The statistical (non-)impact of PED use

Open Thread: Early camp roundup
Whose arm helps the team, and whose hurts it?

Both Sabernomics and The Wall Street Journal’s Numbers Guy tackled the issue of the impact PED use has on a player’s statistics. Both sites came to approximately the same conclusion: PED use has a very minor or nearly negligible impact on a player’s overall totals. Sabernomics thinks PED use may have contributed 2.37 home runs over two seasons to A-Rod‘s totals, and the Numbers Guy believes that while it’s hard to come up with a set number, the total impact is slight. In my opinion, statistically analysis is not the way to judge the impact of PED use rather. Rather, the drugs allow players to recovery faster and, ideally, stay healthier longer. That impact is much harder to measure.

Open Thread: Early camp roundup
Whose arm helps the team, and whose hurts it?
  • Artist formerly known as ‘The’ Steve




  • Manimal

    It makes you stronger. Tha’ts about it. Maybe one of those long deep fly balls on the track hops over the fence when your on PED’s but how often does that happen. It doesn’t really help throwing (ex:Chuck Knoblauch) or fielding. Pitchers might have more stamina but not much. It makes you look like an ogre

    • Ed

      Maybe one of those long deep fly balls on the track hops over the fence when your on PED’s but how often does that happen.

      Well, comparing Barry Bonds’ best non-juiced season to his best juiced season, we get 27 times. And that’s assuming that 36 year old Bonds is otherwise equal to 28 year old Bonds.

      That’s also not counting things like the line drives to the shortstop that become doubles into the gap.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        In 1925, Babe Ruth hit 25 home runs. Two years later, he hit 60 home runs. Does that mean that he must have been stronger due to being on steroids in 1927?

        In 1962, Roger Maris hit 61 home runs. He never had another year higher than 39. Was Maris on steroids that one year, and then stopped?

        Or could there be other factors in play, including fairly innocuous random ones, like having the good fortune of facing a weaker rotation of pitchers, better weather, or just being better “locked in” and getting on a hot streak of god contact?

        That’s the point of the article: being stronger due to steroids probably did help Barry Bonds hit more home runs in 2001. But it probably helped him hit 3 or 4 extra home runs, not 20 or 30 extra. It doesn’t work like that (or that often). The bulk of those homers were hit by Barry just because he’s a damn good player.

        And thus, had the steroid era never existed, McGwire and Sosa probably still break Maris’s record (but with, say, maybe 64 and 62 homers instead of 70 and 66), Bonds still rebreaks the record (but, say, with 67 instead of 73) and Bonds probably still breaks Aaron’s overall mark (with slightly lower totals but with a career not artificially cut short due to his pariah status, he probably breaks the record not in 2007 but in 2008 or 2009)…

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          “… and getting on a hot streak of good contact?”


        • Ed

          In 1925, Babe Ruth hit 25 home runs. Two years later, he hit 60 home runs. Does that mean that he must have been stronger due to being on steroids in 1927?

          Babe Ruth only played in 98 games in 1925. He hit 46 and 47 in the full seasons surrounding that one.

          In 1962, Roger Maris hit 61 home runs. He never had another year higher than 39. Was Maris on steroids that one year, and then stopped?

          Maris also only played more than 150 games in a season twice in his career.

          But it probably helped him hit 3 or 4 extra home runs, not 20 or 30 extra. It doesn’t work like that (or that often). The bulk of those homers were hit by Barry just because he’s a damn good player.

          What are you basing that on? The A-Rod claim is by comparing his actual stats versus age-adjusted projections. Bonds’ home run totals climbed drastically during the the years most players stats decline. You’re not going to find any projection system that would come close to predicting what happened with Bonds.

          As for the rest of your claims, you really need something to back that. We know essentially nothing about McGwire and Sosa’s steroid usage, so we can’t speculate much there.

  • jim p

    Brady Anderson. 16 HRs, to 50, to 18.

    Don’t know that he was on PED’s, but I can’t see people ruining their bodies to gain a few home runs. Maybe going from 40 to 43 is worth all the grief to some players. But not many, I’d think. It’s a bigger payoff they’d be looking for.

  • Ellis

    …and it sets a dangerous example to kids in Little League all over the country. Can’t measure that.

  • Chris

    One of the biggest problems with any analysis like this is getting absolute evidence of the dates of steroid use.

  • Pablo Zevallos

    I agree, Ben. If you realize, A-Rod averaged 161 games with roids, and 149 w/o, and there are no park factors or any other kinds of crap with that. That’s where you see the true effect of steroids.

