subject, but that is not the argument I presented.


I quoted Ray, not you.
   24. AROM, Instagram Gangsta Posted: June 20, 2014 at 10:16 AM (#4731370)
The odd thing about the post is that Roger Connor, an 1890s 1B of considerable quality, may well be the best player on the list there. - Brock Hanke


Connor was a huge man for his time - 6'3 and 220. Put him in a time machine and he'd fit right in with the 1B/DH of today, assuming he shaved off the 'stache.
   25. DanG Posted: June 20, 2014 at 10:26 AM (#4731379)
Connor was a huge man for his time - 6'3 and 220. Put him in a time machine and he'd fit right in with the 1B/DH of today, assuming he shaved off the 'stache.
HR leaders through 1920:

Rk          Player  HR  ISO    PA From   To
1     Roger Connor 138 .170  8847 1880 1897
2     Sam Thompson 126 .174  6525 1885 1906
3     Harry Stovey 122 .172  6832 1880 1893
4    Gavvy Cravath 119 .191  4642 1908 1920
5       Jimmy Ryan 118 .136  9124 1885 1903
6       Hugh Duffy 106 .125  7841 1888 1906
7    Dan Brouthers 106 .177  7676 1879 1904
8     Mike Tiernan 106 .152  6732 1887 1899
9        Babe Ruth 103 .322  1948 1914 1920
10    Honus Wagner 101 .139 11748 1897 1917
11    Ed Delahanty 101 .159  8400 1888 1903 
   26. Bitter Mouse Posted: June 20, 2014 at 10:26 AM (#4731380)
I quoted Ray, not you.


My bad. Continue your "Amps are different than Steroids quest".
   27. TDF, situational idiot Posted: June 20, 2014 at 10:39 AM (#4731388)
I've always thought the Elo rater was complete crap. Take a look at some of the rankings:

1. Gehrig, a very fine player but not nearly as good or valuable as many other players, is currently #3, behind only Ruth and Wagner.
2. Musial, a great hitter, but average runner and defender is ahead of Mays, a nearly identical hitter but vastly better runner and the best defensive CF of all time.
3. Chipper Jones is #25.
4. While Bonds is currently up to #73, ARod (the guy who should be getting the biggest PED penalty) is #43. Seriously - what can you say about Bonds that isn't 10X worse with ARod?

But the worst is the Elo rater for basketball. Wilt Chamberlain, whom Andy and I had a long discussion about a week or 2 ago as to whether he's the best or 2nd best center in the history of the game (and many people would argue that he's the best player period), is currently #55, between Alex English and Dwyane Wade; Bill Russell is ranked #30. While the top 20 in baseball are almost all inner-circle HOF types, the current top 10 in basketball are:

1. Larry Bird
2. John Stockton
3. Hakeem Olijuwon
4. Bob Pettit
5. Michael Jordan
6. Magic Johnson
7. Tim Duncan
8. Pete Maravich
9. Jason Kidd
10. Karl Malone

Whatever the Elo rater is trying to prove, it isn't.
   28. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 10:44 AM (#4731391)
1. Gehrig, a very fine player but not nearly as good or valuable as many other players, is currently #3, behind only Ruth and Wagner.

Ummm, I think you need to study up on Lou Gehrig.

He's 4th all-time in OPS+, and averaged 8 WAR per season (excluding seasons of 8, 10 and 13 games).

If he doesn't get struck with a horrible disease at age 35, he's almost certainly in the top-10 in career WAR.

He may not be top-3, but he's probably top-10. Inner-circle all time great, which is several huge steps above "very fine player".

   29. Bitter Mouse Posted: June 20, 2014 at 10:56 AM (#4731405)
the current top 10 in basketball are:


So wrong it hurts. When every legit option for #1 all time* is not in the top 3 (and 4 of the 5 are absent from the top 10), something has gone horribly wrong.

* Reasonable GOAT options are:
- Wilt
- Russell
- Jordan
- KAJ
- (Maybe) LeBron

Anyone who does not have one of those as number 1 is a lunatic regarding b-ball.
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 11:01 AM (#4731412)
* Reasonable GOAT options are:
- Wilt
- Russell
- Jordan
- KAJ
- (Maybe) LeBron

Anyone who does not have one of those as number 1 is a lunatic regarding b-ball.


Oscar Robertson is not in the conversation?
   31. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: June 20, 2014 at 11:06 AM (#4731420)
Bonds is up to #73.

#70. Tony Gwynn… #71. Craig Biggio… #72. Frank Thomas… #73. BARRY BONDS… #74. Jim Thome… #75. Dwight Evans…

   32. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: June 20, 2014 at 11:08 AM (#4731424)
Whatever the Elo rater is trying to prove, it isn't.

Maybe its trying to prove that letting the general population vote on things gives you odd results.
   33. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 20, 2014 at 11:08 AM (#4731425)
Elliott Kalb's 2004 book, Who's Better, Who's Best in Basketball? ranks the top 10 this way:

1. Shaq
2. Wilt
3. Jordan
4. Russell
5. Kareem
6. Bird
7. Magic
8. Oscar
9. Duncan
10. Cousy

I can't see Cousy in the top 10, and Duncan would rate higher now, but other than that these are all arguable choices. You can disagree with the order, but he lays out good cases for all his rankings, which extend to #100.
   34. Booey Posted: June 20, 2014 at 11:34 AM (#4731447)
The sensible solution is to scrub the phrase “integrity, sportsmanship, character” from the HOF election rules. Call me when that happens. And even if they made that change many voters would still apply their personal moral code to HOF candidates, simply out of habit.


This. Since the character clause was basically ignored for 70 years and is now being retroactively applied to steroid users and ONLY steroid users, it seems obvious (to me, at least) that it's just an excuse to snub players the voters don't like while retaining the right to vote for others with questionable character that didn't offend them.

I strongly believe that if the HOF removed the character clause from the voting guidelines entirely, the Bonds/Clemens/McGwire/Sosa types STILL wouldn't get elected. They're not in the HOF cuz the majority of the voters don't want them to be. The character clause is just a crutch.
   35. Bitter Mouse Posted: June 20, 2014 at 11:44 AM (#4731451)
Oscar Robertson is not in the conversation?


Not in my opinion. Nor in any of the (many) conversations I have read in various places.

