Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Steroids "effect" on home run totals

With Barry Bonds blasting his record setting 756th home run this season (the ball, by the way, is headed to Cooperstown with an asterisk on it), his supposed steroid use has been brought more and more into the public eye. And baseball’s recent foray into investigating the use of performance enhancers throughout the MLB has called into question the achievements of several big name players.

The recent increase in home run production is often attributed to these performance enhancers. But, if you examine statistics from the past 60 or so years, the numbers tell a different story.

If you compare the top home run totals in each league from 1940 to 2007, the numbers seem to prove steroids have had little effect on home run production. In that time span, 5850 home runs were hit by league leaders (multiple league leaders were not included). If you do the math, that works out to an average of 43 home runs a year.

Let’s assume that the steroid era began in 1986 (Jose Canseco’s first full season), so we’ll remove the numbers from ’86 and beyond. Evaluating and comparing these totals against the ones from our first calculations should tell us how much of an impact steroids have had on home runs.

From 1940 to 1985, 3724 home runs were hit by league leaders (again, multiple league leaders were not included), which equates to an average of about 40.5 home runs per season.

In essence, home run production has increased a mere 2.5 home runs on average since 1940. 2.5 home runs do not justify the argument that steroids bloated home run totals. Other factors, however, do account for this small jump.

For one, players are in much better condition today than back in the 40’s and even the 80’s. Though Babe Ruth’s career took place before the 40’s, his lack of conditioning is well known. Who knows how many home runs he could have hit if he was in top shape like today’s athletes. They spend hours conditioning to get stronger and faster. At one point, weightlifting was discouraged among baseball players, and it has now become common practice.

Hitting technique has also evolved since the 40’s. Today, people teach the rotational hitting approach, which basically involves dipping the back shoulder and having a slight upper cut. Barry Bonds, for example, employs this technique. Rotational hitting places an importance on the home run and numbers have risen accordingly. Before the rotational approach, people taught linear hitting, which results in more line drives and ground balls. Had the great hitters of the past used a rotational swing, it’s very likely that more home runs would have been hit.

Though it is often said that home run production has been extremely high in the past two decades, numbers say otherwise. A small increase in production is not the sole result of steroids, but one of better conditioning, technique, and other factors.


Katy said...

Meh. Nice job, Barry, and dear Hank Aaron, you rock too.

ps. PHILLIES clinch NL East? PHILLIES?? I thought the Phillies were pure crap... where did that come from?

Anonymous said...

F*uck Bonds (I didn't know if I could swear on here). The Yankees will win it all, and eventually A-ROD will hold the home run record . *steroid free*