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Did steroids really change baseball?

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by BB Bobcat, Aug 9, 2010.

  1. BB Bobcat

    BB Bobcat Active Member


    My favorite writer (cough cough) over at FanHouse wrote this story, and I figured it would stir up a good debate over here. It is mostly based on a reading of the extensive research by noted baseball analyst Eric Walker into some of the truths about steroid use and the alleged impact it has had on performances in baseball. Joe Posnanski already gave his take on it.

    My feeling is that Walker makes a pretty compelling case that the whole Steroid Era thing is really about a juiced baseball. Offensive numbers went up sharply in 1993 -- not a gradual increase over the years, as you'd expect from more and more players using steroids. Two other times in baseball history that offense jumped sharply and then stayed up were 1921 and 1977, and there were changes in the baseball both of those times.

    Walker's point is that around 1993 the ball was changed. Probably not intentionally. Probably just different manufacturing method. But it was changed. At least one university study of the balls seems to support him.

    He makes a ton of other points about a ton of other sides of the story, but you should read all that yourself.
  2. Boomer7

    Boomer7 Active Member

    I'm highly suspicious of Walker's "steroids mainly affect the upper body; home run power comes from the lower body" argument. Seems like a generation's worth of steroid-powered sprinters would suggest that the lower body benefits from these substances, too.
  3. BB Bobcat

    BB Bobcat Active Member

    Fair point. You could also say that sprinters combine their steroids with exercises meant to strengthen those lower body muscles. The steroid-using baseball players seem to have combined their juice with upper-body exercises, at least that's what everyone seems to be notice when pointing at the before and after photos.
  4. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Nate Silver had a chapter in a BP-published book a couple of years ago swearing that he had all this data that proved that steroids didn't really affect home runs. Stat heads love to dismiss steroids as a factor. In fact, I think RickStain or someone on the Hall of Fame thread said that a HOF without A-Rod, Bonds, and Clemens would lose all relevance - an opinion in lockstep with the saber community. And I actually think Rick is one of the best baseball posters on this site.

    I just don't buy it. I'm sure that there are a lot of factors, but what's the old adage that the most reasonable, obvious explanation is usually the correct one? There were Herculean men hitting 60-70 home runs a year. There was no steroid testing. Steroid testing came about, and the 60-70 home run seasons disappeared almost overnight.

    The most obvious explanation is usually the correct one.

    I don't understand why there seems to be a push to explain away steroids as a non-factor.
  5. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    I absolutely think steroids fueled all those home runs. I just don't care.
  6. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    Posnanski did a good job covering this topic, based on the same article, last week. Interesting stuff. People tend to want to write history in real time but perspective changes with time and new information.

  7. BB Bobcat

    BB Bobcat Active Member

    For the record, I don't believe that steroids had no impact. I certainly don't believe that players who took them were innocent.

    All I'm saying is that this stuff about the baseball makes a lot of sense. It is certainly enough food for thought to think: "I don't know how much of the increased homers came from steroids and how much came from other factors, but I think it's reasonable to suspect that the non-steroid factors, specifically the baseball, had more impact."

    By the way, as I pointed out in the other thread, homers really haven't gone down since steroid testing in 2005. Using full-season data...

    Year HR
    2009 1.04
    2008 1.00
    2007 1.02
    2006 1.11
    2005 1.03
    2004 1.12
    2003 1.07
    2002 1.04
    2001 1.12
    2000 1.17
    1999 1.14
    1998 1.04
    1997 1.02
    1996 1.09
    1995 1.01
    1994 1.03
    1993 0.89
    1992 0.72
    1991 0.80
    1990 0.79
    1989 0.73
    1988 0.76

    There was a big jump in 93-94, and the numbers have been fairly constant since then.
  8. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    The first kneejerk conclusion I would draw from that is that steroid use hasn't really gone down just because of testing.
  9. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    BB - I think one overlooked reason is that hitters approach at-bats differently now. I'd love to see the strikeout rate of hitters charted over that time period. I bet it corresponds inversely with home runs. There's no stigma about striking out any more. GMs, coaches, and hitters themselves realize that the trade off is worth it.

    That being said, a drop from 1.17 in 2000 to 1.00 and 1.02 in recent seasons is not insignificant. And I think we're really, really seeing the change at the top of the home run leaderboard. So maybe heavy steroid use was relatively top heavy? Those 800 some home runs that are missing now per season seem to be lopped right from the top 20 or 30 home run hitters each season.
  10. BB Bobcat

    BB Bobcat Active Member


    It is when there's a 1.11 between the 1.03 and the 1.02, and when there's a 1.04 at the peak of the steroid era.

    In '93-'94, HRs went up by nearly 30 percent. I guess everyone just started using steroids all at once. Must have been a sale.

    In case you couldn't get past the intital idea to even read the stuff about the baseball, read this part of the site...


    Reasonable doubt. That's all I'm saying.
  11. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    And what I'm saying is that, assuming a livelier baseball, the effect of combining serious steroids and a livelier baseball seems to have affected totals exponentially near the top of the power rankings.

    Perhaps steroids' biggest effect - or a bigger one - was that it kept guys from aging. So you weren't seeing normal career trajectories by guys like Bonds or Clemens, but instead acceleration into the late 30s.

    Makes you wonder if there weren't any ill health effects from PEDs whether they would be considered a good, not a bad, thing.
  12. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Wake me up when someone hits 60, 65 or 70 again. Until that time, steroids changed baseball.

    Drugs have changed every sport. From Serena to Tiger to Owens to James, the athletes are stronger and faster than they ever were, and if training has improved that much, I am going to say the drugs have improved that much.
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