Elliott Kalb's 2004 book, Who's Better, Who's Best in Basketball? ranks the top 10 this way:

1. Shaq


I think both KAJ and Wilt have MUCH better most dominant big man, freakishly athletic compared to peers, arguments than does Shaq. Shaq is, IMO, clearly next tier, with Duncan and those dudes. Shaq did not dominate statistically enough, nor did he win like Russell did. I have not read the book, but I strongly question any methodology that puts Shaq #1. Perhaps the recency of Shaq and lack of major decline was coloring his judgement.
   36. Swoboda is freedom Posted: June 20, 2014 at 11:45 AM (#4731453)
Yeah, I can see Barry ranked behind Sean, Roger, Timothy, and Daniel. He's got to be neck and neck with George though.

I happen to think that "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" is one of the best Bond films. Not that Emma Peel (Diana) in the film has anything to do with my opinion.
   37. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 11:58 AM (#4731466)
Not in my opinion. Nor in any of the (many) conversations I have read in various places.

Why is this? Short career?

B-Refs basketball site has him 8th in career win shares (which I assume is some sort of sabremetric thing).
   38. Ron J2 Posted: June 20, 2014 at 12:17 PM (#4731489)
Snapper to attribute Bonds' late career excellence exclusively to PEDs you pretty much have to assume that there were no players besides Bonds who were using PEDs in their mid to late 30s. And frankly that seems remarkably improbable to me.

Yes, Bonds' play from 35 on is without precedent, but one offs are never evidence of anything.

   39. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 12:29 PM (#4731496)
Snapper to attribute Bonds' late career excellence exclusively to PEDs you pretty much have to assume that there were no players besides Bonds who were using PEDs in their mid to late 30s. And frankly that seems remarkably improbable to me.

Yes, Bonds' play from 35 on is without precedent, but one offs are never evidence of anything.


I'm assuming he still would have been excellent, he was an all-time great. Giving him the equivalent credit of Aaron's or Mays' decline phase, is saying he would have remained an excellent player.

But, the fact remains, that no player have ever become markedly better after age-35 than they were before. The best-of-the-best maintained most of their production. It's probably not humanly possible to overcome the effects of aging and actually improved through natural means.

It is entirely possible that Bonds stumbled on a better combination of steroids, other PEDs, and training than anyone else was using.

   40. Hank G. Posted: June 20, 2014 at 12:37 PM (#4731507)
Maybe its trying to prove that letting the general population vote on things gives you odd results.


I think we have numerous Presidential elections to prove that.
   41. theboyqueen Posted: June 20, 2014 at 12:37 PM (#4731509)
Elliott Kalb's 2004 book, Who's Better, Who's Best in Basketball? ranks the top 10 this way:

1. Shaq
2. Wilt
3. Jordan
4. Russell
5. Kareem
6. Bird
7. Magic
8. Oscar
9. Duncan
10. Cousy


Cousy at 10 is way more ridiculous than Shaq at 1, which is pretty ridiculous to begin with. I think Duncan around 9 now is pretty close, but in 2004 that seems hard to believe.

Not that I know anything about 50's basketball, but in '56-'57 Cousy averaged 20.1 ppg on .378 shooting, which seems amazing.

As to the basketball-reference one, perhaps there are bonus points for being white? Which doesn't speak well to the people sitting there clicking through these things.
   42. theboyqueen Posted: June 20, 2014 at 12:39 PM (#4731511)
What possible argument is there for Shaq ahead of Kareem?
   43. TDF, situational idiot Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:02 PM (#4731553)
Ummm, I think you need to study up on Lou Gehrig....

He may not be top-3, but he's probably top-10. Inner-circle all time great, which is several huge steps above "very fine player".
I guess my problem is that the guys better than him (by WAR, at least) are much better.
(Gehrig) averaged 8 WAR per season (excluding seasons of 8, 10 and 13 games).
So, over 14 consecutive seasons.

Ruth: 9.5 over 16 consecutive seasons.
Bonds: 8.4 over 18
Mays: 8.3 over 18
Hornsby: 8.9 over 13, 8.6 over 14
Williams: 8.6 over 4, missed 3 years for WWII, 8.2 over 6, missed 2 seasons for Korea, 7.6 over 4. If he'd played instead of going to war, he might have averaged 8.5 over 19 consecutive years.

Also, remember that WAR is a counting stat, which helps Gehrig a lot. During those 14 consecutive seasons, he accumulated 8.1/650 PA.

Cobb: 14 consecutive seasons of 9 per 650, 19 of 8.6
Mantle: 14 of 8.4
Aaron: 17 of 8.1
Speaker: 14 of 8.4

So I could see an argument for top-10 maybe, but also remember that his last healthy season was at age 35 and no primary 1B (>50% of games played) accumulated more than 17 WAR starting age 36 (Darrell Evans) and only 4 even reached 10 WAR (Gallaraga, Palmiero, Mickey Vernon). EDIT: Heck, when Gehrig retired, only 6 primary 1B had even accumulated 3 WAR after turning 36 and only 10 accumulated 1 WAR.
   44. alilisd Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:12 PM (#4731564)
@ #8: How could such a pedant conflate the HOF with the BBWAA? ;-)
   45. McCoy Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:16 PM (#4731569)

But, the fact remains, that no player have ever become markedly better after age-35 than they were before.


Zack Wheat. Age 35 to 37 put up a 150 OPS+ then age and injuries caught up to him and he put up two averagish OPS+ partial seasons to knock it down to a 135 OPS+ in those 5 seasons. Anyway up until his age 35 season he had a career OPS+ of 127 and then averaged a 150 OPS+ over the next three seasons.
   46. alilisd Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:20 PM (#4731574)
Booey, I'm not seeing that. McGwire was hugely popular, and has done all the"right" things. I've never heard of him being difficult with the press. He'd be elected easily, perhaps Sosa, too, though it seems his popularity and fan friendly demeanor may not have been as genuine as Mac's. Heck, even Clemens would have a shot. Bonds is the only one you consistently heard was a huge prick when he was playing.
   47. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:31 PM (#4731594)
Zack Wheat. Age 35 to 37 put up a 150 OPS+ then age and injuries caught up to him and he put up two averagish OPS+ partial seasons to knock it down to a 135 OPS+ in those 5 seasons. Anyway up until his age 35 season he had a career OPS+ of 127 and then averaged a 150 OPS+ over the next three seasons.

So,the one guy you can point to, straddling the dead-ball, live-ball gap, put up seasons of 145, 163, 142 OPS+, who had previously had a 145 and a 150 season. So, he had his career year, and 2 years roughly as good as his other best years.

Bond however, put up 4 years at age 36-39 that were significantly better than his best season before that; average a 256 OPS+, vs. a previous high of 206. While, at the same time engaging in what we now know was one of the most sophisticated PED/workout programs ever used.

