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Friday, December 10, 2021

Not as great: Assessing Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens without the PED factor

According to OPS+, which measures a player’s ability to get on base and hit for power and normalizes for the effect of various parks, Bonds was unquestionably one of the game’s great players during the first half of his career, when he had seven consecutive seasons of 170 or higher.

But after he started PEDs, he became otherworldly, particularly once he connected with BALCO. In those four seasons, his OPS+ was 259, 268, 231 and 263—giving him three of the five highest seasons ever, surpassed only by Negro Leagues legend Josh Gibson. Bonds is No. 4 on the all-time career list, with a 182 average OPS+.

But according to ZiPS, those cartoonish four seasons would have been replaced with 156, 144, 115 and 95; and his career OPS+ would have settled at 153, placing him tied for 30th.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 10, 2021 at 04:44 PM | 94 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: barry bonds, hall of fame, peds, roger clemens

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   1. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: December 10, 2021 at 05:29 PM (#6056934)
Things look startlingly different in the Bonds/Clemens cases when analyzed this way:...

For his career, ZiPS projects Bonds' WAR total at 128.7 -- dropping him from No. 2 of all time to No. 9, just ahead of Stan Musial....

In the end, ZiPS projects his WAR would have been 111.3, taking him from all-time leader to fourth, just below Greg Maddux and above Randy Johnson....

And so in this case, ZiPS suggests that while Bonds and Clemens were great no matter what, they would hold vastly different places in baseball's record book.


This article starts with a negative lens on Bonds and Clemens, but after looking at the 'ZiPS with no steroids' numbers even the authors realize they still would very clearly be in the HoF if writers weren't using the 'steroids (even if there is zero proof) = no HoF' logic.
   2. Mefisto Posted: December 10, 2021 at 06:21 PM (#6056938)
The real Barry Bonds: only slightly better than Stan Musial.
   3. Snowboy Posted: December 10, 2021 at 06:40 PM (#6056939)
For his career, ZiPS projects Bonds' WAR total at 128.7 -- dropping him from No. 2 of all time to No. 9, just ahead of Stan Musial....

In the end, ZiPS projects his WAR would have been 111.3, taking him from all-time leader to fourth, just below Greg Maddux and above Randy Johnson....


A more honest title would have been "Not as great, but still inner-circle HOF: Assessing Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens without the PED factor" but there is no money (click bait) in that.
   4. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili (TeddyF.Ballgame) Posted: December 10, 2021 at 09:06 PM (#6056947)
lemens finished with 354 wins -- 141 of which came after the date when Clemens' former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, testified he first injected the pitcher with PEDs. ZiPS projects Clemens was likely to have won only 85 games during that stretch -- leaving him with a career total of 298, just short of the magic number of 300 that has long been a guaranteed ticket to Cooperstown.


Imaginary Clemens would have retired with 298 wins? Not bloody likely.
   5. Moeball Posted: December 10, 2021 at 10:20 PM (#6056961)
I have maintained for a long time that the election of David Ortiz will prove beyond all doubt that BBWAA hysteria over steroids is about 20% do I actually care about steroid usage and 80% do I like this player or not? Ortiz will get elected; if not on his first ballot it will happen soon afterwards. His Mitchell-verified drug tests will get swept under the rug because Big Papi was a writer's wet dream come true. And something that has been true of BBWAA membership for many decades: when you join this club, leave your ethics at the door. Hypocrisy is welcomed with open arms!
   6. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 10, 2021 at 10:57 PM (#6056964)
Ah, yes, the old 'Your actions will appear in a much worse light after the act that you haven't done but which I confidently assert is going to happen, so confidently we might as well treat it as if it has already happened" defense.

Post #5 won't appear as innocent after Moeball's multistate serial murder spree.
   7. Booey Posted: December 10, 2021 at 11:00 PM (#6056965)
These "clean projections" are ridiculous. Roids turn 23 homer seasons into 73 homer ones? They'll increase your seasonal WAR from 1.7 to 11.9? (Bonds in 2004)

Sorry, but none of that passes the sniff test. If PED's helped THAT much, we'd have seen a lot more players putting up seasons like Bonds' 2001-2004.
   8. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: December 10, 2021 at 11:22 PM (#6056970)
Your point is well taken, Booey, but Bonds is a special case in two interlocking ways: he was one of the greatest players that ever lived before he Hulked out, and there's good reason to believe he roided up much more aggressively than most/all of his contemporaries.

That said, the degree to which this writer pretends projections of an all-time great player's late-30s seasons are reliable is preposterous, and lies somewhere in the chasm between foolishness and dishonesty.

BBWAA hysteria over steroids is about 20% do I actually care about steroid usage and 80% do I like this player or not


No comment on David Ortiz specifically, but to this point... yeah. Pretty much.
   9. John DiFool2 Posted: December 10, 2021 at 11:51 PM (#6056974)
He had phenomenal hand-eye coordination and pitch recognition. Do roids help you with those skills?

Someone did observe way back then that his arm guard hinged in a way which helped guide his swing.
   10. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: December 11, 2021 at 01:33 AM (#6056981)
The hypocrisy of sportswriters toward steroids is best summed up by them wanting to burn baseball players at the stake for it, but the NFL had hand down an edict that players could not go to the Pro Bowl or be voted season awards by those same writers during the same season in which that player served a PED suspension..... because that's exactly what they almost did with Shawne Merriman finishing 3rd in Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year voting during the same season he sat out the first four games due to a steroid suspension.
   11. Voodoo Posted: December 11, 2021 at 01:46 AM (#6056982)
and there's good reason to believe he roided up much more aggressively than most/all of his contemporaries


What good reason? What evidence is there of this? What does "roided up" even mean?

He clearly worked his ass off to transform his body and his approach - and I'm certainly not saying he didn't use steroids in pursuit of that goal - but what evidence is there that the end result was singularly or primarily the result of pharmacology?
   12. Booey Posted: December 11, 2021 at 02:33 AM (#6056984)
there's good reason to believe he roided up much more aggressively than most/all of his contemporaries.


Eh, I'm with Voodoo on this one. We have good reason to believe Bonds took PED's, but I haven't seen any reason to believe he took more or less PED's than any of the other roiders. Also, is there evidence that roids are stackable so more roids necessarily means more benefit?

That said, the degree to which this writer pretends projections of an all-time great player's late-30s seasons are reliable is preposterous, and lies somewhere in the chasm between foolishness and dishonesty.



Exactly! Look at some of Barry's closest historical comps from age 35 on (bold = led league):

Ruth
Age 35 - .359/.493/.732 (211 OPS+), 49 HR
Age 36 - .373/.495/.700 (218 OPS+), 46 HR
Age 37 - .341/.489/.661 (201 OPS+), 41 HR
Age 38 - .301/.442/.582 (176 OPS+), 34 HR
Age 39 - .288/.448/.537 (160 OPS+)

Williams
Age 35 - .345/.513/.635 (201 OPS+)
Age 36 - .356/.496/.703 (209 OPS+)
Age 37 - .345/.479/.605 (172 OPS+)
Age 38 - .388/.526/.731 (233 OPS+)
Age 39 - .328/.458/.584 (179 OPS+)
Age 40 - (injury/off year)
Age 41 - .316/.451/.645 (190 OPS+)

Aaron
Age 35 - .300/.396/.607 (177 OPS+), 44 HR
Age 36 - .298/.385/.574 (149 OPS+), 38 HR
Age 37 - .327/.410/.669 (194 OPS+), 47 HR - Career highs in HR, SLG, and OPS+
Age 38 - .265/.390/.514 (147 OPS+), 34 HR
Age 39 - .301/.402/.643 (177 OPS+), 40 HR - Career high in HR% (40 HR in 392 AB)