    • John

      Yes, but he was pretty young and was in his early prime so that could have something to do with it too.

    • A.D.

      Your body will likely break down sooner… so it probably more than evens out over a career.

    • Ed

      If you realize, A-Rod averaged 161 games with roids, and 149 w/o, and there are no park factors or any other kinds of crap with that.

      A-Rod’s steroid years were in Texas, his clean years are with other teams. A lot of managers will give give a guy at least a few days each season no matter what.

      • whozat

        Exactly. He went from Texas — where he was THE guy — to playing for Torre in NY. So he was bound to get a couple more games off. Also, that averages in the three week he spent on the DL last season.

        Since 2003, he played 155, 162, 154, 158 and 138 games. So, is it roids that got him those extra 8 games a season? Or simply playing for Buck vs playing for JoeT?

        Now…being on the drugs might certainly have helped his body rebound better, so he was more effective over the course of a season. It doesn’t show in his production, but maybe. Of course, the greenies help guys through the grind too…and no one’s screaming about those.

  • Rich

    If you could control for the possible psychological benefit, the effect might even be smaller.

  • Phil in LA

    Bonds and Anderson are pretty extreme examples and Bonds was using some space aged shit, but at the same time, he was using his exteme selectivity and choking up on the bat for the quick stroke while other sluggers had there bottom hands partially off the handles of their bats. In a sense Bonds’s “old player skills” walks and homers were just extreme. Anderson took some crude `90’s stuff, blew up and gave his sweet swing just that little extra oomph. When we find out just how pervasive roids were we’ll really have a grip on what they did.

  • John

    What Steven Goldman said:
    If you do the necessary adjustments, Rodriguez’s offensive production ranks this way (I’m using Equivalent Average as my stat of choice):

    1. 2007
    2. 2005
    3. 2000
    4. 1996
    5. 2001
    6. 2008
    7. 2002
    8. 2003
    9. 2006
    10. 1998
    11. 2004
    12. 1999
    13. 1997

    The point here is not to let Rodriguez off the hook for juicing, but to have some fairness in our response. If we accept that he has been clean since 2003 — and I admit that believing any ballplayer about anything is a huge problem right now — then it is impossible to say that his best work has been the product of any artificial sweeteners.

    • Matt

      Just for funsies, I’m gonna see how his wOBA years stack up compared to the EQA ones:

      1. 2007
      2. 1996
      3. 2005
      4. 2000
      5. 2001
      6. 2002
      7. 2003
      8. 2008
      9. 1998
      10. 1999
      11. 2006
      12. 2004
      13. 1997

      • dan

        wOBA isn’t even park adjusted, so it’s overrating his Texas years. ’01-’03 could be even farther down the list if you consider the run environment.

        • Matt

          wOBA isn’t even park adjusted

          That’s my only beef w/wOBA.

          • John

            But in this case, that helps your point more as Dan said that the Texas years would even lower (and they’re already in the middle of the pack) on that list.

          • dan

            Well for the original purpose that wOBA was created, park adjustments weren’t necessary, that’s why they’re not adjusted. If you want a park adjusted one, go to

  • MoReifer

    Everyone is assuming that Rod is telling the truth about his years of intake.

    • Manimal

      The WBC takes blood tests, which is WAY more accurate than urine testing. He obviously passed so he hasn’t taken a steroid on the Yankees. I could care less about his Mariner years.

      • MoReifer

        That is the one thing that has stuck in my craw over the past two days. A bunch of the so called “writers” in the NY rags were calling for Rod to go above and beyond, “give us blood”. Manimal, along with you, I believed Rod has submitted Blood a couple of times due to WBC.

        Do they not test for HGH in the WBC?

        • Mike A.

          I don’t think there’s a test for HGH, period. I could be wrong.

          • MoReifer

            I think you are right. If they keep the blood samples they can go back and test them in the future, correct?

            • Mike A.

              Yep, that’s the alternative. Of course by time they find a test all of these guys might be retired and have already done their damage to the game. At least it would be somewhat of a deterrent.

          • whozat

            There’s a blood test that’s pretty accurate. But getting the union over the “blood” hump has been a challenge.

            • MoReifer

              The union has no say on WBC right? Rod’s willingness to Give Blood for the WBC seems to back his story.

  • MoReifer

    Right on John. It is impossible to have this discusion. You have to make a assumptions, that personally i have no interest in making. All of these steroids guys have proven themselves to be shitheads. What is the motivation to justify any of there numbers? You attemot to make arguments on any of these guys behalves you are at a disadvantage because they are liars.