What's more likely, Bonds just happened to have an unprecedented late career surge, or Bonds got a ####-ton of help from PEDs?
   48. alilisd Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:33 PM (#4731600)
45: Wheat had a 150 @ 28, 145 @ 26, 140 @ 33. His 35 & 37 seasons were 145 & 142. He did have a career year at 36 with a 163. He's in no way comparable to Bonds going from career best marks of 204 & 206 @ 27 & 28 to 259, 268, 231, 263 from 36 to 39.
   49. Booey Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:35 PM (#4731602)
alilisd - McGwire and Sosa were hugely popular while they were playing, back when everyone was content to sit back and enjoy the ride. They aren't popular now. If they lifted the character clause, voters would just come up with different excuses not to vote for them; McGwire was only a .263 career hitter, Sosa was nothing special outside of his 5 year peak, Palmeiro was just a compiler, Manny being Manny, etc. I have no idea what excuses people would come up with regarding Bonds and Clemens, but I'm pretty confident that there'd still be enough voters that would think of something to keep them out.

Edit: Or, they wouldn't even bother coming up with an excuse not to vote for Bonds/Clemens. They just wouldn't do it. They've never been required to justify non-sensical votes in the past.
   50. bjhanke Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:37 PM (#4731605)
I keep track in my head of who I think are the best 12 basketball players ever (the All-Time All-Star team), because 12 is the number on a NBA roster. So, just to post another list to compare to Elliot Kalb, here it is. Please bear in mind that I am not a serious basketball analyst, and that I know less about modern players. I left off anyone who is still active.


1. Bill Russell
2. Michael Jordan
3. Oscar Robertson
4. Bob Pettit
5. Julius Erving
6. Wilt Chamberlain
7. KAJ
8. Magic Johnson
9. Larry Bird
10. Paul Arizin (early 1950s guy, best set-shot-shooter of all time, and an exceptional player with the jump shot too, good defense)
11. Charles Barkley
12. John Stockton or Bob Cousy

This breaks down as:

STARTERS
C Russell
PF Pettit
SF Erving
SG Jordan
PG Magic

Swing Big Man: KAJ (may turn out to be Tim Duncan when he retires)

BENCH
C Wilt
PF Barkley
SF Bird
SG Arizin
PG Stockton or Cousy

Swing Small Man: Oscar

Once you force Kalb to actually make up the roster by position, I think it's pretty likely that my team would beat his. He has too many centers, some of whom will have to play power forward, and their long-range gunners ares few (Bird, Oscar, Jordan was a drive-and-score guy, not a long-range bomber.)
   51. bjhanke Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:44 PM (#4731615)
The best move Kalb could make, IMO, would be to drop Shaq altogether and add Julius Erving. Shaq, adjusting for time period, was probably no better than George Mikan (meaning that Mikan gets remade into a 7' 2" center who could run the court). Erving, like Oscar, serves the function of glue holding the front line and back line together. - Brock
   52. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:44 PM (#4731617)
Undoubtedly overrating Dr. J there, Brock, much as a I hate to admit it. (He's my all-time favorite player. Hell, my all-time favorite athlete, period.) Now, if he'd had his ABA legs after the merger ...
   53. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:54 PM (#4731634)
But, the fact remains, that no player have ever become markedly better after age-35 than they were before.


Snapper, it is amazing to me that you don't see that this argument cuts against your conclusion.
   54. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 01:58 PM (#4731644)
What's more likely, Bonds just happened to have an unprecedented late career surge, or Bonds got a ####-ton of help from PEDs?


The former. Obviously.

You don't base a conclusion on a single data point, unless Bonds was the only one using.
   55. alilisd Posted: June 20, 2014 at 02:03 PM (#4731646)
Booey, I've just never had the impression writers dislike McGwire. Sure you'll see sentiment against him from fans, and even some articles, but the latter, imo, are largely to drive sales. In your scenario, character clause removed unambiguously by the HOF, I think he'd be elected. Just my 2¢ though.
   56. Rennie's Tenet Posted: June 20, 2014 at 02:10 PM (#4731655)
Reasonable GOAT options are:
- Wilt
- Russell
- Jordan
- KAJ
- (Maybe) LeBron


I spent a couple of minutes trying to figure out if Magic isn't actually Kearvin A. Johnson or K. Arvin Johnson, then looked it up and saw it was Kareem. Has he gone off Kareem?

But when something is clearly common place and has been for years and years, selectively applying a nebulous standard like "character clause" for the first time retroactively is just wrong.


Maybe I'm misreading, but when we're talking about assessment of careers, isn't retroactive for a player the only way to apply a standard?
   57. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 20, 2014 at 02:12 PM (#4731658)
Kalb's starting five for position would be Shaq, Bird, Duncan, Jordan and Magic. I'd substitute Russell for Shaq and LeBron for Duncan, but I don't think there'd be much difference in the results.

His second team would be Wilt, Oscar, Cousy, Pettit (#11) and Baylor (#13). His swing man would be Erving (#15). I'm pretty sure his top 11 by position would beat the 11 you've taken. You've got lots of great players, but as a group too many of them are too small or not fast enough. I can't see either Arizin or Cousy on any all-time dream team, and either of them over Oscar Robertson stretches credibility to the limit. And I can't even imagine Erving over Bird in anything other than a dunking contest. Bird trumps the Doctor in every major statistical category other than FG%, and that's even counting Erving's years in the ABA.

My starting five would be
Russell
Bird
LeBron
Magic
Jordan

Second team
Kareem
Duncan
Baylor
Robertson
West

Swing Man
Havlicek

Of course putting LeBron on there may be "cheating" in that he's still active, so if I had to drop him I'd elevate Duncan to the first team and put Karl Malone on the second team. I'd choose Malone over Dr. J because you'd need to replace Duncan's rebounding. With Erving and Baylor you'd have two small forwards.
   58. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: June 20, 2014 at 02:28 PM (#4731668)
Booey, I've just never had the impression writers dislike McGwire.

Mac always seemed to be considered a little prickly by writers. Then he reacted defensively about the Andro or whatever that canister was in his locker in 1998, and thereafter his relationship with the writers was poor.
   59. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 02:51 PM (#4731683)
Snapper, it is amazing to me that you don't see that this argument cuts against your conclusion.

How? If something is an enormous outlier, we look for an explanation of that outlier, we don't just say "random #### is random".

We also know know plenty of other players who had late career surges or sustained excellence longer due to PEDs. We don't need to believe Bonds was the only one using to believe he got a huge boost. We know Bonds used a particularly sophisticated PED regimen. And we know he was very likely the best player to use.

