The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

thinks that Barry Bonds is not on steroids. I disagree. Here is one of the stronger arguments that I have come up with:

For the hundredth time, I never said Bonds was a bad player. He is probably the greatest player ever. I only argue with how he was able to achieve this. In that vein here is exhibit 2 against Barry. It’s circumstantial, of course, but only because of Bonds’ refusal to take a drug test.

One of the best ways to test the effects of anything is through repeated trials. Therefore, if we could see the effects of steroids on an admitted user, and his numbers (not just his numbers, but the PATTERN of his numbers) were similar, it would suggest that Bonds was using a substance with a similar effect. The person in question would have to have not used in his younger days, started using when he got older, and drastically improved as a result. Fortunately, we have such an individual in former MVP Ken Caminiti.

It should be noted that while Barry Bonds is considered abrasive by some, compared to Ken he’s Mr. Rogers. Ken was and is a class A jackass who has tried to profit from his cheating. He should be considered one of the most despicable people in baseball history. But for this purpose his career is ideal.

As I pointed out before, Bonds made a spectacular leap in almost all major statistical categories from the 1999 through the 2000 season, and has not let up since. This is highly unusual, as he was 13 years into his career by that time, and past what should have been his prime. Ken shows a similar progression. As of 1993 (his career started in 1987) his career high in home runs was 13. But in 1994, he starts to make gradual increases, much like Barry’s 2000 season (49 home runs). In 1994 he hits 18, a career high. 1995, he increases that by almost 50%, hitting 26. Finally, during his tainted MVP season of 1996 he hit 40! He also set a career high in BA (.326) and RBI (130). His slugging went up over 100 points from his previous high (.621, beating his also steroid induced .513 of a year earlier). His slugging that year was almost 200 points higher than his career average. In 1996, Ken was 33 years old. Not as old as Barry (but then again, that fact doesn’t really help Barry, does it?) but still years past his prime.

Barry was hurt in 1999, but as I extrapolated earlier, had he played in about 150 games, he would have hit about 49 home runs in that year. Just look at these numbers and make a graph in your head:

Ken Caminiti, HRs, 1993-1998 – 13, 18, 26, 40, 26, 29

Barry Bonds, HRs, 1998-2003 – 37, 34 (in 102 games, 49 over 150), 49, 73, 46, 45.

The pattern is the same. Assuming that Ken’s numbers reflect the expected increase in power on an above average major leaguer using steroids past the prime of his career, Barry’s increases fit this pattern very closely.

I’m sure Nate is already planning the following arguments, which I will attempt to preempt:

1. If you use steroids, you get hurt.

a. True enough, but even the injury prone Caminiti got in two good years after his peak year before it really hit him. Just because Barry is not hurt yet doesn’t mean he will not get hurt. Medical tech may also have advanced a bit since Ken, allowing modern users to last longer. And I also suspect that Barry’s entourage of nutritionists and trainers probably monitor his intake – whether it consists of banned substances or not – better than Ken’s did.

2. Barry’s way better than Ken, you idiot. How can you compare the two, god Noonan, you’re wrecking your credibility again.

a. This would only matter if I compared their raw numbers. I did it on a percentage basis, which negates that talent level disparity. Obviously Barry is a much better player, but it doesn’t matter.

3. So, because one guy used and improved it means all guys who improve must be on steroids right? And what about Jose Conseco?

a. No, that’s not what I said at all. Why don’t you try actually listening for a change? I would suggest that anyone in baseball who shows this pattern after their 30th-31st birthday should be immediately suspected of use, but guys can and do improve of their own accord: just not this much, and not as late in their careers. Jose used early, so he is not applicable at all. There is no way to tell how he would have played without using, so there is no basis to compare his steroid stats with his non-steroid stats.

So, I think that this at least makes the case stronger. It can never be definitive without a drug test, of course, so it can never be conclusively proven. But the numbers say that it’s likely. And since that’s all that Barry has given me to go on, that’s what I will base my opinion on.


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