Sunday, December 05, 2004

More on Barry Bonds

After prompting a lot of criticism of Tom Boswell earlier in the week, I have to give him credit for this column, which helps makes the clear case as to how steriods helped Bonds. The paper version of the Post had a good graphic showing Bonds' HR per AB over his career. But I thought HR per AB wasn't quite the best stat to use; I thought HR per H would be a better indicator of steroid effect, since it is thought that steriods mostly help turn hits into homers.

So, taking a page from SuperNoVa, I ran off two interesting Excel charts. Here's the first one:

Like the Post's chart, this shows that in after 1998, when Bonds starting working with personal trainer Greg Anderson, his HR per H for each of the next 6 years are ALL higher than any previous year.

Here's the second chart, showing Bonds HR per H against Aaron, Mays and Ruth, corresponded to age:

Again, at the same age when Ruth and Mays start going down, Bonds starts going up, when he starts working with Anderson. He also beats Aaron every year, though Aaron did have a great year when he was 39 -- though it has long been known that Aaron's feat really was his productivity in his late 30s.

To me, this is conclusive proof that Bonds' statistics are tainted by the steriods. I certainly won't consider them among the greats anymore.


At 11:41 AM, Blogger dexys_midnight said...

Thanks, DM. Two comments: 1) a quibble, 1999 does not appear to be a higher HR/H year from your chart--it appears it started kicking in in 2000. One could also make an argument (probably not a good one) that the post-1998 levels aren't THAT much higher than his 1995-1998 levels (besides the biggie 2001 season). Like I posted, I agree that this whole thing is a big cycle and that there has no doubt been a big effect for Bonds.
But...2) You can hate Bonds for his attitude (and maybe should) and you can discount him and dislike him for the steriods (and probably should), but in my mind you need to clarify "the greats" that you won't consider him among anymore. If you mean, Ruth, Mays & Williams, the absolute upper echelon, well, I think you are probably correct. If you mean "the greats" in general, I'm not so sure. That, as I said, is the saddest part for me. I don't have much doubt at all that Bonds would have hit over 500 homers, probably over 600 without the steroids. He would still be the best power/speed combo player in history (before A-Rod takes it away). He would have the Gold Gloves, some of the MVPs, and still be a certain first-ballot hall of famer. All of this is my opinion of course, we can never know. I just find it really sad that he sold his soul (ok, a bit of hyperbole) to try to go from one of the greats to a shot at the greatest. And to many people now, like perhaps yourself, he has even lost his place at the table with people who were "merely" really great.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger DM said...

Dexys, Excel does a lousy job of labeling the X-Axis -- that low point you are thinking is 1999 is actually 1998. The points are to the right of the label (note that 2004 is cut in half on the very edge of the graph). So the increase really starts in 1999 dramatically, esp. when compared to 1998.

I am no longer willing to compare Bonds to anyone or any record for whom the last 6 years of his performance is necessary to prompt such comparison. I include Aaron's, Ruth's and Mays's HR marks, his slugging percentage and OBP records, etc. They are non-events now in my mind. I hope he retires before even coming close to Aaron now (I predict he won't break the record, now). I will not participate in that "chase" anymore. (Note that Aaron "hammered" Bonds in an Atlanta Journal-Constiution story yesterday).

It's interesting. This whole analysis reminded me that when people talked in the mid-1990s about who might chase Aaron in the , Bonds was not at the top of people's lists. Griffey and A-Rod were the favorites, because they were younger, and Bonds had very good but not great numbers indicating a shot at 756. Bonds really came out of nowhere on that list, and now we know why.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger SuperNoVa said...


What about Mark McGwire and andro? Legal substance under then-existing law, although it was banned in the other sports and the Olympics, and it has a muscle-building effect? Does his 70-HR season get tossed into the wastebasket of history like Bonds' 73 HR season. And if not, why not?