It is the height of fanboy blindness to say that Bonds' unprecedented late career improvement, and his highly sophisticated PED regimen, which both happened at the same exact time, are unconnected.
   60. McCoy Posted: June 20, 2014 at 03:17 PM (#4731700)
From age 35 to age 39 Hank Aaron put up a 168 OPS+ which includes a career high 194 OPS+ (which surpasses his previous career high of 182). Up until that point his career average in OPS+ was 157.
   61. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 03:25 PM (#4731713)
From age 35 to age 39 Hank Aaron put up a 168 OPS+

And from 23 to 29 he put up a 167 OPS+. Show me the pre-PED years when Bonds put up a 250 OPS+ and I'll admit they're comparable.

As I said earlier, I mentally give Bonds credit for an Aaron/Mays decline phase; about 30 WAR post age-35. I think that's very generous.

I have no reason to think he could have done better absent PEDs (not to mention that bullshit armor he wore).
   62. Ron J2 Posted: June 20, 2014 at 03:26 PM (#4731715)
Sorry Snapper, it remains sloppy thinking. Unless you're prepared to argue that no aging player used PEDs.

   63. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 03:31 PM (#4731728)
Sorry Snapper, it remains sloppy thinking. Unless you're prepared to argue that no aging player used PEDs.

Plenty of aging players used PEDs in the 90's and 2000's. That's why we saw a lot more great late career performances.

The idea that Barry Bonds suddenly became a much better baseball player at 36 than he was at 25 is just laughable, and was better at 39 that 25 is even more laughable. Anyone who knows what it feels like to be 39 and 25 should be able to tell you that.

Why is it so hard to believe that one player, one who had a particularly sophisticated PED program going, extracted more benefits from PEDs that the others? That's easier to believe than that Barry Bonds miraculously reversed aging.

To me this feels like the whole big-bang/string theory debate. Intelligent people are willing to believe in an absurd hypothesis (infinite multi-verses) to avoid a logical conclusion they find unpalatable (there was a creation event).
   64. Booey Posted: June 20, 2014 at 03:44 PM (#4731753)
Booey, I've just never had the impression writers dislike McGwire. Sure you'll see sentiment against him from fans


Writers ARE fans, though. Reading many of the articles they publish around election time, lots of them are clearly offended by steroids. Even if they don't dislike him as a person, they still think he's a cheater and I suspect that would outweigh everything else. Removing the character clause wouldn't force them to vote for him any more than having it in there forbids them from voting for him. It would still be their choice. No one holds them accountable for their votes.

Until voters start snubbing qualified players for character issues other than PED's, I have a hard time believing Bonds/McGwire/Clemens/etc are really being seen as unworthy due to the character clause, rather than unworthy specifically due to PED's. I think there's a distinction to many.
   65. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 03:46 PM (#4731756)
As I said earlier, I mentally give Bonds credit for an Aaron/Mays decline phase; about 30 WAR post age-35. I think that's very generous.


Since his actual WAR for that time period was 51, I don't see how giving him 30 is generous at all, let alone "very generous."

If you give me a 100 dollar bill and I give you back $60, I have swindled you. In that case, I am the cheater, not you. Unless I show why it's justified that I just screwed you out of $40. You've not shown justification.

   66. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 03:52 PM (#4731771)
Why is it so hard to believe that one player, one who had a particularly sophisticated PED program going, extracted more benefits from PEDs that the others? That's easier to believe than that Barry Bonds miraculously reversed aging.


So now you're arguing that he's unique because he had a "particularly sophisticated PED program going."

Sheffield and Giambi were BALCO clients too and saw nothing like Bonds did. Velarde was a BALCO client. Santiago. Benard. Estalella. Jeremy G.

Hell, ARod seems to have had a "particularly sophisticated PED program going," and his career has fallen apart.

You look for all the world like you formed your conclusion first and searched for reasons to support it thereafter. Unless you can show that Bonds was the only player who had a "particularly sophisticated PED program going."
   67. Ron J2 Posted: June 20, 2014 at 03:56 PM (#4731775)
As to other factors.

1) He made a pretty clear training decision to trade general athleticism for upper body strength. There's nothing about steroid use that makes this inevitable. Balco clients included sprinters and linebackers after all (to be clear, I don't dispute that steroids -- plus training -- work to improve strength or speed)

2) He made several big changes in his hitting approach. Successful changes at the major league level are uncommon and I can't think of an elite player who's ever reworked his game to the extent Bonds did. Because of a change in the way the strike zone was called he started to swing at pitches he's always taken. And in the process demonstrated that while he was the best low ball hitter in the game he was an even better high ball hitter (seriously, Brock Hanke went through the archive of Bonds' record HR season and found a huge number came on high pitches -- that he'd have taken before. From the day he came into the league Bonds did not swing at balls)

3) Probably due to point 2 he increased his flyball rate. If you do nothing beyond trading groundballs for flyballs and keep everything else the same you're very likely to end up ahead of the game. In fact Bonds was not just hitting more flyballs, he was also more successful on them.

4) Not only was he a pioneer with maple, according to Sam Holman (the guy who made his bats) he was different from any of Holman's other customers in that he used a much thicker handle. Probably as a result of this he never had the issue of bats shattering that happened to so many other maple bat users (seriously, nobody hits very well when the bat shatters and I can't think of many PAs he gave away to this)

And compared to other guys who hit well in their mid to late 30s he simply took better care of himself than Ruth (from 35-37 his OPS+ was 211, 218 and 201) and Williams had a lot of health related issues (but still put up a 233 at 38 and a 190 at 41). Is it surprising that he aged better? Father time gets everybody, but it's certainly plausible that Ruth had a few more huge years in him with more care to his overall health.
   68. AROM, Instagram Gangsta Posted: June 20, 2014 at 03:56 PM (#4731777)
Oscar Robertson is not in the conversation?


Not for GOAT. He was a top 10 player alltime for a while, but at this point there have been enough great players to bump him to the 10-20 range.

He was picked one spot ahead of West, but Jerry was the better player. Jerry led his teams to more success, partly because he was a far better defensive player.

As a rough estimate of on/off rating, I looked at how Jerry West's teams did with and without him in the lineup for 1962-63, and 66-67 to 68-69. I didn't cherry pick those years, just picked a group of years in his prime where he missed a good amount of games to give me a good sample size. Anyway, Lakers were 46-46 without Jerry and 150-82 with him.

I can't find if I did something similar for Robertson.
   69. tfbg9 Posted: June 20, 2014 at 03:56 PM (#4731778)
To me this feels like the whole big-bang/string theory debate. Intelligent people are willing to believe in an absurd hypothesis (infinite multi-verses) to avoid a logical conclusion they find unpalatable (there was a creation event).


Or that the universe has been expanding and contracting forever, which would require infinite "past time." Which is, obviously, logically impossible.



