Did Jose Cruz Take PEDs?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Here's Allen Barra from today's Salon.

There is only one player in the PED era who unequivocally got a boost from whatever he took: Barry Bonds. Bonds was a better player from age 35 through 40 than he was from age 25 through 30. I can’t think of another player in baseball, in fact, another professional athlete in any sport about whom this can be said.

I do not have an encyclopedic level of understanding of the statistical swings of every player in baseball history, but I've looked at my share of baseball-reference pages.  Here's Jose Cruz.  The father, not the son who dropped the fly ball in the NLDS against the Fish.  

In 1982 Jose Cruz was 34 - here was his slashline: .275/.342/.377.  His OPS+ was 109, his WAR was 2.3

That made sense.  Cruz was clearly in his decline phase.  His OPS+ in '79 was 121, the next year 127, then 115.  His WAR in those years similarly declined; and then, in '82, at the age of 34, Cruz had his lowest OPS+ since 1973 and lowest WAR since '74.  

Here was 35 year old Jose Cruz in 1983: .318/.385/.463  OPS+ 142  WAR 6.2

He led the league in hits.  

He stole 30 bases.

And then here was 36 year old Jose Cruz in 1984: .312/.381/.462  OPS+ 145  WAR 6.3

The two best seasons in Jose Cruz's life came when he was 35 and 36 years old.

I have no idea if Jose Cruz took PEDs.  

Let me ask you this - how old was Hank Aaron in his best season with the bat?

He was 37.  When Hank Aaron was 37 his OPS+ was 194, the high mark of his career, the high mark in baseball that season (he also led baseball in slugging%).

I have no idea if Hank Aaron took PEDs.

I assume Barry Bonds did; I assume they were of benefit - but even in a piece like Barra's, which largely runs against the prevailing wisdom of PEDs as magic pills, he still takes the posture that Bonds's late career spike is without precedent - but you can find counter-examples.  An 8 WAR season is an MVP caliber season; Bonds hit 8 WAR for the first time when he was 24 years old in 1989, and except for the strike season of '94 and an injury shortened season in '99; Bonds never had a season lower than 7.5 until he was 40 years old. Bonds killed it every single season.  He was Babe Ruth.  

You could have thrown an MVP vote at Barry Bonds in every season from '89-'04 except for one year.  

That's the career Barry Bonds had.  


Blog said...

What the last few years have proven, and what the Biogenesis "punishments" have confirmed, is that, on the premise that PEDs improve performance above and beyond the placebo effect, a player is far better off to use PEDs, and get caught, than to never use them at all (if it's just the placebo effect, then the player should find a company that will convince him that he is receiving PEDs while supplying him with Tic Tacs)

Improved performance results in larger, back-loaded guaranteed contracts, whereby the increased revenue more than handily offsets the money lost from the mandatory vacation time (which also serves to prolong the player's career, increasing earning potential)

As the number of players known to have taken PEDs increases, the additional exposure serves to blunt the stigma; the more people who do it, the less unfair it seems. And the more HoF worthy people that get left of our that institution by indignant reporters (who probably can't get their own articles in on time without some chemical assistance of their own), the more irrelevant such an honor appear to be. How can an institution that does not recognize the accomplishments of Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, and Barry Bonds represent itself as anything more than a self-serving piece of propaganda?

I'm surprised some enterprising, renegade company and/or billionaire hasn't jumped on the chance to create its own baseball hall of fame, based solely on merit and/or fan popularity. What a tremendous inaugural class they would have at their disposal!

crimsonjoe said...

The Aaron analogy is flawed- Aaron moved from a bad home run ballpark in Milwaukee to a great home run ballpark in Atlanta. Plus, he was 37 in 1971- baseball changed the strike zone in 1969 because pitching was so dominant, raising everybody's offensive numbers. Those two factors made his later numbers look more impressive than earlier in his career.

Jim said...

OPS+ adjusts for park effects.

But yeah, there are reasons (like expansion, which happened in 1998) other than PEDs to explain late career production spikes. When all we do is say "Bonds was a better hitter at 37 than at 27, the end" without noting that so was Aaron (for example) it's an incomplete picture.

Doesn't mean there weren't PEDs. Doesn't mean they didn't have some impact. But we have over a hundred years of general offensive spikes and of player spikes in late career that, presumably, PEDs played no role in creating.

Blog said...

Do the stats take into account Babe Ruth's use of PDAs?

"“Sometimes when I reflect on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. I think, ‘It is better to drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.’”

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