To assume an all time great like Bonds would automatically have to start declining dramatically around age 35 like a normal player is just silly. Hell, even some "regular" presumably clean HOFers like Molitor and Edgar were able to keep doing what they're doing right up to around age 40 or so. I think a more realistic "clean" projection for Barry would have been to just copy his average hitting stats from 1990-1998 for another 5 years (2000-2004). A roid-free Bonds almost certainly wouldn't have improved his stat line in his late 30's like he did, but I don't see any reason to believe it would have declined much, either (at the plate, I mean. WAR would have decreased a bit as defense and stolen bases would drop).
   13. Booey Posted: December 11, 2021 at 02:52 AM (#6056985)
Ditto with Clemens. His projection was way too pessimistic. It's not uncommon for big power pitchers to continue their prime into their late 30's or even well into their 40's. Randy Johnson went 103-49 (.678) with a 175 ERA+ from age 35-40, averaging 232 IP and 305 K despite missing half a season in 2003. Led the league in ERA+ and K's 5 times each in those 6 years and won 4 CYA's and a runner up. Nolan Ryan pitched 2312 innings, had 135 wins, and 2465 K's after age 35, leading the league in K's every year from ages 40-43.
   14. MuttsIdolCochrane Posted: December 11, 2021 at 05:30 AM (#6056987)
Ortiz is so much more important in this discussion than inner HOFamers Bonds or Clemens. Project him! A steroid free Ortiz is a bench player, not even a regular. If (when) he gets in while true baseball immortals are still denied that will blaspheme the process and the HOF beyond reason.
   15. SoSH U at work Posted: December 11, 2021 at 08:38 AM (#6056988)
The hypocrisy of sportswriters toward steroids is best summed up by them wanting to burn baseball players at the stake for it, but the NFL had hand down an edict that players could not go to the Pro Bowl or be voted season awards by those same writers during the same season in which that player served a PED suspension.....


This would be a great point if Ryan Braun didn't fail a juicing test the same year he won the NL MVP award and the BBWAA did not even revote (the way they did with Brian Cushing when he was Rookie of the Year). So, rather, it's not a good point all.

Baseball writers have been pretty dumb in a lot of ways when it comes to roids, but Moe's 5 and other unsupported theories along the way (it was all about Barry, etc.) have managed to match them for foolishness.

Ortiz is so much more important in this discussion than inner HOFamers Bonds or Clemens. Project him! A steroid free Ortiz is a bench player, not even a regular. If (when) he gets in while true baseball immortals are still denied that will blaspheme the process and the HOF beyond reason.


See
   16. bachslunch Posted: December 11, 2021 at 09:23 AM (#6056989)
@13: this assumes Johnson and Ryan weren’t using PEDs the later part of their career. I’m not so sure about that, TBH.

The point is fairly taken, though, as there are earlier examples one can cite.
   17. KronicFatigue Posted: December 11, 2021 at 09:47 AM (#6056990)
Remind me, did Bonds change his swing or just his approach? And if he changed his swing, maybe it was partly with the mindset of "I'm stronger now, I should focus more on hitting for power".

All that being said, his "eye" in those peak years was one of the cooler things I experienced as a fan.
   18. Adam Starblind Posted: December 11, 2021 at 09:57 AM (#6056991)
. 'Your actions will appear in a much worse light after the act that you haven't done but which I confidently assert is going to happen, so confidently we might as well treat it as if it has already happened" defense.


The old Barry Bonds didn’t do it defense, confidently asserted? Maybe I am misinterpreting.
   19. JJ1986 Posted: December 11, 2021 at 10:11 AM (#6056992)
This would be a great point if Ryan Braun didn't fail a juicing test the same year he won the NL MVP award and the BBWAA did not even revote (the way they did with Brian Cushing when he was Rookie of the Year). So, rather, it's not a good point all.
Braun won that appeal. He wasn't actually suspended until over a year later.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: December 11, 2021 at 10:22 AM (#6056995)
Braun won that appeal. He wasn't actually suspended until over a year later.


Sure, but a) victory/failure in the process has nothing to do with how the BBWAA has looked at PED use (see Clemens or Bonds), b) Braun's appeal was truly technicality based, and was obviously, and most important, c) the BBWAA announced they weren't going to revote the award before the appeal was granted.

The old Barry Bonds didn’t do it defense, confidently asserted? Maybe I am misinterpreting.


He's referring to Moe's preemptive outrage in 5.
   21. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 11, 2021 at 11:36 AM (#6056997)
The real Barry Bonds: only slightly better than Stan Musial.

Too bad that he couldn't have settled for that, and now we'll never know how he might have turned out.

As for Ortiz:
BOSTON - Commissioner Rob Manfred says it’s unfair for Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s legacy to be tarnished by his positive drug test in Major League Baseball’s 2003 anonymous drug testing survey, since it’s unknown whether Ortiz actually used a performance-enhancing drug.

There were at least 10 false positives in the survey testing, Manfred said Sunday before Ortiz’s final regular-season game at Fenway Park, and it’s possible that Ortiz was one of the false tests.

Manfred confirmed that Ortiz also has never failed a drug test since MLB implemented its drug policy in 2004 and strengthened it numerous times in the decade-plus since.

“Even if your name was on that (anonymous) list,’’ Manfred said, “it’s entirely possible that you were not a positive.

“I don’t think anyone understands very well what that list was.’’

   22. JJ1986 Posted: December 11, 2021 at 11:49 AM (#6057000)
BOSTON - Commissioner Rob Manfred says it’s unfair for Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s legacy to be tarnished by his positive drug test in Major League Baseball’s 2003 anonymous drug testing survey, since it’s unknown whether Ortiz actually used a performance-enhancing drug.
Why didn't Sammy Sosa get this courtesy?
   23. BDC Posted: December 11, 2021 at 12:00 PM (#6057001)
It's not uncommon for big power pitchers to continue their prime into their late 30's or even well into their 40's. Randy Johnson went 103-49 (.678) with a 175 ERA+ from age 35-40, averaging 232 IP and 305 K despite missing half a season in 2003. Led the league in ERA+ and K's 5 times each in those 6 years and won 4 CYA's and a runner up. Nolan Ryan pitched 2312 innings, had 135 wins, and 2465 K's after age 35, leading the league in K's every year from ages 40-43

Actually I'd say it's extremely uncommon for big power pitchers to match Randy Johnson or Nolan Ryan at those ages.

Basically there's two things going on here. PEDs may have helped Clemens to some unknown extent and he was unusually productive in his late 30s and early 40s. Projection systems are very rational about players who reach advanced baseball ages, because almost always they are in steep decline at that point. Pedro Martinez was done at 37. Jim Bunning was a journeyman by that age. Don Drysdale had been retired for five years – and those are your basic Hall of Famers, Pedro even inner-circle.

No projection system would have figured Ryan to have 15 WAR in his five years with the Rangers – he hadn't had that many in the five years previous. The authors of TFA are not justified in suggesting that ZiPS is "accurate" in that it's some kind of crystal ball. ZiPS is reasonable. The performance of extraordinary HOFers is unreasonable.
   24. John Northey Posted: December 11, 2021 at 12:08 PM (#6057003)
Saint Nolan deserves a second look on PED's I'd think. At 31 he had a 10K/9 season, then didn't have another until age 40, then had 4 years out of 5 with 10+ K/9, leading the league all 5 years. Age 40 was 1987 when PED's were really taking off in pro sports - Canseco showed up in '86 (well known at the time as being heavy into PED's just look at any games on the road where people chanted 'steroids' at him, but many in baseball still thought working out was going to lead to muscles that didn't move as well for baseball - yeah pretty dumb, but I remember many articles on it), 1986 was the year Kirby Puckett also clearly PED'ed up to a crazy degree - from 12 extra base hits in 1984 (full time play) to 31 HR in '86 - very well known that he did massive workouts all winter, he talked about it a LOT in interviews, but somehow no writer thought 'gee, might he have used steroids?' or cared. Then, surprise surprise, 1987 saw a massive offensive outbreak (I think they deadened the ball after that). 1988 Ben Johnson caught on steroids at Olympics leading to a massive scandal (even though every other guy on that starting line for the final was eventually found to have used PEDs as well iirc). By then it was clear PEDs = big advantage. And the steroid era was well underway with MLB turning a 100% blind eye to it, as did all the writers who now are holier than thou with Bonds & Clemens.
   25. John Northey Posted: December 11, 2021 at 12:12 PM (#6057004)
One more bit for Nolan Ryan - pre age 40 - 253-226 3.15 ERA 110 ERA+, 5.0 BB/9 vs 9.4 K/9, had 4277 K's. Was still a very good pitcher and likely headed for the HOF, but not the legend he'd become.

