Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Speculating About the Steroid Era

Nobody to this point has been able to accurately calculate the statistical affect of the Steroid Era. Nobody can accurately prove that there was a major benefit or what that benefit was (or is). This particular piece isn't going to be the groundbreaking answer either. For one thing, it's difficult for this writer to care. Yeah, they cheated. Yeah. They were caught. Okay. When's the game on today? But it's a story that doesn't go away and thus we are left to flounder around and try to figure out what to do with the statistics from this era in MLB. The era also throws a monkey wrench into Hall of Fame voting since most writers will not vote for anyone who is even hinted about when it comes to the drug enhancers. All that this writer can do with his feeble mind is to speculate using only one number. Here's what the Fan has come up with.

If you look at the major league pitching stats over the years (thank goodness for, up until 1994, the home runs per nine innings fluctuated between 0.70 per nine innings to 0.90. The only anomaly was 1961 when the leagues expanded which was largely blamed for the record set that year by Roger Maris. That year, the HR per nine innings was 1.0.

Then in 1994, the figure jumped over 1 per nine innings and the average since then has been 1.1. For simple speculation, we can call 1994 the starting point for the glut of PEDs in baseball. Of course that is only speculation. Who really knows when it really started and if the jump of homers per nine innings occurred was steroid induced or just a coincidence for other reasons. But let's for speculation's sake, say that the jump was the smoking gun of the Steroid Era. Using that unprovable stat as our basis, we'll be generous and say that the normal homer per nine inning rate is 0.90. With the post 1994 stat at 1.1, then we divide 0.9 by 1.1 and our steroid factor is 0.8181818181818. We can then use this factor as our basis for evaluating stats of some of those we suspect.

Let's start with Barry Bonds (for legal reasons, the Fan states here that there is no evidence that Bonds ever used PEDs). Since the FEDS are accusing him, then we'll use him as our test case. If we multiply his 73 homer season by 0.81818181818 (or PED factor), then he hit 59.72 homers that season. And if his homers jumped starting in 2000 when he jumped to 46 the year before his record setting season, then from then to the end of his career, Bonds hit 317 suspicious homers after that period and had 445 before. If we use our factor against those 317 homers, that lowers those homers to 259 and leaves him with an adjusted lifetime total of 704 homers. He would then be third all time and still a Hall of Famer.

Let's jump to Rafael Palmeiro. His magical jump in stats occurred in 1995 (hey! that's close to our mythical starting point!). Using our formula, Raffy had 151 possible untarnished homers and 418 problematic ones. Multiply the 418 by our factor and you get 342 adjusted homers. 342 plus 151 equals 493 adjusted lifetime homers, just short of the magic 500.

Sammy Sosa's slugging percentage magically jumped in 1994 (imagine that!). He had 74 homers to that point and finished with 609, giving him 535 worrisome numbers. Using our factor against the 535 and you get an adjusted number of 438 or an adjusted career total of 512 homers. And what about his three seasons over 60? the 66 becomes 54, the 63 becomes 51 and the 64 becomes 52.

Mark McGwire hit 412 homers after 1994. Multiply that by our factor and the adjusted homer figure is 337. Add 337 to the 171 homers McGwire had before 1994 and you get 508 adjusted career homers. And what of McGwire's two seasons over 60 homers? The 70 becomes 57 and his season of 65 becomes 53.

So, if any of the information makes any sense at all, Aaron's record is safe, Maris' record is intact and McGwire and Sosa barely make the magical numbers for the HOF. Bonds is still a HOFer and Palmeiro is not.

When considering the last paragraph, the thought came to the Fan that without the PEDs, some of these players wouldn't have had the longevity they had to compile the numbers. But we can't deal with that. What we need is a way to put the numbers into some kind of context. While the whole exercises is probably meaningless, there has to be some way of evaluating these players for HOF status and for what to do with the all time stats that no one believes in any more. What do you think?


Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

What steroid era?

bobook said...

What a disgrace that the all-time records have been artificially shattered. This is Selig's legacy-the commissioner who turned a blind eye from steroids ruining the greatest game's greatest records because the extra clout put extra fannies in the seats. Let's hear it for Commissioner Asterisk...

Josh Borenstein said...

I'm with you, bobook. Selig did a lot of good things for baseball (Wild Card, Interleague play). This was not one of them.

One thing I distinctly remember about Palmeiro before it came out that he juiced. Someone informed him that besides him only Aaron, Mays, and Murray had 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. And Palmeiro said something along the lines of, "I don't belong on that list." Guilty conscience, Raffy?