Splitting Rickey Henderson in Two

In a post earlier this week, I mentioned a Bill James quote: “If you could split [Henderson] in two, you’d have two Hall of Famers.” James was totally serious. Since James wrote those words, Wins Above Replacement (WAR) has become the Nerdosphere’s favorite total value stat. Does it support James’ contention? Let’s “split Rickey in two” and found out.

Average Hall of Famers are worth around 60 WAR for their career. Henderson’s career total is about 114 WAR. Dividing that by two gives you 57 WAR per “player.” That’s just about right for the Hall. However, as we’ve discussed before with regard to players like Johnny Damon (here) and Omar Vizquel (here), it isn’t all about totals: we want a player with an impressive group of peak seasons.

What is a good baseline for a Hall of Fame career? We should not simply say “well, player x is in, so anyone with a better career than player x should be in.” If Jim Rice is the baseline, it’s going to water down the Hall too much for most of us. That was a nice bonus to Andre Dawson getting in: although he wasn’t universally thought to be a Hall of Famer, he wasn’t a travesty. He had longevity, but also had a nice peak. He’s not shame to the Hall. So he’s our Actually Existing Baseline Hall of Famer. We can get good picture of his career by looking at a handy “nth Best Season” WAR Graph.

That’s a tremendous career, but check it out in comparison with Henderson’s:

Um, yeah. That 1985 MVP that Royals fans think Don Mattingly stole from George Brett? He actually stole it from Rickey. And Henderson’s 1990 in Oakland might have been even better.

You knew Rickey was awesome, but does he have two sets of Hall of Fame-level peaks in his career? I took Henderson’s seasonal WARs, sorted them in descending order, and did a “draft.” His best season went to Rickey 1, his second-best to Rickey 2, his third-best to Rickey 1, and so on (should I have snake-drafted? I don’t know.). Here is how the careers of Rickey 1 and Rickey 2 match up with Dawson’s. [You'll need to click on the image to read it decently... sorry I'm not better at this stuff.]

Click to embiggen

The total WARs of Rickey 1 and Rickey 2 aren’t quite as high as Dawson’s but a few wins are no big deal. Neither had Dawson’s longevity either, but careers over ten seasons are good. But the peaks… oh those peaks. Both Rickeys have two seasons better than Dawson’s best season, and their third-best seasons are right there. The overall accumulation is borderline for the Hall, but those incredible peak seasons push the careers over the top. I think Dawson is a rightful Hall of Famer, and if he is, both Rickeys are, too.

What a surprise, Bill James was right. Now to see what happens if we divide Barry Bonds into three…




Print This Post



Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


87 Responses to “Splitting Rickey Henderson in Two”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Oscar says:

    “Now to see what happens if we divide Barry Bonds into three…”

    You get three very skinny people with normal-sized heads.

    +63 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • The amazing thing about Bonds is that if you separate his career into 3 consecutive 7-season chunks, he has 50.2, 57.2, 64.4 respectively.

      +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • As in, you don’t have to take all of the seasons from one “prime” period of his career, like you have to do with Rickey.

        Rickey was amazing for the first 15 (!!) seasons of his career. His “longevity” though came from 11 seasons of ~20 total WAR. He had longevity and he had greatness, but they are separate points.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        Okay, but there’s a “reason” why his aging years trumped his prime years.

        He had longevity and he had greatness, but they are separate points.

        Gee, I wonder what the difference between Bonds sustained dominace and Rickey’s reduced performance in longevity was? It must have been genetics … or training … or desire.

        Seriously, i can’t believe a statement would be made like that. Bonds and Greatness and BALCO. This site really needs to stop ostriching the issue when talking about it. Especially when the comment is made to elevate Bonds performance as compared to Rickey’s.

        If anything, you may, without intent, illustrating the effects of PEDs on the aging curve. It would be very difficult to pick players that had better genetics, talent, or skill, than Rickey Henderson. That Bonds put up 40+ more WAR in his aging season is revealing. I suppose I should say thanks.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Aging curves change with medical and chemical advancements. Players in the early 1900s aged way worse because conditioning was worse. Rickey had the benefits of improved supplements, improved knowledge, and improved conditioning techniques and availability. If Rickey lived in the 1910s, he would not have lasted 25 years. But we don’t hold that against him.

        You can’t pick and choose the inequalities that you think are OK.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        I thought we were discussing two guys whose careers had overlapping seasons?

        I didn’t realize I was comparing Rickey to Wagner and Anson.

        What I’m specifically saying is that you can’t ding Rickey for having longevity at the expense of sustained greatness while referring to Bonds having both longevity and sustained greatness.

        Bonds (unknowingly) used PEDs in the 2nd half of his career. To compare the performance in aging years is absurd.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Why is it that every time Bonds is mentioned, the entire conversation then shifts to steroids? It’s quite annoying. Yes, we all know he took steroids. But that doesn’t mean every conversation about his stats needs to be interrupted.

        It’s not like every time someone mentions Ty Cobb’s batting average, that every subsequent comment is a complaint about how he was a racist dickhead.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • gabriel says:

        “You can’t pick and choose the inequalities that you think are OK.”