Age 40+ 71-66 3.33 ERA 116 ERA+ (offense on the upswing), 3.7 BB/9 10.2 K/9 with another 1437 K's and 2 no-hitters. which locked him into many thinking he was one of the very best ever.
   26. Buck Coats Posted: December 11, 2021 at 12:49 PM (#6057007)
Shouldn't this also be using ZiPS to project the ends of all the players careers? I assume ZiPS would have projected Randy Johnson for example quite a bit lower than he ended up.
   27. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 11, 2021 at 01:05 PM (#6057008)
BOSTON - Commissioner Rob Manfred says it’s unfair for Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s legacy to be tarnished by his positive drug test in Major League Baseball’s 2003 anonymous drug testing survey, since it’s unknown whether Ortiz actually used a performance-enhancing drug.

Why didn't Sammy Sosa get this courtesy?

Good question, but if you go to the link you'll see that Manfred issued the statement on the occasion of Ortiz's last regular season game in Fenway Park, so it may have been a matter of timing.
   28. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 11, 2021 at 01:50 PM (#6057010)
Basically there's two things going on here. PEDs may have helped Clemens to some unknown extent and he was unusually productive in his late 30s and early 40s.


Clemens was not unusually productive in his late 30s - from age 36 to 40, the Yankee years, his ERA+ went 102, 131, 128, 102, 113. That's very similar to what Tom Seaver or Steve Carlton was doing at those ages.

Then, at age 41, he went to the Astros, and pitched three years with ERA+ of 145, 226, 194, including his final Cy Young. I would attribute that mostly to moving to what was then the easier league and moving to a team with a much better defense (swapping out Derek Jeter for Adam Everett).

   29. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: December 11, 2021 at 04:15 PM (#6057021)
BOSTON - Commissioner Rob Manfred says it’s unfair for Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s legacy to be tarnished by his positive drug test in Major League Baseball’s 2003 anonymous drug testing survey, since it’s unknown whether Ortiz actually used a performance-enhancing drug.



Why didn't Sammy Sosa get this courtesy?

Unless it's all a big conspiracy theory that MLB wanted the Sox to win MAYBE we should give some credence to the fact that MLB explicity defended Ortiz (and to my knowledge only Ortiz) regarding the 2003 list. Regarding Ortiz's positive they pointed out that there were false positives, heavily implying that Ortiz was one of those.
   30. Walt Davis Posted: December 11, 2021 at 04:47 PM (#6057027)
#23,26 -- yep. All a model does (pretty much all it can do without intentionally building in bias) is project an average, in this case a "local" average that is then regressed (moved towards) the overall average. You then rely on a model for the variance (which is often just treated as random) to give a range of projections.

The way ZiPS works (as I understand it, Dan can jump in if this is way off), any player with roughly the same production over the last 4 years at the same ages will project the same over the next 1+ years. The recent trend will have some effect but roughly speaking, looking at those who produced similarly to Bonds over ages 32-35 should produce a reasonable comparison set of players who would have been projected similarly to Bonds. From 32-35, Bonds had a 175 OPS+, 26 oWAR, 28 WAR, 207 Rbat. The WAR-oWAR difference may not matter at all but is an indicator that Bonds age 35 was in much better shape than most sluggers that age and might be expected to age better than his comps.

It's a 4-year period and a difference of 1 WAR per year seems pretty big so we'll set a lower bound at 22 oWAR or 170 Rbat.

top 10 oWAR 32-35, integration era, by oWAR

Mays 34
Mac 28
Aaron 27
Musial 26
Jackie 26
Bonds 26
Edgar 26
Clemente 24
Schmidt 24
Jeter 24 (his level of offense out of "SS" has been under-rated)

If we do that by WAR rather than oWAR, the list doesn't change too dramatically -- Mac and Jeter drop considerably, Clemente (and Beltre) jump by a lot. Strictly on hitting ...

top 8 Rbat 32-35 (all 160+), expansion era

Mac 262
Edgar 239
Mays 212
Bonds 207
Musial 189
Aaron 176
Sheffield 173
Sosa 170

Despite the supposed anti-aging effects of (alleged) roiding, Mac had <700 PAs left, Sosa <900. Edgar, Bonds and Sheffield lasted a long time.

Edgar -- 21 WAR, 191 Rbat (!) from 36-40
Sheffield -- one 4 WAR, one 3 WAR season left, nearly 1000 more PA of dreck
Mays -- 25 WAR, 124 Rbat from 36-40
Musial -- 19 WAR, 116 Rbat from 36-41
Aaron -- 23 WAR, 172 Rbat from 36-40

Now Bonds from age 36 doubles all those folks. But using those comps, we'd expect 25-30 fewer WAR (at least if he stayed healthy which he did). Let's use a nice round number and call it 135 career WAR which would drop him from 4th to 8th (incl pitchers), as close to Aaron as he is ahead of Musial.

We'll never know how much was BALCO, how much was muscle he could have added without the cream and the clear, how much was perfecting his swing, how much was his phenomenal talent.

But let's not forget that "nobody could have expected that" is not a reliable criterion. Brian Downing had more Rbat from age 36 than Musial, Nelson Cruz has more than Mays, Ortiz is just short of Aaron who is just short of Edgar. In this sense, Beltre might be the most unusual player in history -- his BA from age 31 is 40 points higher than through age 30; his OPS+ 25 points higher; he went from 4.3 WAR/650 to 6.5; his dWAR only dropped from 1.7 per 650 to 1.3. Lord only knows what the Favorite Toy said about his chances for 3000 hits after age 30.

It was already the case that what mainly distinguishes the inner-inner circle from the inner circle is aging incredibly well. ("Incredible" being an important word in this context.) Equally odd are the folks like Clemente, Edgar, Beltre and some others whose 30s are substantially better than their 20s. It is only a matter of time before (randomly) a player who's inner circle in their 20s not only ages well but actually gets better. Maybe that was Bonds. We had Mantle (10 WAR ahead of Bonds through 31) and Griffey (5 behind) as examples of inner circle guys who fell apart (physically) in their 30s ... it's possible Bonds was the anti-Mantle (and used the cream and the clear).

As somebody above noted -- the BALCO stuff sure seems like it was quite effective (based on the success of its users) but it didn't turn anybody else into the Barry Bonds of their sport, much less at age 36. Bonds was a supreme talent with supreme focus who grew up in an environment that was both ideal (exposure to Mays, McCovey et al) and intense (trying to live up to Mays, McCovey et al). He clearly felt he needed to prove himself to his dad ... I recall a quote after he hit #500 (or maybe 600) that was along the lines of "now I know I've earned my dad's resepct." Almost nobody would have the talent to even make a go of it and probably most of the ones who had the talent would crack under the pressure ... but anybody with the talent who survived that pressure was gonna be out of this world. No, maybe not prime Babe Ruth at the age of 36 out of this world but out of this world nonetheless.

I didn't get to see Williams and Ruth so Bonds is easily the best hitter I've ever seen. I only caught the tail end of Mays and Aaron so Bonds is easily the best player I've ever seen. And he was an excellent base runner and stealer and he was an excellent OF. Heck, he was even knowledgable and respectful of baseball history. He was only missing Bob Uecker's humor. It's a shame the perfection of 2001 is tainted but, even if that was mostly BALCO, he's still the best I've ever seen.






   31. Bad Fish Posted: December 11, 2021 at 04:59 PM (#6057028)
Late career Bonds altered his approach at the plate. Relative to his age 25 (the year he won his first MVP) through age 34 season all of his advanced stats related to controlling the plate improved in his age 35 - 42 seasons. He became very, very skilled at putting himself into hitters counts. I'd speculate he adopted these advanced technical approaches to counter-leverage some decline in his raw athleticism. While his strength improvements no doubt helped, he still OPS+'ed 156 and 169 in his last two years (age 41 and 42)leading the league in walks and OBP both years, when he most certainly wasn't juicing any longer and the extreme power threat was gone.

