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— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen
Monday, June 02, 2008
How Many HRs would Bonds have Hit Without Steroids?
Nothing like a highly flammable title.
But the issue came up again! A pox upon thee, Cameron Martin!
Here are the ZiPS Projections for Barry Bonds, based on his career through 1999. Since the evidence that points to Bonds being a steroid user also tends to point to after 1999 being the time frame and 1999’s injury problems as why he started using, this strikes me as the reasonable place to start.
2000: 286/424/583, 35 homers (444 total)
So assuming he doesn’t come back for this alternate 2008, that gives him 597 total homers. However, ZiPS, working from the uncertainty of 1999, gives Bonds relatively poor health the rest of his career, with game totals of 135, 122, 110, 107, 96, 91, 84, and 74 games. I do think that after still hitting well in 2007, he would come back to get 600.
However, we actually do know how many games Bonds played. 143, 153, 143, 130, 147, 14, 130, 126. I think it’s safe to assume,that the vast majority of the discussion among performance enhancing drugs is the performance enhancing part. So, even if we make the assumption that steroids is responsible for Bonds’s better health as well, that would seem to me to fall under the category of restorative. One of the primary arguments set forth by the asterisk crowd is that steroids are performance-enhancing, while amphetamines were merely restorative, which has a strong effect on whether something philosophically could be considered cheating. If we don’t give Bonds the credit for the restorative effects, then by the very definition of the argument, we’re putting asterisks on 4256* and 755* and 660*.
If we give Bonds the ZiPS homer performance but his actual playing time, he instead hits 37, 39, 35, 32, 32, 3, 25, and 22 home runs in those seasons, giving him 225 and a total of 634 career home runs.
There’s also the issue of his injuries. If steroids causes injuries, should not some blame for his 2005 season be on the steroids? Based on the high playing time numbers for 2001-2004, he could have lost 25 homers, at least some of which could be attributable to steroids (since he could be injured anyway).
Lastly, there’s the unknowable. If we assume, again for the sake of the argument, that Bonds became a steroid user as part of an intense workout regimen, would he not have had some type of benefit from an increased focus on working out, if not the results that he actually had? Maybe he wouldn’t put on 50 pounds in 3 years, but is putting 15 pounds of muscle on in 3 years unreasonable for even an older athlete?
I’m not touching that last question, but I think that depending on how you look at it and frame the main issue, if we assume every last shred of the improvement in Bonds’s play is due to steroid use and give Bonds credit for none of that improvement, it’s still reasonable to consider Bonds somewhere between a 590 and 650 HR hitter; the second-best leftfielder in baseball history.
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