        Yes, we can. Some are ethical, and some are not. Rickey having better training & nutrition regimens than early players falls in the first category. Bonds almost certainly broke the law as well as obtained an advantage unavailable to not only earlier generations of ballplayers, but his honest contemporaries.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • RoyallyGood says:

        So being bored at work I did it slightly differently. I gave 2 seasons to each “Barry” from the Pirates in descending order, and 5 seasons to each “Barry” for his 15 years in San Francisco (with 1 additional Pirates year going to Barry #1). It came out to be 54.1, 59.2, 54.7. Compare that to Willie Stargell’s best 8 seasons and he’s a 48.7. So if each imaginary Barry (poet) had another 4-5 years of simply existing on a baseball field, you got yourself 3 hall of famers.

        That’s just insane.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Andrew says:

        “It’s not like every time someone mentions Ty Cobb’s batting average, that every subsequent comment is a complaint about how he was a racist dickhead.”

        Not to belabor the point, but I’m pretty sure Ty Cobb’s racist attitude didn’t extend his career or improve his statistics. The things Bonds and Cobb did are totally, unequivocally unrelated. And this is coming from someone who thinks Bonds should be in the hall.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Bubba says:

        Why is it that whenever Barry Bonds is mentioned, someone starts ranting about steroids and how that issue is “ignored”. What if people who admire his stats don’t ignore the steroids issue? What if they simply don’t care? What if they realize that there was no testing against them, and no punishment for using them, and they just don’t care if someone did steroids during that time period?

        I know I don’t.

        +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • GiantHusker says:

        Amazing stat. Thanks for the research.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        In this case I only mentioned Bonds steroid use because a player he was being compared to was derided because of his subar performance in his “longevity” years.

        The player being derided was among the most talented and skilled players in history, so I felt that one should point out a glaring aspect of the “aging process”.

        It is very possible that Bonds would have aged very well, I mean he’s gotta be in the top 10 of talent and skill in history. But rather than aging well, he got significantly better. IMO, Bonds was a HOF’er before his BALCO days.

        My intent wasn’t to go on a steroids rant, but to oppose the comment about Rickey being a below average player during his “longevity” years (as compared to Bonds).

        That’s all, nothing more.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • @CircleChange11: that you would read this article or even that one line as “deriding” Henderson is simply stunning.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        Matt … you’re right … deriding wasn’t the right word. I couldn’t think of the exact word that I was looking for.

        I disagreed with comparing Bonds longevity with sustained greatness to Rickey’s longevity while performing significantly less, specifically due to the PED use.

        Again, I couldn’t think of the word that I wasn’t to use. “Derided” was far too strong of a word.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • SnowLeopard says:

        Yup. It’s like clockwork. All you had to do was pop the magic pills, and you’re an automatic hall-of-famer. I mean, who would have thought that guys like Agustin Montero, Jamal Strong, Jason Grimsley, and Jorge Piedra would be voted in on the first ballot. But we know that their longevity *and* their insanely high peaks clearly came about from PEDs. (rolls eyes)

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Dan in Philly says:

    I think James was referring to Rickey having 2 HOF calibar skill sets: Stolen Bases and OPS. If he never stole a single base he’d be a HOF-er. If he had only avergae OPS his stolen base acumen was so great he would have been a HOF-er. I like what you’ve done here, but can you also split him up into these two aspects of his game? I’d be interested in that, too.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Yirmiyahu says:

      I get what you’re saying. The speedy guy who played good defense, stole 1406 bases, and hit 66 triples is a Hall of Famer. Which is quite different than the other Hall of Famer with a .401 OBP and 297 HR’s.

      The problem with splitting Henderson this way is that there’s no way you can steal nearly 1406 bases without getting on 40% of the time*. Speedy Rickey was dependent on OBP Rickey.

      *Actually, I’m not sure it’s possible to steal 1406 even if you do get on base 40% of the time, but it happened, so it must be possible.

      +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • quick look at it:

      according to BREF, he was about 58 wins above average with his bat, and about 16 wins above baserunning.

      if he was an average baserunner, he still would have been at about 98 WAR, easy hall of famer.

      if he was an average hitter, he would have been about 56 wins, which is a borderline HOFer.

      Caveats:

      What Yiermasekrwaerhu said. He couldn’t have stole all those bases if he was an average hitter. He also probably wouldn’t have hit leadoff, etc.

      We aren’t splitting his defense in two. We also aren’t splitting his replacement runs in two, which just basically means we’re giving both Rickys credit for all of his playing time.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TK says:

        Even still, he would have broken the SB record and with HOF voters, that would resonate. Holders of major records, especially career records, get a huge bump. Roger Maris got consideration…

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Spencer says:

        Juan Pierre sure has hit leadoff alot while being an average or worse hitter…

        With the right manager (i.e. dumb) our hypothetical average hitting/great speed Rickey could have hit leadoff all through the 80′s and 90′s

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. thalooch says:

    “Now to see what happens if we divide Barry Bonds into three…”

    You get one liar, one guy who tells the truth, and one guy with very small balls

    +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Snoth says:

    How dare Barry Bonds do what just about every single other player was doing! Yes, Cheating is cheating, but why again is Bonds the most evil bastard of the era? I don’t wanna pull the race card because he was a total Dick but man it is getting old hearing people talk like he was the only cheater around.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Neuter Your Dogma says:

      No one said Barry was the only cheater around. Those who cheated and lied need to pay a price.