In his case, I think the steroid stigma is a bit of a canard, the guy flat out KNEW how to hit a baseball.
   32. gehrig97 Posted: December 11, 2021 at 06:13 PM (#6057037)
St. Ryan indeed:Another No-No for Nolan? No Problem. (And No Questions Asked...)

"Ryan’s fastball on this magical night was clocked as high as 96 MPH. That’s fast. Really fast. Remarkably fast, when one considers Ryan was 44 years old, or about 15 years removed from what is considered a pitcher’s physical prime. In fact, Ryan had been a significantly better pitcher in his 40s than in his 20s — a feat about as rare as pitching multiple no-hitters.

Among those on the field celebrating Ryan’s lucky #7 are promising young slugger Juan Gonzalez; star first baseman Rafael Palmeiro; rookie catcher Pudge Rodriguez; rotation-mate Kevin Brown; MVP runner-up Ruben Sierra; and Ryan’s close friend/pitching coach/fitness guru Tom House..."
   33. BDC Posted: December 11, 2021 at 06:33 PM (#6057038)
To add to Bad Fish's comment, the thing about some of these amazing late-career runs is that in Ryan's case, his control markedly improved; in Bonds', his batting average. I can certainly accept that steroids can add a few MPH to your fastball or a few yards to your fly balls. I am not sure how that can suddenly make all aspects of your game better. Ryan could always throw 96, but he used to walk people constantly. Bonds could always hit home runs, but he also struck out 70-80 times a year. Suddenly Ryan had a 3/1 K/W ratio, and Bonds was batting .360 and striking out 50 times a year.

An improvement in one aspect of somebody's game can obviously lead to improvement across the board, but that's a pretty extreme and sudden capitalization on whatever they might have gotten from PEDs.
   34. kcgard2 Posted: December 11, 2021 at 07:35 PM (#6057042)
Among those on the field celebrating Ryan’s lucky #7 are promising young slugger Juan Gonzalez; star first baseman Rafael Palmeiro; rookie catcher Pudge Rodriguez; rotation-mate Kevin Brown; MVP runner-up Ruben Sierra; and Ryan’s close friend/pitching coach/fitness guru Tom House

This quote is amazingly portentous.
   35. BDC Posted: December 11, 2021 at 07:50 PM (#6057043)
And yet … Juan Gonzalez had his last good year at the age of 31. Sierra – widely suspected of roiding after missing out on the 1989 MVP award, he bulked up amazingly – played a long time but was just a journeyman in his 30s. Pudge declined sharply with the bat after age 32, sometimes associated with testing coming in around then, but then he played forever too at a lesser level, presumably without the benefit of whatever he'd been using. And Kevin Brown declined in terms of both durability and results after age 35, before testing came in.

I just think if steroids never existed and one saw the same B-Ref pages, one would assume all these players were just stars with more-or-less unusual careers and some fairly standard aging patterns in many cases.

Even Canseco himself was kind of useless after age 31. Now one may say of Canseco or Gonzalez, they got injured and so got no benefits from the juice. But in that case, the juice itself is hardly a panacea. Things apparently have to break perfectly for players to avail themselves of its help to become or stay stars.
   36. Adam Starblind Posted: December 11, 2021 at 11:36 PM (#6057059)
In Canseco’s case, he wasn’t good for much besides hitting home runs. When he eventually became a .210 hitter, there really was no point to him.
   37. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: December 12, 2021 at 01:48 AM (#6057063)
Ryan could always throw 96, but he used to walk people constantly.


Anecdotally, what I have heard quoted from pitchers about their late career was that "I could still throw as hard, but I couldn't throw with as much control".

What Bill James said about Ryan was something on the order of "What was amazing about Ryan was that he never let up, even when he was behind in the count, even when he didn't have his best control, he was always trying to throw a strikeout pitch, which led to amazing strikeout totals but also amazing walk totals", in other words - some of Ryan's success (in some respects) was due not just his physical gifts but to his approach - it's possible that he changed his approach when he got into his 40's, which led to much greater overall success. Maybe this change in approach more than compensated for what speed/control he began to lose, since he had quite a lot to spare. Of course, as has been pointed out above, there were lots of opportunities for Ryan to juice if he had chosen to do so.
   38. bookbook Posted: December 12, 2021 at 01:56 AM (#6057064)
I can’t evaluate the steroids (no one can), but it does feel like some part of the secret to aging well comes from another muscle.

Bonds, and Edgar, and Clemens and Ted Williams and Hank Aaron and Willie Mays we’re all extremely smart baseball players.

Now, many players who didn’t age as well were too, but Canseco and Sierra and Gonzalez and King Felix were not known as being cerebral.

I wonder to what extent some players who were a bit lucky health wise were able to train wisely, or adjust their games exceptionally, and essentially outsmart some of the effects of aging.

I doubt this theory could be tested, because it’s too messy and no one agrees what smart means, but…
   39. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 12, 2021 at 11:00 AM (#6057072)
If Ryan did start juicing, it's very easy to see when it would have happened. From ages 35 to 39, his records were a lot like other great pitchers at that age, still good but slowing down, a 104 ERA+, 8.9 K/9, never led the league in Ks or K/9. Then at age 40, he leads the league in ERA, Ks, and K/9. In fact he leads the league in strikeouts every year from age 40 through 43, despite not having done so since his age 32 season. For ages 40-44, he has a 121 ERA+, 10.6 K/9, leading the league in that category every year.

That ERA+ from 40 to 44 is the best five-year stretch of Ryan's career. Is there any other pitcher who improved that much in their 40s?
   40. bookbook Posted: December 12, 2021 at 12:19 PM (#6057078)
I hate Nolan Ryan, but I do think he’s very smart. If he finally figured out how to throw his heat with control… (wouldn’t surprise me if he juiced, either)
   41. gehrig97 Posted: December 12, 2021 at 12:29 PM (#6057079)
Nolan Ryan
Age 25–29: 114 ERA+/10.1 SO9/25.9 WAR
Age 30–34: 118 ERA+/9.2 SO9/20.5 WAR
Age 35–39: 104 ERA+/8.9 SO9/11.7 WAR
Age 40–44: 121 ERA+/10.6 SO9/21.1 WAR

Ageless wonder! Fitness freak! Inspiration to us all!

Roger Clemens
Age 25–29: 159 ERA+/8.4 SO9/39.9 WAR
Age 30–34: 145 ERA+/9.0 SO9/30.1 WAR
Age 35–39: 125 ERA+/9.0 SO9/23.8 WAR
Age 40–44: 146 ERA+/8.1 SO9/22.2 WAR

Fraud! Sham! Throw him from the top of the Mawnstah!
   42. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 12, 2021 at 12:35 PM (#6057081)
I hate Nolan Ryan, but I do think he’s very smart. If he finally figured out how to throw his heat with control…

Which he clearly did at the end of his career. 8 of his best 9 K/W ratios were between the ages of 37 and 45.
   43. toratoratora Posted: December 12, 2021 at 02:07 PM (#6057091)
Two things happened with Ryan in his sunset years:
1-He stopped trying to just throw the ball past everyone because;
2-He picked up a killer changeup he paired with the Ryan Express and a darn good curve and that made all the difference. In using it, he became a pitcher and not just a hurler. No more straight gas. Now he had nuance. He talked about it fairly often late career.
   44. The Duke Posted: December 12, 2021 at 02:56 PM (#6057094)
38. I like this. Now instead of arguing numbers we can simply say that late career falloffs were an intellect issue. Scott Rolen is just too dumb to be in the HOF.
   45. gehrig97 Posted: December 12, 2021 at 03:57 PM (#6057097)
@43. Yes, what you wrote is true. It is also true that Ryan was still throwing 95 mph in his mid-40s -- which belies everything we know or think we know about aging patterns.
   46. Mefisto Posted: December 12, 2021 at 04:40 PM (#6057101)
My theory: Steroid use allows a pitcher to maintain velocity with less effort, which results in better control.
   47. Walt Davis Posted: December 12, 2021 at 05:48 PM (#6057107)
Bonds and late-career BA: I think it's (mainly) just the perfect storm of his improvement in other areas. I don't think anybody's ever calculated HR per in-zone pitch (or strike or whatever) but Bonds was surely off the charts in those years. Pitchers quickly learned they simply couldn't throw him a strike anywhere on the inner half, at least not on a fastball. So the standard pitching approach to Bonds (at least when you weren't IBBing him) was two breaking pitches on the edge. If both missed, you kept nibbling and walked him. If both caught a corner then you might try to get him to chase high (he would occasionally), otherwise more breaking stuff.