    P.S. I tend to lean towards the “it aids in recovery” camp

  • Harry G

    I know that this is totally off-topic, but Francesa got into another spat today with Russo, and even ripped 1050 ESPN on the air. I posted my thoughts on that over on Neil Best’s watchdog blog. I’m curious what others think, so here goes…
    Francesa and Russo both are arrogant, stupid SOBs.
    Both were really arrogant and nasty to thier callers, and still are.
    Why someone would stay on hold more thatn 5 seconds to talk to them is beyond me.
    Russo is a complete dork, who only had listeners because he sounds like Donald Duck with his stupid baby rants.
    Francesa is great when it comes to football. The best. Why?
    Because he doesn’t have a particular hard rooting-interest for any of the local teams. But when it comes to baseball? Forget it. His rooting-interest in the Yanks makes him say loads of non-sense. And i’m a Yankee fan.
    Some examples:
    After the Mets had another collapse, he said “The Mets HAVE to break up their nucleus of Wright and Reyes.” Of course everything Francesa says is always accompanied by a HAVE or HAS because if Smart know-it-all Mike thinks so, the Mets HAVE to do it. It was obvious that the Mets needed to add more leadership to their team. Not breaking up some of the best talent in baseball.
    He’s such an obvious Torre behind-licker. He only gets credit for winning, but whenever the Yanks lost, it was always someone else’s fault. How about acknowledging that Torre had a sub-500 record – over 1000+ games before he came to the Yanks? Never. It’s St. Joe.
    And then when Hank states the obvious, that Torre was way overrated as manager, Farncesa has the gall to criticize the man who owns YES. If i’m Hank, I boot his arrogant A$$ just to show him who’s boss.
    And the best part is the “Joba HAS to be in the bullpen” thing.
    Besides the fact that every person with the least bit of baseball intelligence understands that a 2.50 ERA (I think that’s about Joba’s career ERA as a starter) over 150-200 innings, which the Yanks had hoped they would get outta Joba last year and this year, is much more valuable than even a 2.00 ERA over 70 innings (which is just about what Joba would give U in the pen), he still insists, JOBA HAS TO BE IN THE PEN, even though Joba has the potential to be a flat-out dominant ace,as evidenced by the fact that he out-dueled Josh Beckett in Boston last year 1-0.
    But that’s not even the point. The point is that Francesa acts as if he knows everything about Joba. If you’d told him a day before Joba made his Yankees debut that the Yanks have a great prospect named Joba Chamberlain in the minors he’d go “Who? I don’t care.” But the second the kid throws a pitch, know-it-all Mike knows exactly what to do with him!
    Despite the fact that he never ever heard of him, despite the fact that he has no idea what’s doing in the Yanks’ minor-league system, and despite the fact that the Yanks. drafted, and developed Joba as a starter, and the only reason he was pitching outta the pen in the first place was because the Yanks wanted to limit his innings.
    But that all doesn’t matter. Joba still HAS to be in the pen. Because know-it-all Mike says so.
    Last week, I swear he said, “We all know, if the Yanks were to put the perfect team on the field, it would go like this: First of all, put Jobber in the pen, to pitch the 8th inning, and put Hughes in as the 5th starter, ok? That’s the better team, ok? We all know that, ok?” What in the world?! Whaddya mean ” we all know that?” No we don’t!!!
    Listen to this. MIke Francesa says that we “all know that” taking a pitcher with a 2.64 ERA (Joba’s ERA last season) and putting him in the pen, and taking a pitcher with about a 9+ ERA (about what Phil Hughes’ was last year) and making him the 5th starter makes the Yankees the “better team.” That is downright absurd! Don’t get me wrong, i’m a huge fan of Phil Franchise, but to say that right now having him throw a starter’s innings and Joba throw 75 is makes the Yanks the better team is crazy!!!
    The reason Fatcesa says this stuff is bacause he has a rooting interest. So if he thinks his team, the Yankees, should make a particular move, he’s gonna insist so forever, Even though all factual evidence continues to prove him wrong. And the best part is that there are actually people that I know people who –sadly- swear by everything that this guy says. And the best part is when he says “We all know that, ok?” He thinks because he thinks something should be done, every damn fan in the metropolitan area thinks so too…
    Someone should call up his show (I ain’t waiting on hold for an hour to speak to this cocky moron only to get shouted down and knocked off just because I said something he doesn’t like) and tell him that the 8th inning is gonna be fine for the Yanks because they’ve got this great setup prospect kid in the minors named Mark Melancon, He’ll go, “what the hell are you talkin about? Who cares about some kid in the minors. You can’t bank on that. The idea (I had to throw those two words in there, they’re his favorite) that we’re all of a sudden ganna start talking about some minor league kid on this show is crazy.”
    But don’t sweat it, after Melancon will have thrown a pitch for the Yanks, hopefully this year, Fatcesa will have the complete low-down for us, and when and how exactly the Yanks should use him. Just like he knew exactly what the Yanks should do with Joba even though he wouldn’t know his name from his own a day before.
    What a complete blow-hard.
    As for Michael Kay and 1050, people can make fun of him as much as they want, but as far as i’ve heard his show, he’s much less disrespectful of the callers, and would be open to other peoples ideas, unlike Mike. Heck, Mike has promised for months that he’s gonna have a co-host yet has all but forgotten about that one. It’s obvious that he can’t co-exist with another person constantly contradicting his opinions, while Kay always differs with Don LeGreca, which makes for a much more insightful discussion, and for what it’s worth, Kay recently “officially” named LeGreca his co-host.
    Francesa may have the better ratings, but that doesn’t mean he has the better show. Intelligent listeners listen to 1050, where Max Kellerman also has only gotten bigger and bigger. You get, intelligent, insightful -yes, and most times very biased, when it comes to the Yanks- opininons, including actual facts to support arguments, like say um, statistical analysis, instead of hearing two hacks calling for the coaches head every time after a tough loss, which is what you get from Joe Benigno on WFAN, which is great if you wanna laugh your a$$ off while he does one of his trademark hilarious rants, but not when you want real insightful sports-talk.
    There, that’s just my lonely opinion. Feel free to disagree.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      So that’s the talk-radio audience. I’ve always wondered about that.