   70. Ron J2 Posted: June 20, 2014 at 03:58 PM (#4731780)
Snapper, who did you have in mind for your "lot more great late career performances"
   71. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 04:00 PM (#4731782)
Since his actual WAR for that time period was 51, I don't see how giving him 30 is generous at all, let alone "very generous."

Because he cheated like a bastard.

Sheffield and Giambi were BALCO clients too and saw nothing like Bonds did. Velarde was a BALCO client. Santiago. Benard. Estalella. Jeremy G.

Hell, ARod seems to have had a "particularly sophisticated PED program going," and his career has fallen apart.


All of these guys seem to have started PEDs very young. Giambi went from a pretty non-descript minor league career, to an MVP level power hitter. None of them were likely the elite talent Bonds was naturally. They may well have gotten similar boost versu their natural talent.
   72. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 04:06 PM (#4731790)
Snapper, who did you have in mind for your "lot more great late career performances"

Known or highly suspected roiders, off the top of my head.

Luis Gonzalez, Steve Finley, Roger Clemens, Palmeiro, Bret Boone.
   73. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: June 20, 2014 at 04:13 PM (#4731803)
FWIW, Bonds is already up to #82!

Bonds is currently up to #73


Now slipping two notches to #75! Damn, just when we needed Casey Kasem the most! Say hi to Snuggles for us!
   74. alilisd Posted: June 20, 2014 at 04:17 PM (#4731806)
Is it surprising he aged better? No. Is it surprising he became drastically better at that age? Absolutely!
   75. alilisd Posted: June 20, 2014 at 04:18 PM (#4731808)
Good point, Booey. Writers definitely are fans, too.
   76. Ron J2 Posted: June 20, 2014 at 04:32 PM (#4731822)
Incidentally, because I was curious about this I included a "prime age" in my peak lists. Average age of prime. A list of the guys whose prime (by WAR) is over 30.

Corner OF:
Barry Bonds       37
Gary Sheffield    33
Sam Thompson      33
Sam Rice          33
Larry Walker      32
Roberto Clemente  32
Willie Stargell   32
Frank Howard      32
Pete Rose         32
Dwight Evans      32
Sam Crawford      31
Enos Slaughter    31
Ichiro Suzuki     31
Harry Hooper      31 


1B
Cap Anson         34
Mark McGwire      32
Bill Terry        32
Dolph Camilli     32
Edgard Martinez   31
Harmon Killebrew  31
Dan Brouthers     31
Rafael Palmeiro   31 


SS
Bill Dahlen    34
Bobby Wallace  34
Honus Wagner   33
George Davis   33
Luis Aparicio  33
Dave Bancroft  32
Ozzie Smith    32 


2B
Jeff Kent          33
Nap Lajoie         32
Jackie Robinson    32
Charlie Gehringer  32
Eddie Stanky       32
Roberto Alomar     31
Craig Biggio       31 


3B
Adrian Beltre*  32
Jimmy Collins   31 


C
Gabby Hartnett  33
Elston Howard   33
Jorge Posada    31
Ernie Lombardi  31 


Haven't got around to CF, but it won't change the fact that besides Bonds I'm not seeing anything unusual about the aging patterns.

Pitchers, didn't think to get the ages when I did the list. May be a while before I get back to it.
   77. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 04:32 PM (#4731824)
Is it surprising he became drastically better at that age? Absolutely!


Yes, "absolutely," but more to the point, "obviously."

Obviously it was surprising that Bonds improved so much at that age. But how one goes from "it was surprising" to "it was because of steroids!" I simply do not know. Many, many other players used steroids.
   78. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 04:38 PM (#4731839)
Obviously it was surprising that Bonds improved so much at that age. But how one goes from "it was surprising" to "it was because of steroids!" I simply do not know. Many, many other players used steroids.

When something very strange happens, and something intended to cause a change in that direction happens at the same time, rational people usually link those two events.
   79. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 04:49 PM (#4731854)
When something very strange happens, and something intended to cause a change in that direction happens at the same time, rational people usually link those two events.


Not when many, many others who were also "intending to cause a change in that direction" used the same method and saw nothing "very strange happen" at all.
   80. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 05:04 PM (#4731875)
Not when many, many others who were also "intending to cause a change in that direction" used the same method and saw nothing "very strange happen" at all.

So, you're saying no one else improved by using PEDs?
   81. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 05:10 PM (#4731883)
So, you're saying no one else improved by using PEDs?


I'm saying no one else improved by the amount that Bonds did.

I also tend to doubt that using steroids -- as opposed to working out naturally -- had much of an impact. Certainly the players who we know or reasonably conclude used saw performances and exhibited health/durability/injury/aging profiles that were all over the bloody map. There's no pattern there at all.

I think there is a far, far better argument that amps enhanced performance more than steroids ever did. But I would never dishonestly argue that one set of players were cheaters while the other set were not; in the abstract, the issues are the same. In the steroids v. amps discussions I always assume arguendo that steroids enhanced performance.

   82. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: June 20, 2014 at 05:13 PM (#4731888)
I'm saying no one else improved by the amount that Bonds did.

Somebody has to improve the most, and it was pretty clearly Bonds.
   83. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: June 20, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4731905)
Bonds went from a 10 to an 11 or 12, from the best player to the megabest. Bret Boone roughly doubled. There are surely 1s and 3s who became 5s and 6s.
   84. BDC Posted: June 20, 2014 at 05:29 PM (#4731907)
Did Bonds really become a better baseball player, though, in his late 30s? Obviously he hit .350/.550/.800 over ages 36-39, which is insane, but he was just holding his own as a fielder, where in his late 20s he'd been superior, and he was a very occasional threat to steal a base, where in his late 20s he'd been excellent. And he could hit a little in his late 20s, too.

It seems to me that what Bonds did was narrow his skill-set ferociously at the point when some elements of it, notably his speed and range, were narrowing "naturally." But I'm not thoroughly convinced that he was a better ballplayer at 39 than he was at 28, for instance. The WAR numbers are close, and at 39 they're supported by ridiculous IBB numbers: which are real times on base, for sure, and really valuable, but don't wholly argue for him being actually better then. In many ways he was just as impressive in his first three MVP seasons as in his last four, arguably more so as an all-rounder.

Bonds's late-career surge is a little like an expanded version of Ted Williams's 1957 (age 38) season, when Williams had rate stats damn near what they were in 1941. Bonds's career is weirder, but not utterly unprecedented.