Now combine that need to avoid half the plate with a guy with great discipline who had also retooled his swing into Ted Williams and you get ... Ted Williams. Bonds could zero in on a prime zone probably more than any batter in history -- due to his great discipline and due to the fact he knew he was gonna be ahead 2-0 nearly all the time if he didn't get one in his zone. So a guy with a perfect swing, awesome power and a great eye -- it was "easy" to get a high BA.

Still, remember, Bonds is one of those freaks with a BABIP lower than his BA. Even in those crazy age 36-39 years, his BABIP was just 303, about average. For his career, his BABIP was below-average. It was far from obvious but even in his younger days, that was true -- ages 24-30, a 292 BABIP and 298 BA. He was always walks and power, he just was able to do it without striking out. For his career, his on-contact production is excellent but not all-time great. His on-contact production was pretty off the charts in the crazy years but even then, not much better than what Ohtani did this year.

Hitters with 5000+ PA and BABIP <= BA (just 66 players in all of history)

Ruth, Williams, Bonds, Gehrig, Mac, Musial, Mize, Aaron, Mays, DiMaggio, Ott, Kiner, Pujols, Belle, Killebrew, Vlad, Sheffield ... (that takes you through OPS+ of 140 or better). Low-K freaks like Vic Power (96 OPS+) and Buckner (100) are the worst hitters in the list. Bonds was in this group almost from day one. Fair enough, in his first few years, we expected something more like where Vlad/Sheff ended up but by 25-26 it was becoming clear that we were probably in Aaron-Mays territory. Then, true, it took those age 36-39 years to push him towards the very top.
   48. Walt Davis Posted: December 12, 2021 at 06:03 PM (#6057111)
Ryan ... it's not clear to me what we know about pitcher's aging patterns. They certainly don't seem to reflect batter patterns though I gather some of the statcast-type components might. But if there's a role for "intellect" in the aging process, it's escpecially the case for pitchers. Plus we know that fireballers age better than the others. Like Bonds, Ryan may have just been something of a perfect storm. It's too bad we don't have pitch data but certainly Ryan's innings early on were quite light for the era ... just 510 ML IP through age 24 (4 fullish seasons). That was more injury and ineffectivness, not babying, but still it wasn't heavy mileage. Even when he became Mr Endurance, he led the league in IP just once (probably far more often in # pitches though) and reached 300 just 3 times (I'm counting the 299). If we were to model it, I think his chances of surviving pretty well into his late 30s at least would be pretty high relatively speaking.

His improvement in control is over-stated though. I thought it was the case too but it's not particularly. Ceratinly his control in his 30s was much better than his 20s but it doesn't have much to do with that 40s breakout. His walk rate for 40-45 was down to 3.6/9 but it was only at 3.9/9 for ages 33-39. There is a substantial jump in K/BB from 2.2 to 2.9 but that's mainly due to the jump in K/9 not an improvement in BB/9. He may have had more control in the zone (harder to hit) or, as suggested, better control of a change-up led to more Ks but it seems he was just as likely to throw a pitch outside the zone in his 40s as in his 30s.
   49. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: December 12, 2021 at 06:14 PM (#6057112)
after missing out on the 1989 MVP award


I don't think about the 1989 AL MVP award much. So sue me. After this mention, I decided to check it out. An extreme split verdict. Sierra lost by a nose to Yount, five different players got first place votes. Sounds like the kind of year where a pitcher having a transcendent year could swoop in to win the award. Someone like Bret Saberhagen, who won 23 games, had a 2.16 ERA in 262 innings, and led the league in all of those figures. (Also led the league with 9.7 bWAR, for the nothing that's worth to 1989 voters.) But Saberhagen finished a distant 8th, earning zero first place votes. Eckersley got three first place votes, with an ERA half a run better than Saberhagen, but in 1/5th of the innings.

As for Ryan: I have no opinion about whether or not he used steroids. But his legacy might be a tad different if he had retired ten or fifteen years after he did.
   50. toratoratora Posted: December 12, 2021 at 08:06 PM (#6057117)
Re #45.
True. But almost nothing about Ryan's arm has a historical match. With his absurd propensity for K's and BB's, no one threw as many pitches in as many games that I can think of. Can I see the case for him and roids? You bet. But I also think he just had one of those rare rare arms that never falls off.

Rec #46
McGwire stated the the main advantage of steroids was the healing of minor nagging injuries. By mid season almost no player is 100%. But the steroid guy isn't 80% like most, he's at 85-90% because the minor pulls and cramps heal faster. That their main advantage was more subtle day to day. Which I can see easily carrying over to pitcher strength, stamina and speed
   51. Mefisto Posted: December 12, 2021 at 08:36 PM (#6057120)
Another thing to note about Bonds is that through 1998 (age 34) he averaged 8 WAR/650 PA. Aaron through age 34 averaged 7.3 (Mays averaged 9!). So Bonds was 10% better than Henry Frickin' Aaron over a time in which nobody has accused him of using steroids. Both Mays and Aaron averaged over 6 WAR/650 from age 35 on. Looks to me like Bonds would have aged pretty well.
   52. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: December 12, 2021 at 08:58 PM (#6057122)
Totally, Bonds was inner-circle, roids or no.
   53. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: December 12, 2021 at 10:53 PM (#6057130)
One thing I found amusing from the article was the statement that "if you adjust for playing time, these projections are usually really accurate!" Playing time would be one of the biggest factors in projecting Bonds forward from '99, when he had an injury-plagued down year at age 34 after six years of perfect health. Was his 2001 projection of 23 homers in 140 games, or 100? (Also, for that matter, are the projections adjusted for the fact that 112-144 were full time schedules in '94 and '95, or is it seeing phantom injuries due to the strike?)
   54. Mefisto Posted: December 13, 2021 at 09:36 AM (#6057156)
Bonds had 4072 PAs from age 35 on. At 6 WAR/650 (Less than Aaron or Mays), that would have given him 37.6 WAR instead of the 59.1 he actually got. Seems to me like a reasonable estimate: 6th best position player all-time, just behind Aaron.
   55. villageidiom Posted: December 13, 2021 at 09:44 AM (#6057158)
His Mitchell-verified drug tests will get swept under the rug because
If you go to the Mitchell Report right now you'll see that David Ortiz doesn't appear in the Mitchell Report at all! The sweeping under the rug has already begun! Next they're going to tell us that Sinbad never starred as a genie in a film called Shazaam and we all damn well know he did.
   56. zenstudent Posted: December 13, 2021 at 01:37 PM (#6057195)
Ryan participated in some sort of charity auction about 15-20 years ago down in Texas. He let people step in and hit against him. One guy celebrated when he took Ryan deep. Ryan then threw inside. The guy didn't hit him again. Apparently Ryan was clocked still throwing 85-86. Memory says it was a story on ESPN's Page 2 but I can't find it now.
   57. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: December 13, 2021 at 01:49 PM (#6057200)
If you can knock a guy's career stats down a couple hundred home runs, and he still is well over 500, then that's a Hall of Famer.

If you can knock out 56 career wins, and still have 298 (with a bunch of Cy Youngs, as well), then that's also a Hall of Famer.

This is so stupid.
   58. Walt Davis Posted: December 13, 2021 at 03:51 PM (#6057221)
#55 ... I was wondering about that. I didn't think he was in the Mitchell Report -- one main "criticism" of the report is that noted Sox fan Mitchell couldn't seem to find any dirt on Sox players. (Your conspiracies may vary.) And of course none of the 2003 tests have ever really been "verified." The verification we have for Ortiz is that after he was outed by the NYT, MLB/MLBPA released a statement about how there were some false positives without confirming Ortiz or anybody else's name on that list; then years later Manfred saying what he said. I don't think Ortiz ever clearly stated his name was there. Now add in the milkshakes and I think it's fair to say that it's highly likely Ortiz was on the list but still no way of knowing if that's a true positive.