  • MoReifer

    You may have just written the solution to the recession, but could you please use paragraphs?

    Space it out.


  • MoReifer

    Adam Dunn and the Washington Nationals reached an agreement on a two-year, $20 million contract (

  • mojodaddy

    If that’s all they do, maybe they should be called “Recovery Enhancing Drugs” instead of “Performance Enhancing Drugs.” Oh, and, maybe we should think twice before calling it “cheating.” Maybe it’s more like “medicine.”

    • John

      In Alex’s case it is medicine, if even that

  • touchtoneterriost

    If it doesn’t help why are these guys spending $$$ on it.And we still don’t know if A-rod is clean now.

    2003 we find out who took steroids.Wonder in 10 who in ten years who was using in 2008.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      If it doesn’t help why are these guys spending $$$ on it?

      Dude, like 90% of what rich athletes spend money on has no value whatsoever. Plaxico buying all those diamond medallions doesn’t help anybody for anything. He doesn’t buy it because it does anything, he buys it because he thinks it’s doing something (namely, bringing attention and conveying status). But the thing he thinks that diamond medallion does, he was already doing just fine without it. Everyone in the club already knows who you are, Plax. You don’t need your frosty ice to prove that.

      Furthermore, there are tons and tons of Americans, athletes or not, putting shit in their body they think is doing something even though it does nothing. Tons of that shit at GNC is worthless, but it flies off the shelf. It works because you think it’s working. It’s the placebo effect.

  • Harry

    LMFAO @ those responses to my rant… I do sound crazy, don’t I…

  • drdr

    WBC is under Olympic testing program, meaning unannounced tests at any time including training camp, blood testing and testing for a loooong list of PEDs and masking agents. It is the state of the art in PED detection. Also, since Sydney (Marion Jones and company) they have decided to keep the samples for 4 – 8 years, something like that, and periodically test them for newly discovered PEDs. I don’t know if they do that only for samples from the Olympics or all the samples.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Yeah, ARod (like others in baseball) has been tested up the wazoo since 2004. If he’s on something, he’s on something there’s no test for (i.e. no more basic anabolic steroids or androgenic hormones).

  • Old Goat

    It seems to me that Giambi used steroids. Look how much time off he had to take as a result. So while there is some short term benefits, it has long term detriments as well.

    There are far too many variables involved, type of steroid, how much they took, how often they took them, and so on. How do you begin to put together any meaningful talk about the difference it makes?

    Its not like the eras can really be compared anyway. Old time pitchers cheated with adding stuff to the baseballs. Mound height changes, ball makeup changes, people who could afford to play baseball instead of earning a living. All these things play into that, even before we get into the racial divide and how that impacted the game and how the best players might have reacted to better competition.

  • Andy

    I always had the impression PED use increased your chance of injury (a la Nomaaar)….