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, all the time

Finally, the conclusion. If you're just joining the conversation now, yesterday we took a look at 10 "miracle" seasons from the past 15 years. Our purpose was to see if statistics alone could point out steroid users. We only looked at hitters, and we used change in OPS year-over-year to determine the order. Now, we're going to see five guys who I think should really take a close look at the graphic at the top of this post, because they can probably expect to see some side effects from roids in their future.

Check the links below to see the players covered earlier...
  • Players 1-5 (Ivan Rodriguez, Tino Martinez, David Ortiz, Chipper Jones, David Ortiz)
  • Players 6-10 (Darren Daulton, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez, Mark McGwire, Brady Anderson)
  • Players 11-15, after the jump...
Derrek Lee, 2005

derreklee1220.jpg Why he's on my list: Lee was really the impetus for this series of posts. Jack Cobra and I got into a heated discussion on this post over at Cobra Brigade about potential users, and possible punishments for guys named in the Mitchell Report. Lee's 2005 season has always stood out to me as a statistical wonder, let's check the stats to see how it measures up to the other questionable seasons thus far...

2004 CHI (N) 28 161 32 4 0.278 0.356 0.504 860
2005 CHI (N) 29 158 46 23 0.335 0.418 0.662 1080
Change From Previous Year: 14 19 0.057 0.062 0.158 220

My take: I know he's a nice guy. I know his name hasn't even been whispered in the same sentence as roids, but these numbers are unprecedented outside of this list. 2005 was Lee's second season in the friendly confines of Wrigley, the league-wide ERA dropped from 4.30 in 2004 to 4.22 in 2005. There aren't any external factors you need to take into account. Lee turned 30 at the end of the 2005 season, he'd had 6 full seasons in the majors with 140 games or more played and his highest slugging percentage prior to 2005 was .508. This jump came out of nowhere, and seems extremely suspicious to me. Lee has been plagued by injuries since his miracle season, so there's no way to judge any kind of drop off. Although injuries themselves are sometimes a sign of steroid abuse. Lee broke his wrist on a collision in 2006, not the typical injury you associate with steroid use, but more muscle equals more strain on the skeletal system, so can't write off steroids involvement completely based on the type of injury. I believe he belongs in this group.

Sammy Sosa, 1998

ducksammy.jpg Why he's on my list: Uh, I didn't buy that whole Flintstones Vitamins line.

1997 CHI (N) 28 162 36 9 0.251 0.300 0.480 780
1998 CHI (N) 29 159 66 14 0.308 0.377 0.647 1024
Change From Previous Year: 30 5 0.057 0.077 0.167 244

My take: Guilty as charged.

Greg Vaughn, 1998

gregvauhnispissed.jpg Why he's on my list: He was a distant third in the HR race in 1998, finishing with 50 bombs. He didn't exactly come out of nowhere, he hit 41 in 1996, and 1997 was injury-plagued, but 1998 jumped out at me. He topped his career best in every major category in '98. Here are the stats...

1997 SD 31 120 18 1 0.216 0.322 0.393 715
1998 SD 32 158 50 6 0.272 0.363 0.597 960
Change From Previous Year: 32 5 0.056 0.041 0.204 245

My take: I think the injury-plagued 1997 season was a symptom of prolonged roid use, rather than an excuse for the dramatic increase in 1998. Vaughn's power numbers really took their first giant leap in 1996, and when you take the long view, it all points to PEDs.

Barry Lamar Bonds, 2001

barryonion.jpg Why he's on my list: No list is complete without BLB. Here are the stats...

2000 SFG 35 143 49 22 0.306 0.440 0.688 1128
2001 SFG 36 153 73 35 0.328 0.515 0.863 1378
Change From Previous Year: 24 13 0.022 0.075 0.175 250

My take: Forget about Game of Shadows, forget about the mountain of innuendo and testimony. Forget all of that and think about this. In 2000, Barry Bonds finished second in the MVP race, he hit 49 home runs, had an OPS of 1128. That season was one of the best seasons in the history of baseball. In 2001, Barry upped his batting average by .022, his on-base percentage by 0.075, his slugging percentage by 0.175 and his OPS by 250. Those are increases over one of the best seasons ever, at 36 years of age. Case closed.

Jeff Bagwell, 1994

jeffbagwell1220.jpg Why he's on my list: Bagwell's 1994 season always stuck out to me as such a waste. He was on pace to shatter a couple of records when the strike happened, and his numbers were just amazing. It wasn't until later that I thought there might be something fishy going on. Here are the stats...

1993 HOU 25 142 20 6 0.320 0.388 0.516 904
1994 HOU 26 110 39 14 0.368 0.451 0.750 1201
Change From Previous Year: 19 8 0.048 0.063 0.234 297

My take: 1994 was a strike-shortened season, and while 110 games is a limited sample size, I just couldn't ignore the increase. Bagwell's numbers in 1994 were far and away the best of his career, actually they were the best of just about anyone's career, outside of Barry Bonds, since the 40s. Bagwell was only 26 and he obviously went on to have a very, very productive career after '94, but he never even came close to these levels. One of his teammates on that Astros team was admitted juicer Ken Caminiti, which may or may not mean anything. My gut tells me Bagwell belongs at the top of this list.

All told, out of my original 15 questionable seasons, I think 5 guys are pretty much clean, statistically, another 2 are on the fence and you could make the case that 8 deserve a closer look, at the very least. After I started this monster post and did the initial research a few other players/seasons came to mind. Brett Boone's 2001 season would rank him just below Brady Anderson on this list, and firmly within the deserves a closer look category. Steve Finley's 1999 season (hat tip to Mike from Green Pinstripes) with the Diamondbacks would place him just below his teammate and "workout buddy" Luis Gonzalez, and also deserving of scrutiny.

I only looked at batters for these posts, mainly because I wanted to compare apples to apples, and I think when evaluating pitching is much harder to do using only statistics. Maybe another post, on another day. I will say this, however. Curt Schilling's 2001 season would be the first on my list.

The manner in which I chose the season and players to look at was extremely unscientific. I basically used my memory and a quick scan of league leaders by year to narrow it down. If you can think of anyone I've missed, or would just like to know where a player's career year would fall on this list, let me know and I'll do the math. Also, if you can find an example of someone who you believe is beyond reproach experiencing a statistical leap like these I'd love to know about it. I've been looking for days now, and I can't find a single one.
by Brian on Dec 21 2007
Tags: Mitchell Report | Steroids |