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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

OPS+ >= 150, batters >= 37: were they all on steroids?

Bad news for Jim Bunning and all farts, young and old, who pathologically become hysterical about steroid use among MLB batters (not pitchers) in recent seasons.  Barry Bonds is not the only batter in MLB history with high OPS+ in his late 30s.

See the data.

I found 23 seasons for 15 batters.  On the list three times: Ruth, Williams, Bonds.  Twice: Mays and Edgar Martinez.

These old batters led the league in OPS+ (and other stuff):

Bonds (37) 268 BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
Bonds (39) 263 BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
Williams (38) 233 BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
Bonds (38) 231 OBP, SLG, OPS
Aaron (37) 194 SLG, OPS
Bob Johnson (38) 174 OBP, OPS
Cobb (38) 171 OPS
Cy Williams (38) 155 SLG, OPS

Part of why Bonds is so prominent is that opposing managers become really really nervous about being criticized for pitching to him so they walked Bonds an absurd number of times, bloating his OBP and OPS.

In 1997 Tony Gwynn, whose body type never caused suspicion, led NL in hits (220) and BA (.372) at age 37 (OPS+ 156).  Others who led in BA: Honus Wagner (and OPS) OPS+ 156; George Brett (and doubles) OPS+ 153; both were 37.

The oldest guy on this list is Willie Mays, 40: led NL in BB and OBP (OPS+ 158).

Ted Williams led in BA, OBP, OPS at 39 (OPS+ 179).

Most HR:
Aaron (37) 47
Bonds (37) 46
Bonds (39) 45
Bonds (38) 45
Galarraga (37) 44
Ruth (37) 41

Highest BA:
Speaker (37) .389
Williams (38) .388
Cobb (38) .378

As mentioned in previous posts, Aaron had personal bests at advanced baseball ages:
HR 47 (37)
OBP .410 (37)
SLG .669 (37) led NL
OPS 1.079 (37) led NL
OPS+ 194 (37)  led NL

At age 40 in 1973 Aaron hit 40 HR in 392 AB.  That's aging gracefully.  See this post:


Those 1973 Atlanta Braves: was there something in the water?

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