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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Steroids are only an issue for home runs.

Those people who care about performance enhancing stuff, steroids for short, are almost exclusively concerned about baseball and, specifically, home runs. That's it.

Since 2000 the NFL record for touch downs scored in a season has been broken FOUR times. I'm a pretty good football fan but I could not have told you that without looking it up.

The NFL record for points scored in a season was broken in 2006 after standing since 1960 when Paul Hornung of the Green Bay Packers scored 176 points: 15 touch downs for 90 points and the rest as the Packers place kicker (15 of 28 field goals and all 41 points after TD).

Does anyone think that Paul Hornung was using steroids? Maybe, but probably not. Does anyone think that the guy who broke his record in 2006 was using steroids? Almost definitely? Where is the outrage? Let's look just at baseball. I have already written that circumstantially Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan almost definitely used something to enhance his performance starting at least as early as 1987.

Ryan holds the MLB career record for strike outs: 5,714, 839 (17%) more than the recently retired Randy Johnson.  Johnson leads in Strikeouts per 9 IP, Ryan is fourth.

What about the MLB record for most hits in a season? It's been challenged in recent seasons twice, same as the home run record.

1998: Mark McGwire broke the MLB record for home runs in a season (Roger Maris 61 in 1961) by hitting 70 home runs. This was the most followed record breaking attempt in team sports since Maris and Mickey Mantle chased Babe Ruth's record of sixty homers in 1961.

2000: Darin Erstad took a run at the MLB record for most hits in a season (George Sisler 257 in 1920); Erstad drew very little interest and fell short with 240.

2001: Barry Bonds broke McGwire's record by hitting 73 home runs with about as much attention even though the record was only three year old.

2004: Ichiro Suzuki broke the 84 year old MLB record for most hits in a season with 262 hits. He received more attention than Erstad, in part, because of the Japanese media. However, media and fan interest paled in comparison to that in 1998 and 2001 for the assaults on the home run record. When you factor in the unique absurdity of MLB having non-uniform playing areas the home run record is the last thing about which people should get upset. And yet they do. They get very upset.

Baseball fans are at once the best and worst. Baseball fans are more likely to know the records. Baseball fans are the least likely to break with tradition, modern metrics not withstanding. There is still too much attention given to batting average. If Ichiro Suzuki was attempting to bat .400 for a season that would get far more attention than his 262 hits. .400 would not be a record, merely an interesting number. It would be the 29th best.

So if batting average is more important than hits, why isn't home run average more important than home runs? How about home run average+, weighted by park and seasons? Thinking about this is where the performance needs to be enhanced.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Excellent analysis! Personally, I don't care what baseball players ingest - they're adults. It's interesting how people get hung up on certain factors to measure performance - whether it's baseball, intelligence, the stock market, or appraising antiques.