October 05, 2005

Home Runs and Steroids: Some Perspective, Please: Home runs were down in 2005. Was it because of steroid testing? Amateur breaks it down.

posted by justgary to baseball at 04:32 PM - 12 comments

Bravo! The other way to approach it would be to have examined %variation between years, and how wildly that varies between seasons, and see if the variation between 2004 and 2005 was that dramatic. If you're one of those fans that insists that steroids are the main reason for the modern power surge, I suppose you might argue that we started to see their influence in the late 1970's. One reason HR totals might have started to go up in the 1970s is because of two major changes: 1) They adjusted the height of the mound (made it lower). 2) The introduction of the DH in the AL, which is why it's been higher than the NL every year since then.

posted by grum@work at 08:03 PM on October 05, 2005

Thanks grum, I appreciate the support and the suggestions. Looking at the % change year-over-year leads to the same conclusion: the 2004-2005 change was nothing very unusual. Recent history in the NL: the % drop was bigger between 2001 and 2002, and bigger between 1991 and 1992; in the same period there were two rises that were bigger too. There are some interesting thoughts about the different historical "eras" in this book (some material available free in PDF form).

posted by Amateur at 09:12 PM on October 05, 2005

Such a topical column. Just today on 'the jungle' John Kruk and Jim Rome were discussing Jose Canseco's book and how the decrease in home runs was a direct consequence of steroid testing. Not as a question, but as fact.

posted by justgary at 10:57 PM on October 05, 2005

Just today on 'the jungle' John Kruk and Jim Rome Were you punishing yourself?

posted by yerfatma at 06:14 AM on October 06, 2005

VERY cool! Great work amateur, this is exactly the kind of article I like to see. I'm proud to say a fellow SpoFite wrote this! Well researched, clearly argued, and challenging some conventional wisdom to boot! The usual crap spewed by highly paid incompetents wastes our time- they only reiterate the sports talking points of the day. This was much more sabermetric in its approach, without being too dry. The other thing that makes this difficult is that we don't know who is and isn't using steroids, or what the "true" percentage is in the league. If we could isolate the long-term users with noticeable strength increases, do they chart a different course? Have pitchers been using steroids as well in similar numbers, and seen benefits (recovery time between starts, or ability to throw at max velocity with less muscle damage over time) that have effectively counterbalanced the advantage hitters were getting- a literal arms race? So many variables, but I appreciate that you helped spell out how meaningless this "sudden drop" is in the scheme of things, in the normal variations year to year or decade to decade. Just tell me you won't go working for the oil companies and try to prove mathematically that global warming isn't real. :) I think the whole steroids thing is overblown- the advantage given by steroids may not really even exist, and be merely psychological. For example, a musclebound steroid using player thinks they'll hit more homeruns now that they've bulked up. They'll now swing for the fences a lot more, will hit more homeruns but at the expense of more strikeouts and lower BA/OBP, and that style of hitter becomes more prevalent because "chicks dig the long ball". After signing a fat contract for a .250 average and 40HR, other players emulate this behavior, and like Cargo Cults in Polynesia may believe that steroids are the only way to achieve these results. I recall reading in "The Physics of Baseball" how, after studying corked bats, there appears to be no real advantage to the corked bat whatsoever, and even a slight disadvantage in terms of power. The only one that could be surmised was that corked bats made hitters think they had an advantage- a fancy placebo effect.

posted by hincandenza at 07:53 AM on October 06, 2005

Great work, Amateur. Certainly a worthy examination. Hal, I've often wondered about the placebo effect of these things on a sport that embraces so much superstition and ritual - it makes sense to me that such an effect could happen more readily in baseball - where there are so many more instances of opportunity (games, ABs) and so much failure and uncertainty (more often out than safe, hard-hit balls can easily become outs). Such a scenario lends itself to the idea of the placebo effect more easily than a game like football, or futbol. I think you have a point - corked bats may be an indication of that attitude - or an indication of just plain stupidity.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:03 AM on October 06, 2005

Amateur, I believe the large increase in 1991-1992 can be attributed to the fact Bert Blyleven did not pitch in 1991 and he did in 1992. He had more effect on HR stats than steroids.

posted by sandman at 08:15 AM on October 06, 2005

Nice article-good job!

posted by daddisamm at 09:01 AM on October 06, 2005

I like your investigative way of thinking, sandman. Indeed the AL data suggest that Blyleven's pitching significantly suppressed home runs: 1990, B.B. 134 IP, AL 2.34 HR/100 AB 1991, B.B. 000 IP, AL 2.52 HR/100 AB 1992, B.B. 133 IP, AL 2.30 HR/100 AB 1993, B.B. 000 IP, AL 2.68 HR/100 AB Look, a perfect correlation! And thanks for the compliments, everyone.

posted by Amateur at 09:14 AM on October 06, 2005

i don't much about baseball stats like amateur and the other fella so i really cant comment on the numbers. i do play baseball and love the game and never felt bigger muscles=more home. griffey great home run hitter and he's built like a toothpick see also soriano. these guys are in great shape but they are not hulking mongolids like giambi or bonds or mcguire.

posted by HATER 187 at 10:33 AM on October 06, 2005

Hal Inc - global warming? Look on the bright side. This planet suffers a deadly "ice age" every 80,000 years or so - and the last one was 80,000 years ago. Maybe golbal warming will be our savior;-)

posted by drevl at 11:07 AM on October 06, 2005

Is anyone else getting bad cell phone reception in here?

posted by yerfatma at 12:20 PM on October 06, 2005

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