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...
Derrek Lee, 2005
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...
|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
Why he's on my list: Uh, I didn't buy that whole Flintstones Vitamins line.
|Change From Previous Year:||30||5||0.057||0.077||0.167||244|
My take: Guilty as charged.
Greg Vaughn, 1998
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...
|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
Why he's on my list: No list is complete without BLB. Here are the stats...
|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
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...
|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.