And I'll add BTW that Bonds was surely juicier than a Florida orange, and almost certainly derived benefit from that: I'm just wondering if his peak was unarguably ages 36-39. One factor that accentuates those years is that from ages 29-35 he was human, battling injuries or doldrums or whatever, and that makes the late career seem to come out of nowhere.
   85. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 20, 2014 at 05:34 PM (#4731911)
The WAR numbers are close, and at 39 they're supported by ridiculous IBB numbers: which are real times on base, for sure, and really valuable, but don't wholly argue for him being actually better then.


Am I correct that players generally hit better with men on base? I know they hit better with the bases loaded. If so there's sort of a "reverse protection" effect in that it's actually the hitters who come BEFORE you in the lineup that "protect" you.

But my point in this case is that when a player IBBs then probably he's losing a PA that he could be expected to hit BETTER in, on average, than his true talent level.

   86. tfbg9 Posted: June 20, 2014 at 06:12 PM (#4731923)
Bonds went from a 10 to an 11 or 12, from the best player to the megabest.


Eh, not really. I mean he was sorta trending less than 10 or 11 around 1997-98-99-00: ~8-8-4-8 then he went ~12-12-9-11 in terms of bWAR.*

*cherry-picked, but they are the years most people feel he transitioned from "Barry Bonds HOF'er" to "BARRY F*CKING BONDS OMG"!
   87. Mendo Posted: June 20, 2014 at 08:03 PM (#4731978)
The WAR numbers are close, and at 39 they're supported by ridiculous IBB numbers: which are real times on base, for sure, and really valuable, but don't wholly argue for him being actually better then.


I've always wondered about the ridiculous IBB numbers. Does OPS+ account for the fact that IBBs are usually less valuable than unintentional BBs? Does BattingRuns? If so, is Bonds' value actually a little lower than WAR would indicate and therefore not quite so unprecedented?

It also seemed at the time as though every single time he came up he would start with a 1-0 count. If pitchers are so crazy scared that they are starting you out 1-0 every damn AB, that has to help your numbers. I know it's probably impossible to separate out whether the 1-0 counts caused a batter to excel or whether the excellence of the batter caused the 1-0 counts, but I've always thought that the pitching/managing strategies used against Bonds did more harm than good and contributed to the crazy numbers.
   88. bjhanke Posted: June 21, 2014 at 12:17 AM (#4732098)
Jolly I ALWAYS make an adjustment for a player's time period. In fact, my whole concept of ranking players is to rank them within the context of their own times. I know that Ty Cobb, as he looked in 1908, would not be a really large guy who hit for power nowadays. But my Ty Cobb, when comparing him to modern players, is built about like Dave Winfield, and runs a lot faster. That also affects where I rank people like Pettite, Arizin, and Erving in basketball. It also helps that, since St. Louis had a star team in the ABA, I got to see The Doctor in his absolute prime. I don't discount him for the ABA at all. It was obvious then what he could do if he were in the NBA. I also know that Jim Brown, without adjusting, would not be the size of a modern NFL offensive guard. But, in his time, he was that large relative to the field. If you were to get a guy the size of a current NFL guard (what, 280-320 or so), and gave him the speed of Steven Jackson, then you're visualizing the Jim Brown I visualize. Part of this comes from when I was just starting historical analysis. It was reinforced by the Hall of Merit rule that we're supposed to "be fair to all time periods." I don't see how you can do that if you rank older players at their actual sizes and speeds and strengths, as opposed to those qualities within their historical context.

On Bonds: What I seldom see mentioned is that, in the 2000 offseason, the Lords of Baseball ordered the umpires to start enforcing the strike zone strictly as written. What this did, in effect, was to add about 4-6 inches to the top of the zone, depending on the umpire. Umpires had been calling strikes low, probably to try to keep the homers as far down as they could. Well, say anything you want, you have to give Barry Bonds his strike zone judgment. If the strike zone suddenly became 4 inches higher, then Bonds was going to learn to hit those high pitches that he had never swung at before. You can find a clip of Bonds' 73 taters, back to back, somewhere in ESPN's archives. You'll see homer after homer hit on high inside pitches that were not strikes in 2000. You can also listen to announcers, even in September, complaining that the only way to pitch Bonds was high and inside. Meanwhile, McCovey Cove, which is down the RF line in Candlestick, was becoming a household word. Connect the dots, and you'll realize there is no reason to blame Barry's taters on steroids. He just got cut an inadvertent peak by the Lords / umpires. The sports media either didn't catch on, or caught on so late that they are embarrassed to mention the strike zone change, for fear that people will realize that they did not, at the time, factor that in. Instead, they had a chance to crucify the hated Bonds, and they took it, discarding the inconvenient fact of the strike zone change. - Brock Hanke
   89. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 21, 2014 at 07:26 AM (#4732125)
Jolly I ALWAYS make an adjustment for a player's time period. In fact, my whole concept of ranking players is to rank them within the context of their own times. I know that Ty Cobb, as he looked in 1908, would not be a really large guy who hit for power nowadays. But my Ty Cobb, when comparing him to modern players, is built about like Dave Winfield, and runs a lot faster. That also affects where I rank people like Pettite, Arizin, and Erving in basketball. It also helps that, since St. Louis had a star team in the ABA, I got to see The Doctor in his absolute prime. I don't discount him for the ABA at all. It was obvious then what he could do if he were in the NBA. I also know that Jim Brown, without adjusting, would not be the size of a modern NFL offensive guard. But, in his time, he was that large relative to the field. If you were to get a guy the size of a current NFL guard (what, 280-320 or so), and gave him the speed of Steven Jackson, then you're visualizing the Jim Brown I visualize. Part of this comes from when I was just starting historical analysis. It was reinforced by the Hall of Merit rule that we're supposed to "be fair to all time periods." I don't see how you can do that if you rank older players at their actual sizes and speeds and strengths, as opposed to those qualities within their historical context.

But here's my roster list, from #57 above, with their prime periods indicated:

My starting five would be
Russell (50's-60's)
Bird (80's)
LeBron (current)
Magic (80's)
Jordan (80's-90's)

Second team
Kareem (70's-80's)
Duncan (90's - present)
Baylor (50's-60's)
Robertson (60's)
West (60's-70's)

Swing Man
Havlicek (60's-70's)

Of course putting LeBron on there may be "cheating" in that he's still active, so if I had to drop him I'd elevate Duncan to the first team and put Karl Malone on the second team. I'd choose Malone [80's-90's] over Dr. J [70's-80's] because you'd need to replace Duncan's rebounding. With Erving and Baylor you'd have two small forwards.


Does that look as if I'm not crediting former players for what they did within the context of their time? And the only reason I'd take Karl Malone over Erving is because I wouldn't want two small forwards in the same lineup. Erving was IMO the superior talent of the two by a comfortable margin, but within the context of the rest of that lineup Malone would play a much more needed role.

