Numbers On Steroids: Sammy Sosa

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Numbers on Steroids is a look at baseball players during the 90s to see if anything screams out at you.

"Baseball's been berry berry good to me" Sammy Sosa. But were steroids what were really berry berry good to Sammy? Let's take a look at this numbers to see how much the rates mightily changed in his career.

Averages Say: Slugging Percentage is like a mountain that keeps on climbing and climbing until testing started. Hmm....

Stats Per At Bat Says: Again the climb is on, and then the mysterious dip.

At Bats Per Home Run Says: Apparently Sammy just magically found a home run swing in 93 and lost in 2005.

Explaining It Away

In his first few years Sammy Sosa was incredibly young. He broke into the league at age 20 and didn't do much in 89 for either the Rangers or the White Sox. In 90 he had his first full season in which he hit 15 home runs as a 21 year old. The next two seasons didn't see much improvement possibly because he was injured and didn't get a full season under his belt. The 1993 breakout 33 home run year came in his next full season. The more difficult years to explain away start at 1998. In 1997 Sosa was a solid player while hitting 36 home runs and racking up 118 rbi. The next season though, the Home Run total almost doubled finishing at 66. Over the next three years Sosa his 63, 50, and 64 home runs respectively.

Sosa's steady decline could possibly be explained as just losing a step in his old age. In 2005 he was a latine 36 year old (potentially 87 years old in real human years) playing for the Orioles and no longer in the comfy Wrigley field setting. He was terrible. In 2007 he came back with the Rangers and was respectable just not terrific, but again he was 38 that season.

The Verdict

Believing that a player who had already played 9 seasons in the big leagues could double his home run totals from a solid 36 to an unimaginable 66 is too much of a stretch. Throw in the corked bat incident and...

If it Walks Like a Duck and Quacks Like a Duck... Than It's Probably a Duck

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I'm not a Sammy Sosa supporter. I was one of the Wrigley faithful clamoring for him to be traded in 2001. That said, in mid April 2003, Sosa was beaned in the head by Salomon Torres, and after his return, was sidelined with a toe injury that plagued him until mid-May when he went on the DL. The corked bat happened at the end of May 2003. Anyone who watched Sosa return after the beaning can attest that he had some happy feet and was very tentative, almost afraid, in the batters box. I think it's very fair to argue that he was never ever the same slugger after that headshot.
Sosa was also an egomaniac and the bad publicity from the corked bat, the video of Sosa leaving early at the end of 2004, and the constant insinuation that he was a steroid user (mixed with his fanbase turning on him) left the arrogant Sosa a mess.
Sosa was not included in the Mitchell report. There are no reports of players or dealers associating with him regarding drugs or PEDs. It's assumed he used, but there's not a ounce of proof anywhere.
Your stats suggest an abnormality. Sosa's increase is certainly suspicious. However, given the amount of proof (meaning none), it's equally arguable that the headbeaning in April 2003, the corked bat episode, and the subsequent fallout with his fanbase are just as much to blame with his demise as the easy suggestion that he was just getting off the juice.
Maybe he used. Maybe he didn't. The beautiful thing about statistical data is that the interpretation of it can be so easily manipulated to prove any argument true or false. But getting back into a batters box facing 95 mph pitching after getting hit in the head can be devastating for a player, and your stats prove that truth as much as your suggestion that he was simply a steroid user.

Anonymous said...
4:45 PM  

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