SciAm on Steroids

Scientific American continues to go down the tubes. Today, they ran an insipid interview on the Alex Rodriguez steroid issue that contain little fact, no analysis and a whole steaming load of bullshit. But it comes from a steroid user!

During Rodriguez’s confessed era of doping, his homerun average jumped to a super-slugging 52 per season, compared with 36 during his first four seasons in the league and about 42 since. His runs-batted-in (RBI) statistics and total games played also peaked. Even so, his batting average has dipped over his career, from .315 to .305 during his steroid days to .303 over the past five seasons.

Those were also his age 25, 26 and 27 seasons — typically the peak of any player’s performance. Those were also the years he was in one of the best hitter’s park in baseball.

His slugging percentage in those years was .615. Since then, his performance has dropped a bit but he did hit 54 homers with a career-high .645 SLG in 2005. There is little statistical evidence that 2001-2003 was anomalous.

The key benefit with anabolic steroids is that they can help you be consistent over an entire baseball season. That’s the reason you’re seeing those higher statistics for Rodriguez from 2001 to 2003. If you take a look at good power hitters in April and May (early in the baseball season that runs from April to September, excluding the playoffs), their numbers are going to be pretty good. But these guys aren’t able to maintain that in August and September. Take the New York Mets: If that team was on anabolic steroids the way they were in 2000, they probably would have made the playoffs the past two years instead of running out of gas late in the season. It makes a big difference when having that little extra.

None of this is true. A-Rod’s stats in 2001-3 were marginally, but not dramatically higher. Power hitters sometimes catch fire late in the season. There’s a selection effect for us to notice guys who start hot and cool off rather than guys who start cold and get hot in the end of the season. Carl Yastrzemski, in 1967, had one of the greatest Septembers of all time. Guess he must have been taking steroids because we all know power hitters fade in September. There is no objective evidence that power hitters, as a group, fade over the season.

And how do we know that last year’s Mets weren’t on steroids? Is he implying that the Phillies were? Would the Phillies of 1964 have won the pennant with steroids? Were the Giants of 1951 juicing? Teams collapse. Teams surge. It happens. It has always happened. It always will happen — steroids or no steroids.

So the big question people may be asking is if Alex is taking something else. His homerun numbers have declined, but they’re still pretty damn good.

So he must still be juicing. ‘Cuz without the juice, this #1 draft pick who tore up the minors and slugged from the very first day he stepped on a diamond would be hitting .220 with 3 HR.

For example, maybe his [lucrative] contract could allow him to buy a designer steroid that’s undetectable

As opposed to his former contract, which had him on a starvation wage.

Scientific American should be ashamed of themselves. This is nothing but someone talking out of their ass. I know he’s a physiologist who took steroids. He’s still talking out of his ass, making wild speculations mixed with post hoc propter hoc logic about who’s using and who isn’t.

What a disgrace.

PS – For a real analysis of whether the stats show A-Rod juiced, try this. At least he’s aware of the limits of the data.