But his legacy might be a tad different if he had retired ten or fifteen years after he did.

Well, sure, still getting ML hitters out at age 56 would have raised some eyebrows. :-)
   59. Walt Davis Posted: December 13, 2021 at 05:22 PM (#6057235)
#57: Sure but some anti-roiders have the simple point of "PEDs are cheating and cheaters don't belong in the HoF, it doesn't matter what they did when not cheating." Others might make the simple point that even if we only "know" about their PED usage for certain years, that doesn't mean they weren't doing them at other points in their careers.

This is neat:

Clemens through 32: 2533 IP, 182-98, 145 ERA+, 73 WAR, 4 ERA titles, 3 20-win seasons, 3 CYA, heaps of black ink (probably about 50)
Scherzer career: 2537 IP, 190-97, 134 ERA+, 66 WAR, 0 (!) ERA titles, 2 20-win seasons, 3 CYA, 55 black ink

Clemens 33+: 2383 IP, 172-86, 140 ERA+, 66 WAR, 3 ERA titles, 3 20-win seasons, 4 CYA, heaps of black ink (probably about 50)
Schilling 30+: 2273 IP, 164-94, 134 ERA+, 64 WAR, 0 ERA titles, 2 20-win seasons, 0 CYA, probably about 40 black ink

That the young Clemens and Scherzer are a good match would surprise nobody. Given that, that Clemens would be as good in his 30s as Curt Schilling should really surprise nobody. Obviously finding that in one pitcher is not a high probability event but it doesn't strike me as unbelievable. (Sure, 33+ and 30+ are not the same thing.)

Or ...

Clemens 30-32: 500 IP, 126 ERA+, 10.5 WAR, 4.7 WAR/162 (IP reduced some by 94-95)
Smoltz 30-32: 610 IP, 140 ERA+, 12.5 WAR, 4.7 WAR/162

Smoltz injured all of ages 33 and closer from 34-37

Clemens 38-40: 612 IP, 114 ERA+, 12.3 WAR, 4.4 WAR/162
Smoltz 38-40: 667 IP, 135 ERA+, 15 WAR, 5.2 WAR/162

Smoltz got hurt again at 41 but was off to a great start. That was pretty much it. Clemens had plenty left of course. That bit is pretty unbelievable ... that bit included testing.

I've pointed this out before but, per Clemens' own words, the PED he was definitely on in those later years were major painkillers. "I was eating Vioxx like Skittles" he told 60 Minutes in 2008. The NYT wrote about his Vioxx use in Feb 2005 (when Vioxx was banned) saying he was worried he wouldn't find anything else for his inflammation. I'm sure I saw something elsewhere when he said there's no way he'd have been able to go every 5 days without it.
   60. Mefisto Posted: December 13, 2021 at 07:01 PM (#6057238)
Sure Walt, but who's to say Schilling wasn't on PEDs?
   61. sunday silence (again) Posted: December 13, 2021 at 07:18 PM (#6057242)
I want to follow up on Mefisto's pt. but not trying to disparage Walt's point (havent even digested all of it)

In the middle of the silly ball you had guys like Rob Dibble insisting that steroids/weightlifting wouldn't help pitchers. Just vehemently insisting that was impossible.

ANd yet you just had to look go back a few years to see that both Mike Marshall and Tom Seaver, two of the best pitchers of the day were firm believers in weight training. It was mind boggling ludicrous and I dont recall anyone calling him out on that.
   62. AstrosOldTimer Posted: December 13, 2021 at 07:43 PM (#6057250)
I remember when all of this started and it seriously divided the fan community. Many, like me, were adamant that PED use was tantamount to cheating and that known users should be banned from the Hall. We were literally laughed at by a lot of people who simply knew that these players' numbers were just too great to ignore and that all of them would be inducted.

The first years when sportswriters took a stand was such a relief. Seeing cheats like Sosa and Palmeiro fall below the line was great. But Clemens and Bonds were always the big fish because the argument was that "they were HOF'ers before they starting taking steroids", which is a completely true statement.

Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems that the fans who want everyone else to give this huge pass to an entire generation of cheaters are often the same ones who hold the largest grudge against a first-ballot HOF'er who was banned for betting on his team to win, violating a long-time rule that was originally created to stop players from the much worse offense of throwing games.

I can only hope that the sportswriters stand their ground for one more year.
   63. AstrosOldTimer Posted: December 13, 2021 at 07:48 PM (#6057252)
> I am not sure how that can suddenly make all aspects of your game better. Ryan could always throw 96, but he used to walk people constantly

Late in his career, Ryan developed a new pitch, the circle change, which he used extensively. It was common wisdom at the time that this was a big driver in his late-career performance.
   64. SoSH U at work Posted: December 13, 2021 at 08:17 PM (#6057254)
To be fair, sunday, that was pretty far down on the list of Dibble idiocies.
   65. John Northey Posted: December 13, 2021 at 08:53 PM (#6057264)
Ryan was VERY well known for his massive workouts - building up his lower body especially. I remember lots of interviews (I was a big Ryan fan back then) and the like about it. He gave a lot of credit to Tom House for helping him get even better with his workouts too. Now, could he have been clean? Of course. Could he have been using PEDs? Of course. I'd love for a HOF'er, any HOF'er, to come out and say 'yes, I used PEDs while playing as did many others. Only a fool would think no one was using in the 80's'.

That is the problem now with PED use - who used and when. For all we know Aaron and Mays did too (iirc they used uppers like virtually every player did in the 60's - now banned as a PED).

Now, as to the Rose comparison - he broke the #1 rule in baseball. By far. Multiple times. Then lied about it, and lied, and lied. IMO if he never gets in that is fine by me.
   66. Ron J Posted: December 13, 2021 at 09:11 PM (#6057267)
#65 There's more actual evidence against Mays and amphetamines than there is against Sosa and ... well anything.

John Milner testified that he got "red juice" from Mays' locker. Note however that he never actually saw Mays use it. Just that what he took came from Mays' locker. And Mays denied using it.

   67. AstrosOldTimer Posted: December 13, 2021 at 09:18 PM (#6057268)
> IMO if he never gets in that is fine by me.

That's perfectly fair even though I disagree.

These rules are all designed to maintain the competitive integrity of the sport. The gambling rule was implemented because players were throwing games. That's unquestionably different than betting on your team to win.

In contrast, every PED user in the 90s knew that steroids were giving them an unfair competitive advantage on the field which is why they all concealed their use of it. They knew it was wrong. That's why so many people consider it "cheating". None of them should get in for the same principle that the Black Sox were banned.

The greenie use in the 70s was actually a bit different in this regard. In those cases, drugs were actually being administered by the team doctors. That pretty much exempts the players from wrongdoing, imo. And besides, no one seriously argues that uppers had the same effect on performance as steroid use.
   68. Booey Posted: December 13, 2021 at 10:53 PM (#6057278)
Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems that the fans who want everyone else to give this huge pass to an entire generation of cheaters are often the same ones who hold the largest grudge against a first-ballot HOF'er who was banned for betting on his team to win, violating a long-time rule that was originally created to stop players from the much worse offense of throwing games.


Your own paragraph helps explain why some of us view what Rose did as being much worse than pre-testing PED use...
   69. villageidiom Posted: December 14, 2021 at 08:28 AM (#6057298)
#55 ... I was wondering about that. I didn't think he was in the Mitchell Report -- one main "criticism" of the report is that noted Sox fan Mitchell couldn't seem to find any dirt on Sox players. (Your conspiracies may vary.)

Cooperation of teams, players, and law enforcement in the Mitchell Report.
   70. Stevey Posted: December 14, 2021 at 08:55 AM (#6057300)
the fans who want everyone else to give this huge pass to an entire generation of cheaters


What about the generation before that, the generation before that one who were cheating too? Steroids didn't magically appear when Canseco showed up.

This was the cover of SI in 1969. It was acknowledged by anyone who didn't bury their heads in the sand that players were using anabolic steroids, not just greenies back in the 60s.