What about Sammy, who: (1) didn't use andro; and (2) hasn't admitted steroid use; and (3) it would be impossible to prove - absent a confession from someone who gave him the juice - that he did steroids at this date; and (4) was, from my own eyes, so juiced it's crazy. Do you let his record stand in light of his apparent (but unprovable) dishonesty if McGwire's record falls.

By the way, the "clear" apparently was not illegal at some portions of the time Bonds took it (hard to know which points). The "cream" contained testosterone, which is a regulated substance. I haven't seen evidence Bonds took HGH, but if he did, he's a dirty, dirty man. That stuff is ugly.

Did you hear that his cap size grew by one full size over the last six years? In a healthy person, I believe that is only consistent with HGH use.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger DM said...

SNV, please note that my stance on Bonds is without prejudice to imposing a similar view on any other player, and you have certainly named the leading candidates. In other words, I'm willing to go there too, and probably already have in my mind. In fact, after Dexys question, I went here:

and determined that, as far as I'm concerned, Maris stil holds the record (and I also began to reevaluate Luis Gonazalez's 2001 season, as he may be another victim of Bonds et al., because he certainly doesn't look like he's on the juice, and hit 57 dingers).

At 2:04 AM, Blogger El Gran Color Naranja said...

I had a nice long comment and then wham! Deleted. Ok to re-summarize.

The simplest explanation is that Bonds got in great physical shape and tried to hit more HRs. Can you discredit that? Things of interest would be:
1) GO/FO ratio for the years (is he trying to hit more flyballs)
2) K/AB ratio for the years (is he trying to hit it harder)
3) How these relate to other HR hitters
4) How would your excel chart look for other hitters? Do their power stretches include what may look like strange increases in HR/H (though I prefer a denominator based on FO + a ratio of hits believed to be in the air)

Being interested I looked up some and can tell you
1) He did hit more flyballs outs from 1998 on. pre-1998 his lowest g/f ratio was .71 (generally in the mid-lows 70s), after-98 the highest (up until last year) was .65 (generally the high 50s)
2) He struck out an unusual number of times per at bat in his record breaking season, but unusually low after that
3) He's among the leaders ins g/f ratio, year in and out.

I think this offers an explanation of he got bigger and stronger and tried to hit more HRs, especially in 2001. After that he learned that he could zone in on pitches because pitchers were afraid to throw him strikes to an absurd degree. Though I still think he used, I can't say what I see from you is conclusive in anyway.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger DM said...

El Gran, thanks for looking at more stats, and I'm sorry your long post was deleted. Your conclusion in many ways is the same as mine: that Bonds "got bigger and stronger" between the ages of 33 and 39, and his stats (HR/H, GO/FO) seem to show that. Now, where we differ is what made him "bigger and stronger"? I think it is clear that it is the steriods, based on my second chart, which compares him by age to other great players. Ideally, with lots of time, we could compare Bonds to a bunch of other similar players who played into their 40s, and see whether any other one had the improvement in power (measured by my stats or any others) that he had at that stage in life. I doubt there are any. To me, that indicates that the "bigger and stronger" is not based on a natural process.

Stated another way, do you have confidence that it was a level playing field for Bonds versus other players, esp. those in history, over the past 6 years? If not, then I don't know how you can be confident in his stats.

At 2:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, if you glance at the first chart without knowing when he began working with Anderson or when he is suspected to have started taking 'roids, it appears that the general trend is upward. To me it means he is getting better with age, OR he started taking steroids long before we realized.

Tom G

At 8:49 PM, Blogger DM said...

Tom G,

You may be right, but I think the years for 1995-1998 indicate a leveling off or declining trend that seems to be dramatically reversed starting in 1999. My belief is that it would be very difficult to find another player with a trend like that.


At 8:49 PM, Blogger DM said...

Tom G,

You may be right, but I think the years for 1995-1998 indicate a leveling off or declining trend that seems to be dramatically reversed starting in 1999. My belief is that it would be very difficult to find another player with a trend like that.



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