Within the course of their playing careers, Cousy's lack of shooting ability, his tendency to be a gunner, and his lax defense were all duly noted. He's a slam dunk first ballot HoFer but I can't see him jumping over Oscar. Nobody outside of Boston who saw both of them over the course of their careers would have done so. Robertson was Cousy's equal as a playmaker, and as a shooter, defender and rebounder the Big O was light years ahead of Cousy.

And Arizin in his time was looked upon as a star, but not a superstar. A great player, but not on the same consistent level as Pettit or Baylor or Dolph Schayes of the Nats. Putting him on an all-time second team would be a huge (huge) stretch, and I say that even though when I was first a fan of the NBA Arizin was my favorite player.
   90. BDC Posted: June 21, 2014 at 08:41 AM (#4732137)
Am I correct that players generally hit better with men on base? I know they hit better with the bases loaded. If so there's sort of a "reverse protection" effect in that it's actually the hitters who come BEFORE you in the lineup that "protect" you

So far in 2014, the MLB tOPS+ with men on base is 104, and 96 with bases empty. Last season it was 103 with men on and 97 with bases empty. In 2012 it was 107 with men on and 95 without. And now I'm lazy :) But it seems a reasonable hypothesis, among other things because if men are getting on base, the pitcher isn't at his most brilliant at that moment to begin with.
   91. Ron J Posted: June 21, 2014 at 01:38 PM (#4732231)
Snapper, those guys aren't evidence in support of your conjecture.
   92. Ron J Posted: June 21, 2014 at 01:47 PM (#4732235)
Hitters do better with runners on first and second base open. It's a mistake to just look at league averages though. There's a bit of selection bias going on in that you're more likely to see a pinch-hitter (or have a non-hitter bunt) with runners on.

I've only taken a detailed look at runners in scoring position and I can tell you that once you remove IBBs and count sac flies as an 0-1 hitters do almost precisely the same with RISP when you look at career stats of players who got a substantial number of PAs with RISP.
   93. Ron J Posted: June 21, 2014 at 01:56 PM (#4732244)
#87 OPS+ is not used by WAR in any way. WAR's offensive component is basically a linear weights method (with the weights calculated each year). OPS+ treats IBBs as any other walk but WAR does not.

But Babe Ruth had to have piled up some pretty impressive IBB totals. In 1923 (when he walked 170 times) many pitchers had essentially given up trying to get him out and were taking their chances with Pipp (usually the cleanup hitter, not Meusel as I'd always assumed)
   94. bobm Posted: June 21, 2014 at 03:03 PM (#4732284)
500+ HR hitters, sorted by OPS+ from ages 30-35 as % of career OPS+

          Player      % CAR
      Sammy Sosa        121
  Willie McCovey        116
    Mark McGwire        115
    Mike Schmidt        111
Harmon Killebrew        110
  Frank Robinson        110
  Gary Sheffield        109
     Willie Mays        108
       Jim Thome        107
  Reggie Jackson        107
 Rafael Palmeiro        105
      Hank Aaron        103
   Manny Ramirez        101
         Mel Ott        100
  Alex Rodriguez         99
    Eddie Murray         99
       Babe Ruth         99
   Mickey Mantle         98
    Ted Williams         97
     Barry Bonds         97
     Ken Griffey         96
     Jimmie Foxx         96
     Ernie Banks         90
   Albert Pujols         88
   Eddie Mathews         87
    Frank Thomas         87


500+ HR hitters, sorted by OPS+ from age 36+ as % of career OPS+ ("% CAR")

          Player     % CAR    PA 36-
     Barry Bonds       125      3465
   Manny Ramirez        99      1422
    Ted Williams        98      2704
 Rafael Palmeiro        95      3104
      Hank Aaron        94      3414
       Jim Thome        93      2422
    Mark McGwire        92       685
    Mike Schmidt        92      1893
       Babe Ruth        92      2391
  Frank Robinson        92      1842
     Willie Mays        87      3227
     Ernie Banks        84      2178
  Gary Sheffield        84      2228
    Frank Thomas        83      1907
         Mel Ott        83       616
   Mickey Mantle        83       547
  Willie McCovey        81      2633
  Reggie Jackson        80      3095
    Eddie Murray        79      3053
  Alex Rodriguez        78       710
     Ken Griffey        75      2232
Harmon Killebrew        75      1573
      Sammy Sosa        70       878
   Eddie Mathews        69        57
     Jimmie Foxx        62       270
   Albert Pujols       N/A         0

   95. bobm Posted: June 21, 2014 at 03:10 PM (#4732287)
500+ HR hitters, sorted by OPS+ through age 29 as % of career OPS+ ("% CAR")

          Player      % CAR   PA -29
    Frank Thomas        117     4790
     Ernie Banks        115     4632
    Eddie Murray        112     5837
     Ken Griffey        110     6688
  Reggie Jackson        108     5058
   Eddie Mathews        108     6481
       Babe Ruth        106     4515
   Albert Pujols        105     6082
    Ted Williams        103     4615
     Jimmie Foxx        102     6608
  Alex Rodriguez        102     7100
      Hank Aaron        102     6582
   Mickey Mantle        102     6697
  Willie McCovey        101     3989
         Mel Ott        101     7300
     Willie Mays        101     5301
  Gary Sheffield        100     4885
   Manny Ramirez         99     4715
Harmon Killebrew         99     4525
 Rafael Palmeiro         99     4833
       Jim Thome         98     4466
  Frank Robinson         97     6408
    Mike Schmidt         96     4506
      Sammy Sosa         89     5096
    Mark McGwire         88     3834
     Barry Bonds         86     5403
   96. bjhanke Posted: June 22, 2014 at 07:52 AM (#4732597)
Jolly - This thread is about dead, and is supposed to be about Barry Bonds anyway (what do you think of my opinion of Bonds and the 2001 strike zone, anyway?), but to answer your basketball question, yes, you show a definite "later players were better" bias. Four of your starting five had their careers start in the '80s or later. You have no one anywhere from the early George Mikan era (Arizin is my choice because he stands up better to later players of his kind than Mikan - clearly the biggest star of his time - does to later centers). So, yeah. Otherwise, we're just disagreeing about whether Elgin Baylor was better than Bob Pettit or John Havlicek better than Doctor J. which are reasonable debates. But yes, your list is overweighted with later players. Sorry, - Brock
   97. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 22, 2014 at 11:16 AM (#4732639)
500+ HR hitters, sorted by OPS+ from age 36+ as % of career OPS+ ("% CAR")