That pretty much exempts the players from wrongdoing, imo. And besides, no one seriously argues that uppers had the same effect on performance as steroid use.


What an absolute crock of ####.
   71. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2021 at 09:09 AM (#6057302)
This was the cover of SI in 1969. It was acknowledged by anyone who didn't bury their heads in the sand that players were using anabolic steroids, not just greenies back in the 60s.


Count Jim Bouton among the guys with his head in the sand.

I have no doubt sports that were already heavily into weight training were all-in on steroid usage in 1969, but despite Tommy House's insistence about knowing stuff going on in clubhouses he wasn't in, I think it's a little less clear when it started in baseball (though it likely wasn't long after that).

   72. and Posted: December 14, 2021 at 09:17 AM (#6057305)
I feel young again.

In my view, anyone who played in a league that didn’t have a good testing program from 1970 on is suspect of Steroids use. They were widespread throughout world sport and players at the top, in the richest leagues both had means and motive and not a hell of a lot to lose.

If a hint of suspicion is enough to condemn a player, you shouldn’t want any player from that era honored. So a guy only hit 200 career homers, who is to say he wouldn’t have hit 150 without steroids? I just think the people picking on certain players have no clue how widespread steroids were as early as the 70s.

They should be banned and there should be penalties. But thinking you can pick out users by stat lines is foolish.
   73. Mefisto Posted: December 14, 2021 at 09:26 AM (#6057306)
Yeah, the stat line argument is circular:

1. I "know" that X used steroids because he hit so many HRs (or whatever).
2. I "know" that steroids improve performance because just look at X and all those HRs (or whatever).
   74. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 14, 2021 at 10:38 AM (#6057316)
And besides, no one seriously argues that uppers had the same effect on performance as steroid use.

Welcome to the steroids threads of the early 2000's. (smile)

This quote always got a rise out of people who tried to Whatabout Bonds' steroids by countering with players who used greenies BITD:
“How fabulous are greenies? Some of the guys have to take one just to get their hearts to start beating. I’ve taken greenies but I think Darrell Brandon is right when he says that the trouble with them is that they make you feel so great that you think you’re really smoking the ball even when you’re not. They give you a false sense of security. The result is that you get gay, throw it down the middle and get clobbered.”

---- Jim Bouton, Ball Four, p. 157
   75. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 14, 2021 at 10:59 AM (#6057319)
You must be new around here. "This quote" didn't get a rise out of anyone except the people who used it try to pretend that greenies had no effect on anything.
   76. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2021 at 11:04 AM (#6057322)
You must be new around here.


I don't think there's anywhere on earth where Andy is new around.
   77. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 14, 2021 at 11:13 AM (#6057325)
Tom, either your memory went AWOL on you, or you weren't really paying attention. I'm not interested in rehashing the steroids vs. greenies debate, but it consumed many a BTF thread, and Bouton's quote entered into it more than a few times, with much back and forth on its worth.

   78. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 14, 2021 at 11:14 AM (#6057326)
I don't think there's anywhere on earth where Andy is new around.

Now that may be true.
   79. TDF, trained monkey Posted: December 14, 2021 at 12:07 PM (#6057329)
I'm surprised Dan allowed ZiPS to be used in an article in this way. What the authors are saying ("This is how these guys would've ended up") isn't what ZiPS says, and everyone knows it.

From the article:
With those caveats, however, the ZiPS system has proved startlingly accurate. To demonstrate, Szymborski took 139 players who had at least 502 plate appearances in 2015, then compared their real numbers in five categories over the next six seasons to what the projection model spit out. The accuracy of the results surprised even Szymborski. For example, when comparing their real-life home run totals with projected homers (he normalized by using actual plate appearances, thus accounting for injuries, anomalies, etc.), the "average" miss was about two per season. The average miss on batting average was 13 points, and on OPS it was 36 points.
Certain people (the kinds who end up HOFers) are going to vastly outperform their projections simply because they aren't average.
   80. Stevey Posted: December 14, 2021 at 01:30 PM (#6057340)
Count Jim Bouton among the guys with his head in the sand.



Also Jim Bouton: "if we had steroids, we would have taken those, too"

Of course, they did have steroids back in the 60s, as Dianabol came to the States in 1958.

He also admits that he used DMSO that Whitey Ford had picked up at the race track. Seems like his opinion tracks pretty closely to House's, he just didn't have a dealer with access to Dianabol.
   81. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2021 at 01:42 PM (#6057345)
Seems like his opinion tracks pretty closely to House's, he just didn't have a dealer with access to Dianabol.


Hardly.

"We never even heard the word. But I said in Ball Four, that if there was a pill that would guarantee a pitcher would win 20 games but it would take five years off of his life, we’d all be taking them."

There may have been a few big leaguers dabbling in them in the 60s, but the idea they were widespread in MLB clubhouses is nonsense. If they were, Bouton would have heard the word rather than the twerpy huckster Tom House, a guy who wasn't in big league clubhouses until the 70s.
   82. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: December 14, 2021 at 02:14 PM (#6057350)
From my understanding, the "common wisdom" in major-league clubhouses (as well as throughout baseball), was that weight-training of any sort would compromise flexibility, e.g. that being "muscle-bound" would compromise one's baseball-playing ability. My Dad gave me that advice, for example. Pitchers ran (not always with a lot of enthusiasm) and threw (and sometimes they threw a lot), but I don't think there was anything like a "weight room" in a major league clubhouse until the 1990's. Notably, Tommy John's rehab program for his surgery included squeezing cut-open golf-balls and kneeding silly putty, but no mention of weight-training. Similarly, Steve Carlton's training regime including elaborate stretching regimes and moving his arm in a container of rice, but again no weight-training per-se.

The first player of any note to experiment with weight-training, IIRC, was Brian Downing, beginning from what I can tell in 1978 or 1979, and he had to buy his own weights and build a gym at home. In the article below he talks about trying to find a gym on the road where he can work out.

Brian Downing Profile 1980

The upshot is - whereas "greenies" may have been prominent in the 1960's (and perhaps before), primarily as a means of maintaining focus and concentration (like they were used by long-distance truck drivers), and steroids may have been known and used among weightlifters and football players back then, the "conventional wisdom" would have been that steroids, just like weight-training in general, could lead to no good end for a baseball player - OK for an offensive lineman, but no good for a baseball player.

From that standpoint, I find it difficult to believe that steroids would be a prominent thing in baseball in the late 1960's or 1970's, or even the early 1980's, because they really aren't useful IIRC unless you combine them with a weight-training regimen, and no one was doing that, and similarly anyone who thought about them would be worried about being "muscle-bound".
   83. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 14, 2021 at 02:18 PM (#6057351)
There may have been a few big leaguers dabbling in them in the 60s, but the idea they were widespread in MLB clubhouses is nonsense. If they were, Bouton would have heard the word rather than the twerpy huckster Tom House, a guy who wasn't in big league clubhouses until the 70s.

Tom House's 1989 book, The Jock's Itch, which was promoted as an updated version of Ball Four, has an entire chapter devoted to drugs and drug use by players from the 50's through the 80's.

The word "steroids" doesn't appear once.

He also says that with greenies, there's no way to know whether their benefits are physical or psychological, which is pretty much what Bouton was saying.

   84. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 14, 2021 at 02:24 PM (#6057357)
The first player of any note to experiment with weight-training, IIRC, was Brian Downing, beginning from what I can tell in 1978 or 1979, and he had to buy his own weights and build a gym at home.

Actually Carl Yastrzemski spoke openly about working out with weights in the 1966-67 offseason, and in part he credited those workouts with his dramatic power upsurge from 16 to 44 home runs.

OTOH "The Beast", Jimmie Foxx, credited his enormous muscles to milking cows as a boy on his family farm. Hey, whatever works.
   85. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2021 at 02:47 PM (#6057361)
From my understanding, the "common wisdom" in major-league clubhouses (as well as throughout baseball), was that weight-training of any sort would compromise flexibility, e.g. that being "muscle-bound" would compromise one's baseball-playing ability. My Dad gave me that advice, for example. Pitchers ran (not always with a lot of enthusiasm) and threw (and sometimes they threw a lot), but I don't think there was anything like a "weight room" in a major league clubhouse until the 1990's. Notably, Tommy John's rehab program for his surgery included squeezing cut-open golf-balls and kneeding silly putty, but no mention of weight-training. Similarly, Steve Carlton's training regime including elaborate stretching regimes and moving his arm in a container of rice, but again no weight-training per-se.


