Only Baseball Matters
…. Barry US Bonds

Remember when Bonds wasn’t the pariah of all baseball? Remember when Chris Berman used to call him Barry US Bonds on ESPN’s highlight show? Seems like such a long time ago….

Murray Chass looks at the “steroid era” in yesterday’s NY Daily News:

…. In a demonstration unprecedented in baseballís long history, players erupted in an orgy of home runs, achieving feats no single player or group of players had ever approached. It is reasonable to conclude that someone had to be doing something.

Bonds was part of that orgy, the most prominent part. He slugged a record 73 home runs in 2001, three years after Mark McGwire broke the record by hitting 70.

In 1998 and í99, McGwire and Sammy Sosa became the first players to hit 60 or more home runs in a season twice. Two years later, Sosa did a solo performance, becoming the first to hit 60 or more three times.

That same season, 2001, Bonds made it six times in a four-season span that players slugged at least 60 home runs. Before 1998, in all of the years that players sent baseballs over fences, they reached 60 only twice.

The title of this op-ed is “Making sense of a mountain of evidence,” but the only evidence that Chass considers is the fact that a lot of home runs were hit. He doesn’t reference Will Carroll’s book, which suggested that there were many factors involved in the home run explosion; he doesn’t reference any of my statistical analysis of the subject, (not that I’m the king of Siam, or anything), he ignores the entire internet community of baseball writers and sabermetricians.

All he looks at is the fact that from 1998 to 2003, there were more 50 home run seasons than in the history of the game. But, as I wrote two years ago, if you lower the standard to 45 home run seasons, you find that the super spike goes away.

…. that’s selective use of the statistics. If we use 45+ HR seasons as our starting point, we see a whole different picture. There have been twenty-two 45+ HR seasons in just the last four years, by as varied a group of players as imaginable; A-Rod (four times), Thome (three times), Palmeiro, Glaus, Sosa (three times), Bonds (four times), Bagwell, Luis Gonzalez, Shawn Green, Todd Helton, Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols, and Adam Dunn have all done it. Going back to 1993, the year Stark and most everybody else keeps saying signals the start of the “steroids era,” you can add McGwire (four times), Andres Galarragga, Larry Walker, Juan Gonzalez, Ken Griffey Jr. (four times), Albert Belle (twice), Canseco, Brady Anderson, Mo Vaughn, Greg Vaughn, Vinny Castilla, and Chipper Jones to the list. That’s 26 different players, who have hit at least 45 home runs over 30 times in the past 12 seasons, a total that was reached but 5 times the previous 12.

By using 50+ HR seasons as your analysis point; you can narrow your focus to the big three, Sosa, Bonds and McGwire; who all share one unmistakable characteristic; super-muscularity. Their size makes them an easy target for suspicion, and with such a narrow focus, it’s inevitable that the muck-raking would eventually make a dent and produce something, anything to use as proof that they are using PED’s. This is called missing the forest for the trees.

A more reasoned look at baseball during the “steroids era” would conclude that there would have to be more to the upswing in home runs totals, simply because of the number of different players who have hit so many home runs, (unless you believe Tom Verducci, that 50% of the players were using). And an even more revealing analysis can be found by looking at league season by league season home run totals, which clearly show that starting in the mid-nineties, all players have been hitting more home runs….

The home run surge has continued, we just don’t have the three greatest home run hitters of our era in their prime anymore.

Chass should do better. He’s a big-time sports columnist, who should have known that he’s not only plagiarizing Jayson Stark –who wrote essentially the EXACT SAME COLUMN four years ago– he’s guilty of lazy analysis.

It doesn’t take very long to crunch the numbers, but you could just type it into Google and get my work, Will Carroll’s, Baseball Prospectus’s, Baseball Analyst’s, the Hardball Times’s…. it’s out there. Instead, we get Chass rehashing the same tired bullshit.

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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