Player % CAR PA 36-
Barry Bonds 125 3465
Manny Ramirez 99 1422
Ted Williams 98 2704
Rafael Palmeiro 95 3104
Hank Aaron 94 3414
Jim Thome 93 2422
Mark McGwire 92 685
Mike Schmidt 92 1893
Babe Ruth 92 2391
Frank Robinson 92 1842
Willie Mays 87 3227
Ernie Banks 84 2178
Gary Sheffield 84 2228
Frank Thomas 83 1907
Mel Ott 83 616
Mickey Mantle 83 547
Willie McCovey 81 2633
Reggie Jackson 80 3095
Eddie Murray 79 3053
Alex Rodriguez 78 710
Ken Griffey 75 2232
Harmon Killebrew 75 1573
Sammy Sosa 70 878
Eddie Mathews 69 57
Jimmie Foxx 62 270
Albert Pujols N/A 0


3 of the top-4 are known steroid users
   98. EddieA Posted: June 22, 2014 at 12:27 PM (#4732664)
3 of the top-4 are known steroid users


3 of the top 4 also didn't get the chance to let their OPS cave in for a couple of years (75 and 76 for Aaron). Bonds probably not as affected as Manny and Raffy because he had the most PA. Bonds' OPS+ in later years even after return from injury heavily supported by BBs.
   99. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 22, 2014 at 04:25 PM (#4732814)
Jolly - This thread is about dead, and is supposed to be about Barry Bonds anyway (what do you think of my opinion of Bonds and the 2001 strike zone, anyway?),

I've said many times that Bonds was a hitting genius who benefited from both adjustments to his stroke and steroids. The changing strike zone would have been one more of those adjustments. What steams me most about Bonds from a strictly aesthetic and historical standpoint, and I'm dead serious when I say this, is that we'll never know just how great he might have been without steroids. I strongly suspect he wouldn't have been all that much different, but it's impossible to say one way or the other.

but to answer your basketball question, yes, you show a definite "later players were better" bias. Four of your starting five had their careers start in the '80s or later. You have no one anywhere from the early George Mikan era (Arizin is my choice because he stands up better to later players of his kind than Mikan - clearly the biggest star of his time - does to later centers). So, yeah. Otherwise, we're just disagreeing about whether Elgin Baylor was better than Bob Pettit or John Havlicek better than Doctor J. which are reasonable debates. But yes, your list is overweighted with later players. Sorry, - Brock

My top 12 consists of two current players (LeBron and Duncan), one whose peak was in the 80's and 90's (Jordan), two whose peaks were in the 80's (Bird and Magic), two whose peaks spanned the 70's and 80's (Kareem and Erving), one whose peak spanned the 60's and 70's (Havlicek), and four whose peaks ranged from the 50's through the late 60's (Russell, Oscar, Baylor and West). If you weighted that roster on a timeline, the center point would be closer to the NBA's beginnings than it would be to 2014. And that's with two present day players still on the list.

Seems to me that your main complaint is that I don't have any players who peaked in the first 15 years of the league. But of the ones from that earlier era you selected that I didn't (Pettit, Arizin and Cousy), none of them dominated in their own time to the extent that the ones I selected in their place (LeBron, Duncan, Baylor, West) did in theirs.

And I didn't choose Baylor over Pettit. I chose Duncan over Pettit. If I had to exclude LeBron and Duncan, my two substitute forwards would probably be Pettit (to complement Bird) and Malone (to complement Baylor). That would leave Erving and Havlicek as the two swing men.

But no matter how much I try to adjust for era, I can't see Cousy or Arizin. Cousy had way too many weaknesses that were known at the time (defense, shooting percentage from the field, and an early tendency to be a gunner). All four of the guards on my list (Jordan, Magic, Robertson and West) were far more versatile, all but Magic were far better shooters, and the two point guards (Oscar and Magic) were every bit Cousy's equal as playmakers.

And Arizin was never, ever considered in his time to be remotely on the level of any of the forwards that I've listed. He was great, but not that great. Putting him on an all-time first or second team would amount to little more than some sort of affirmative action for pioneer players. If Arizin is going to be considered one of the all-time top 12 players, you might as well put Mikan up there while you're at it.
   100. bjhanke Posted: June 23, 2014 at 08:11 AM (#4733312)
Jolly - Yes, my main complaint is the lack of guys whose primes were in the first 15 years of the NBA. At least I got that across. Some of the other problems have very possibly to do with the gaps in my basketball knowledge. I picked Cousy because I was looking for a point guard other than Magic. To my surprise, I could not think of any whose reputations were better than Bob's. Lenny Wilkins? John Stockton? Was Hal Greer a point guard? Those would be my next in line. Now, it is very possible that you know of a point guard that I missed, and it's also possible that I ought to quit using Oscar Robertson as a swing man and just insert him at point guard. But I remember him as a shooting guard, like Jordan and West. Actually, I know that West did a lot of dribbling, but it seemed mostly to be about setting up his own shots. Come to think of it, he may be the last of the "best guards" that I mentioned as the concept used in REALLY early times, where the dribbling guard and the sooting guard were the same guy. Bob Cousy played like that, and everyone is right about his being a gunner who did not take the opportunity to define "point guard."

As to the 15 years, I would put MIkan up there except for Russell and Wilt and Kareem. So, what I'm going to ask you is this: if it's not Mikan and it's not Arizin, then who IS your best player whose peak is in the first 15 years? These were the two biggest names I could find. You may have better knowledge of the period. But I really do think that a 15-year period ought to produce at least one of the top dozen guys in the game.

I should mention that no one can ever talk me out of Bob Pettit. When I was first becoming a serious sports fan, in my childhood, the Cardinals weren't that good, and the Hawks were always competing for championships. I thought Bob Pettit was God. And, over the decades, his credentials as a power forward have stayed remarkably competitive. Essentially, Bob combines the best features of Dennis Rodman's rebounding and Larry Bird's shooting (although he wasn't as good a shooter as Bird, but who was?). I think I have an issue with your placement of Bird. It looks like you have him as a power forward. I don't think that's right. I think that Kevin McHale was the power forward on Bird's teams, with Robert Parrish at center. You put Bird at small forward, and he shoots lights out, plays defense, can bring up the ball, and can, as a small forward, rebound like hell. And he does not compete with Pettit. As to Duncan, he's great, but not, in my eyes, as good as Pettit, especially on the boards. But, then, I have a Bob Pettit blindness. - Brock

BTW, your Bonds comment makes sense for some one who believes in steroids. I don't, but your comment was not absurd hysteria. It was a fine comment for someone who does believe in them. Thanks. - Brock
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