One of my closest friends pitched a couple of seasons in the minors in 1989-90. I asked him about PED usage, and he said he didn't really consider them for that very reason. While he obviously lifted, he didn't want to become muscle-bound and risk losing flexibility. He said there was a lot of whispers about hitters using, but it wasn't wide open and was some considered iffy, at best. (On a personal level, he said he didn't really hold it against any of the guys from Latin America. He had a four-year degree he could fall back on, but a lot of the guys from poorer countries were really banking on making it in the game. I found that pretty interesting).

He also said greenie use was pretty much out in the open.
   86. Bad Fish Posted: December 14, 2021 at 03:46 PM (#6057368)
My nom-de-plume is a reference to 3 separate times "bad fish" has been used as excuse for sudden withdrawal from the tour-de-France. The first time this excuse was used was in 1956 when an entire Belgian team dropped, again in 1962 when something like 14 riders dropped in one day likely due to fouled injections, and again in 1991. It's a (very) subtle reminder that doping has not only been deployed for a long time, it ubiquity doesn't even allow for originality in excuse-making.
   87. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 15, 2021 at 12:00 AM (#6057408)
Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems that the fans who want everyone else to give this huge pass to an entire generation of cheaters are often the same ones who hold the largest grudge against a first-ballot HOF'er who was banned for betting on his team to win, violating a long-time rule that was originally created to stop players from the much worse offense of throwing games.
He was not banned for "betting on his team to win." He was banned for betting on his team. (Pedantically, he was banned because he negotiated a ban with ABG; there were no findings because one of his conditions for agreeing to the ban was that there not be.) The notion that he only bet on them to win is supported by his claim that he only bet on them to win, which would be more credible if he hadn't first spent 15 years denying that he had bet on them at all.
   88. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: December 15, 2021 at 12:21 AM (#6057409)
John Milner testified that he got "red juice" from Mays' locker.

None other than Bud Selig is on record saying he first learned of PED's in MLB when touring the Milwaukee Braves clubhouse in 1958 where I believe he said greenies were freely available to players.

One of the leaders in that clubhouse would have to had been the reigning 1957 NL MVP, Hank Aaron.
   89. McCoy Posted: December 15, 2021 at 07:45 AM (#6057414)
Gym equipment started becoming ubiquitous in the 80s. Nautilus equipment was all the rage and when the equipment would show up in the clubhouse you can bet some reporter would write a column about it.

With the rising salaries it makes sense that PED exploded all over the scene in the 90s. Now that players had a lot of money they could afford to be "scientific" and organized about their regimes and people and companies were more than happy to help them. Whereas in the 70s and 80s it was basically your local gym rats and dealers figuring things out on an anecdotal basis.
   90. Stevey Posted: December 15, 2021 at 08:04 AM (#6057415)
"We never even heard the word. But I said in Ball Four, that if there was a pill that would guarantee a pitcher would win 20 games but it would take five years off of his life, we’d all be taking them."


I'm not seeing where this is any different than my quote. Again, steroids were available in the 60s. It's strange that Bouton tries to pretend they weren't, all while saying that the stuff he took didn't really help him, but the stuff later guys took definitely did. We definitely haven't seen that excuse regarding PED usage before. But hey, you can make it clear that you're still going to take shots at Tom House for kicking your dog or something, apparently.
   91. SoSH U at work Posted: December 15, 2021 at 08:21 AM (#6057417)
I'm not seeing where this is any different than my quote. Again, steroids were available in the 60s. It's strange that Bouton tries to pretend they weren't, all while saying that the stuff he took didn't really help him, but the stuff later guys took definitely did. We definitely haven't seen that excuse regarding PED usage before. But hey, you can make it clear that you're still going to take shots at Tom House for kicking your dog or something, apparently.


Jim Bouton was writing about all the things going on in clubhouses, at the time they were happening. He wasn't holding anything back. Yet he wasn't witnessing widespread steroid usage, which you insist he must have known about unless he had his head was in the sand. He's not just "pretending they didn't exist" now. He wasn't acknowledging them then.

I'm certainly not endorsing his "the stuff we took was fine, the stuff they took is cheating" argument seriously. I'm merely noting that if roid usage was as widespread as you insist, then the one guy we know who was observing and writing about that time period, who was actually in clubhouses throughout the 1960s, should would have noticed.

Tom House, by contrast, was not in big league clubhouses in the 1960s, so his assertions about this (like his assertions about many, many things) ring a little hollow.
   92. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: December 15, 2021 at 08:46 AM (#6057418)
My nom-de-plume is a reference to 3 separate times "bad fish" has been used as excuse for sudden withdrawal from the tour-de-France. The first time this excuse was used was in 1956 when an entire Belgian team dropped, again in 1962 when something like 14 riders dropped in one day likely due to fouled injections, and again in 1991. It's a (very) subtle reminder that doping has not only been deployed for a long time, it ubiquity doesn't even allow for originality in excuse-making.


Don't forget that plane that almost crashed after some bad fish! I saw such a compelling documentary on it when I was a kid.
   93. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 15, 2021 at 10:02 AM (#6057430)
Jim Bouton was writing about all the things going on in clubhouses, at the time they were happening. He wasn't holding anything back. Yet he wasn't witnessing widespread steroid usage, which you insist he must have known about unless he had his head was in the sand. He's not just "pretending they didn't exist" now. He wasn't acknowledging them then.

I'm certainly not endorsing his "the stuff we took was fine, the stuff they took is cheating" argument seriously. I'm merely noting that if roid usage was as widespread as you insist, then the one guy we know who was observing and writing about that time period, who was actually in clubhouses throughout the 1960s, should would have noticed.

Tom House, by contrast, was not in big league clubhouses in the 1960s, so his assertions about this (like his assertions about many, many things) ring a little hollow.


And again, House's 1989 tell-all book doesn't even mention steroids, although it contains an entire chapter devoted to drugs, and how they were ubiquitous going back to the 1950's. He doesn't even repeat hearsay about steroids.
   94. Darren Posted: December 15, 2021 at 03:53 PM (#6057501)
A little late but wanted to point out some issues with the article.

This is a minor one:
Bonds for being among the greatest players to don a baseball uniform, and Clemens for a 24-year career that generated 354 wins and seven Cy Young Awards.


Weird description--sounds like Bonds was among the greatest ever and Clemens also did some good stuff. By the numbers they are using (Fangraphs WAR), though, Clemens is the greatest pitcher of all time. This is minor compared to what comes later.

Clemens finished with 354 wins -- 141 of which came after the date when Clemens' former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, testified he first injected the pitcher with PEDs.


This is not true. McNamee testified that Clemens started using in June 1998. At that point, Clemens was on pace for a 5-6 WAR season. You also need to keep in mind that steroids take time to have an effect. Projecting from the start of 1998 is really really sloppy and misleading.

Perhaps the most notable Clemens stat is innings pitched. The numbers reveal what a durable force he remained well into his late 30s and early 40s. He turned 35 during the 1997 season and tossed 264 innings; thereafter, he had six more seasons with 200-plus innings pitched, including 2005 when, at the age of 43, he threw 211⅓ innings, had a 1.87 ERA and struck out 185 hitters.


That 1997 total, which carries a lot of the weight here, came before anyone accused Clemens of using. If anything, the fact that he put up that total at age 34 points toward Clemens being extremely durable without steroids.

The thing about Bonds and Clemens is that, unlike so many other players, they seemed to get better -- at least for a few years -- as they got older, defying the slow, steady decline that typically leads to retirement.

Wait, what? Bonds got better, but Clemens certainly didn't get better after he allegedly took steroids. Through age 34, Clemens led all pitchers since integration with 87.5 WAR. From 35 on, his 46 WAR place him fourth all time. 8 of his 9 best seasons by WAR came before age 35. His innings pitched after age 35 were similarly reduced compared to his earlier years.





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