Some of you have emailed me to defend Eric Walker, cited and gently mocked in the post sub
as a guy who thinks that steroids didn't increase HR (which he does). I introduced him as "a guy you may have heard of" for precisely this reason -- he is one of the good guys, I think, who recently established this site
as a scientific investigation on the true benefits (or lack thereof) of PEDs. It's excellent, and I recommend it, especially this page
, which is dedicated to the actual effects (or lack thereof) of steroid use. (He can also be found right here on Blogger, with his excellently-titled "Is It a Blog Yet?
", a more general-interest kind of deal, but fun reading.)
I love Eric Walker. Eric Walker is awesome. The problem with that article in my opinion, whether it is due to a lack of context or Walker's own words (or both), are:
(1) The author (not Walker) attributes a "late-30's surge" to Aaron, when his numbers were pretty similar in that period to those from his early 30s (which itself is impressive, I suppose). This is not the same thing as suddenly out of nowhere hitting 73 HR in a season when you've never before hit more than 49 (and that was the year before), and also you are 36/37. It's not the same. Not. Same.
(2) Walker, who is smarter than I am and much more thorough, challenges us to find a counterargument rooted in mathematics, and there is one, and I linked it. [EDIT: Please see comments for a good counter-argument to the study, and a call-to-arms
.] Now, obviously, the standard deviation break-down of Bonds's season does not in any way link the HR to steroids -- nor does it attempt to. What it does, is: it shows the extreme improbability of a 37 year-old man hitting 73 HR in a season. Is it possible that Bonds is, actually, just the 1 in 53 million who could do it? I suppose. But he's also, apparently, the #1 abuser of PEDs -- not just steroids, but crazy, never-before-seen-or-analyzed shit -- in baseball history. That is worth looking at, I think.
A large part of Walker's site's argument has to do with the fact that steroids
add more muscle mass to the upper body than the lower body, and that power is generated in the lower body. Problem is, I don't think the Cream or the Clear were used in those studies. And I don't know what counts as "steroids." (This could be due to my own careless reading of the site or its many sister sites. There's a lot of stuff there.)
He also seems, when he does his calculations, to use only "lower body" muscle gain, and I am not sure if that includes the torso or not. Because Bonds's torso is massive, and so was Giambi's when he was using, and so was McGwire's. It is unclear to me whether torso muscle mass is being included in Walker's calculations, and I am reasonably certain that Prof. Adair
mentions in his writings that power is generated primarily from legs, ass, and torso.
Walker also seeks to disprove the notion that the rejuvenation effects of steroids help guys, really, in terms of HR-hitting, but the way he does it (as far as I can tell) is by arguing that they can't recover that quickly from injuries that would make them miss games, and even if they did, since the best HR hitters only really hit like 2 a week or so, it wouldn't make that much difference. But he doesn't, I don't think, try to quantify the effects of steroids on just minor nagging injuries that might make a guy play who's playing at 80% effectiveness feel good-as-new. Cortisone is a steroid, and guys get cortisone shots all the time to relieve pain, and it helps them play better. [EDIT: please see comments
.] Perhaps the true benefit of steroids is in this marginal universe, where a guy who might just be banged-up gets to feel tip-top. (I truthfully don't remember offhand whether Walker deals with that specifically -- I'll have to check again.)
Anyway, I was just responding to the specific things in that article that seemed slapdash. As for the first comment I made, about him ignoring the spike in 50-HR seasons, well, that was probably knee-jerk. He mostly uses the Power Factor thing in his analysis, which, since he is smarter than I am, I am going to assume is worthwhile. I still would like to know why it is that the three guys who have hit 60+ HR since Maris are all hard-core PED users. Small Sample Size? Coincidence? I guess?
Anyway, I digress, a lot. I promise I love Eric Walker. I aspire to be as intellectually rigorous as he is. But I also reserve the right to be lazily critical of New York Times
sportswriters for the sake of comedy.
Labels: barry bonds, eric walker, steroids