Thursday, December 09, 2004

Even More Bonds Data

I love In the comments to my post on Bonds, I suggested that it would be interesting to look at a bunch of players and see how they performed after the age of 34 (the age when Bonds began his relationship with trainer Greg Anderson). Sure enough, poking around on, I found what I was looking for. In the section on each player card regarding "similarity scores" there is a link for "Compare Stats" that gives you this page, which compares Bonds to the most similar players to him for his career. You can then compare them for any particular age, such as 34.

Let's take a look at the percentage increase or decrease between these players' OPS+ (OBP plus SLG adjusted for league and park) in the years before age 34 and after, sorted by their pre-34 OPS+ (I need SuperNoVa's table creating skills) [SNV - You got 'em]:

PlayerPre-34 OPS+Post-34 OPS+% Change
Babe Ruth




Ted Williams




Lou Gehrig




Mickey Mantle




Stan Musial




Jimmie Foxx




Barry Bonds




Willie Mays




Frank Robinson




Hank Aaron




Mel Ott




Rafael Palmeiro




It's more revealing as a bar graph, but I don't have time to put one together, and you get the picture. As I suspected, Bonds' dramatic improvement is unmatched by any of the great players with close similarity scores. Indeed, it's not even like Bonds' increase is more than others -- it is diametrically opposed to what the other greats did in their later years. All but one show decreases, where Bonds shows a dramatic increase. Even Aaron, who was very productive in his later years, decreased.

Interestingly, Rafael Palmeiro has managed to stay even in his post-34 career, but he is still far below Bonds' improvement. (Rafi, as we know, apparently takes another substance for "growth", which is legal with prescription.) I think he may be a good example of how better (legitimate) conditioning and preparation can help today's players maintain performance in their later years, but not increase them dramatically. It might also simply reflect the general increase in offense during the recent period.

It would seem there is some statistical analysis well-beyond my skills that would show how such a disparity is very very very remote.


At 10:11 AM, Blogger dexys_midnight said...

well, you don't have to be a statistical genius to see that Bonds is multiple standard deviations from the mean even among all-time greats.

I actually think (and maybe this is SNV's table mastery), it is more dramatic as a table here than it would be as a bar graph. I wonder if we can find ANY hall of famers that had close to that growth. A couple candidates come to mind, and I will check, but I doubt they will even be close.

p.s. Ruth's and Williams's numbers are just outstanding. It pops out at you on this chart.

At 5:02 PM, Blogger SuperNoVa said...

This is like the Sesame Street version of statistical analysis:

"One of these things is not like the of these things just doesn't belong."

At 2:13 AM, Blogger Narendra said...

Great data. I just computed the value for Steve Finley. He is a +8% and is clearly an anomaly and example of someone improving by experience and a very strong offseason training regimen.

It is a shame that Bonds is overshadowing what Finley is achieving. This year both of them will be chasing the HR record for a 40 year old (age during entire season). It is held by Ted Williams - 29.


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