June 8, 2011

Playing "What If" With Steroid Users: Barry Bonds Edition

     It's a hot topic every time Baseball Hall of Fame voting season comes along.  What do we make of the Steroid Era?  Should we ban all users?  That's not exactly fair to guys like Bonds and Clemens, who were Hall-quality players without PED's.  If you want to cite "character issues", then Ty Cobb ought to be removed from the Hall, right?  At the other extreme, what if we take all stats at face value?  That's not fair to players who were clean but not as great as they could have been.
     I'm curious how much of an effect steroids had on some of the most notable offenders.  So I'll be conducting a number of "experiments" to try to figure out what kind of numbers these players would have put up had they not resorted to performance enhancers.  And who better to start with than the most notorious of them all, Barry Bonds?
     Warning:  Here's the boring rundown of how I set up the experiment.  Read at your own risk.

     The first thing I had to do was determine which seasons would be considered tainted.  A semi-thorough Wikipedia search brought up a failed test in November 2000.  So the 2000 season would be the first to be removed.  It made sense:  Bonds had a then-career-high 49 homers at age 35 while bumping his slugging percentage from .617 to .688.
     The next task was developing a baseline to use from his clean years.  Thanks to baseball-reference.com, I compiled an average statline from the 10 years spanning age 25 to age 34, so MLB entry age wouldn't affect the numbers.  I converted all the stats to a per-plate-appearance basis.
     After that, I used the similarity scores on the website to find which players were most like Bonds after age 34.  Bonds would be expected to drop off at the same rate as similar players did.  I used 5 of the top 6 (Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Jeff Bagwell, and Gary Sheffield; Vlad Guerrero was #5 but he's still playing), and compiled their stats the same way.
     Then for each similar player, I turned their stats from each year after age 34 into per-PA numbers and divided them by their 10-year baseline.  That yielded a measure of how much a certain stat had deviated from that player's normal.
     For each year of age, I averaged the year-to-baseline numbers of the 5 similar players to get one projected value for each stat.  If a player had retired by that age, they didn't count at all in the average.  Since all 5 players had retired after age 40, I used the numbers from age 40 for Bonds' 41st and 42nd years as well.
     The final step was to basically run the conversion process in reverse, using Barry's baseline and his actual number of plate appearances for each year.

The Results:
     Clean Barry would go on to hit 33 home runs in 2000 and 31 in 2001, compared with Real Barry's 49 and 73, respectively.
     Finally, the results of Extreme Makeover: Barry Bonds Edition:

Hits:  2848  (2935 with 'roids)
SB:  531  (514)
BB:  2147  (2558)
SO:  1668  (1539)
Avg:  .277  (.298)
OBP:  .402  (.444)
SLG:  .527  (.607)
RBI:  1862  (1996)
HR:  614  (762)
IBB:  381  (688)

     I dare anyone to say that's not a Hall of Fame player.  That's what makes Bonds' steroid use so troubling.  He was one of the last people that would have needed it.  He ruined his whole legacy just to get a piece of a 5-year-long home run fad.
     So what to make of his Hall-worthiness?  What would happen if we took Clean Barry's projected numbers and just gave him a steroid penalty?  If we take 15% off of Clean Barry's numbers, we get something like this:

0.235 AVG, 522 HR, 451 SB, 1583 RBI

You make the call.  Is Clean Barry Hall-worthy?  Is Clean Barry + Penalty Hall-worthy?  Is Real Barry Hall-worthy?  And who else would you like to see get an Extreme Stat Makeover?


  1. another HR - the background you did made my head spin, but I buy the results. It was a good idea to list your upcoming stuff. Linked you again

  2. The problem is he cheated. To me that disqualifies him from the Hall of Fame. The tragedy he is he should have know that himself. If he gets enshrined, it just means there's no penalty for what he did.


  3. Mike: It sounds like the warning was a good idea!

    Dan: I don't know if it can be that simple, though. Bonds was a near-legendary player with or without steroids. There should be some kind of penalty for using PED's, but not so much that it completely wipes out someone's record. The great ones like Bonds and Clemens should still get in. The penalty is that they lose a lot of greatness in their legacy, not to mention all the legal issues.

  4. What if bodybuilders were baseball players period?


  5. Well at least you are causing a stir - plus call this flattery from the post yesterday