      Also, when someone says “I don’t wanna pull the race card,” it has been pulled.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Oddibe McBlauser says:

        Also, when someone says “neuter your dogma”, they spray their own dogma all over you.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • RoyallyGood says:

        I agree. Don’t pull the race card bull crap. Barry gets scrutenized because he’s the all-time home run champ, and that ticks people off. You think anyone gives a crap that Albert Belle likely took steroids? No. Or even Sammy Sosa? Not really. Barry is an “evil” guy in people’s eyes because he cheated to prove to everyone that he was that much better. To dominate a world he already dominated. He got a little greedy and took away a record that baseball old timers cherished. And he was a dick about it.

        As for me, I could care less, cause looking at his numbers are just an amazing array of ridiculousness. Only Williams and Ruth have equally entertaining stat pages.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • YP says:

      Players have been cheating since the beginning of the game from spitballs, to amphetamines, etc….People just like to pick and choose and forget the rest. IMO, Barry Bonds is the best player ever, steroids or not. Dude was a monster even before “roids”.

      +39 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • YP, I wish I could + that comment more than once.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Pretentious Polyester Poodle says:

        Yeah, I think spitballs accounted for about 40 WAR in Walter Johnson’s career, just like roids in Bonds’ case.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Doogolas33 says:

        I think Babe Ruth was better. But it’s pretty close.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • JDB says:

        Good point about the “cheating.” We have drawn an arbitrary line between cheating and acceptable forms of performance enhancement, between illegal steroids/HGH and cortisone, supplements, microfracture surgery, and Bartolo Colon’s stem cell treatment.

        In Tommy John surgery, the surgeon takes a tendon from somewhere else in the body – or from a cadaver! – and puts it in the player’s elbow. Back in the 1950′s, that would have been considered mad science along the lines of Frankenstein and the Nazis. Why is that ok but HGH isn’t?

        I don’t believe there is a rational basis for putting steroids squarely on the cheating side of the line. (Yes, they’re generally banned by law, not just the sport – but so could any of these things.) Steroids and HGH have legitimate medical uses. They help muscles and ligaments heal and recover. Why don’t we want players to heal faster and have longer careers?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • YP says:

        are you saying roids contributed 40 WAR to bonds?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • jim says:

        except steroids were ILLEGAL. like, against US law. like you go to jail for it. nobody would go to jail for using a spitball

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • YP says:

        you do go to jail for amphetamines…..

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • jim says:

        amphetamines weren’t illegal until 1985

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • YP says:

        so players who used steroids prior to 1991 are a-ok in your book?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        are you saying roids contributed 40 WAR to bonds?

        I’m not.

        The best we could is look at typical aging curves of elite players, estimate the performace toward replacement level or league average, and then “subtract” his actual WAR from what could be expected as some sort of “guesstimation”.

        I wouldn;t claim to be able to say to an exact number or percentage just how much PEDs help, and that seems to be what some demand in order to accept that they do help performance in baseball.

        To add to the “amazing” is T&T’s affect on left-handed batters, especially in the power department.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        At the bottom of the page you’ll see what Bonds’ career might look like if he had aged the way other great power hitters did, instead of exploding in 2001. Basically, had he stayed clean, he could have been Willie Mays with better plate discipline.

        http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=keating/060504http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=keating/060504

        Essentially, the difference in “Actual Barry” versus “Adjusted Barry” (According to Peter Keating) is …

        -44 games
        + 85 At bats
        -91 Runs
        - 86 Hits
        - 74 HR
        -390 BB
        + 62 K
        -.12 BA

        I’m just posting this out of interest, not as proof or quantification of the amount of performance increase Barry received from PEDs.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • JDB says:

        As I already said, it means ZILCH that steroids are illegal.

        Legality is, exactly like cheating, another completely arbitrary line. It adds nothing to this debate – it just mirrors it.
        (Some legal drugs are very similar, and sometimes indistinguishable, from illegal drugs. Vicodin vs. opium, adderall vs. cocaine. Not very different, but only the ones that white people profit from are legal.)
        Creatine could be illegal. Maybe it will be soon, but for now, it is widely used for some of the same reasons athletes use anabolic steroids.

        Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter on LSD, which is illegal. Does that mean he was cheating?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • jim says:

        creatine doesn’t do anything except fill your muscles with water and make them look bigger. if anything, you could have said NO2 products could be illegal and have a point, but you dont’ with creatine.

        but shit, drunk driving is illegal, so is murder. let’s do away with those ‘arbitrary’ judgments too while we’re at it

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        creatine doesn’t do anything except fill your muscles with water and make them look bigger.

        … and add extra compounds (phospohates) that increase the rate at which DP is converted to ATP. So, for repetitive, short interval activities (like running/swimming sprints, and short durtation lifts), it does help with energy production … but for most sports, that’s not an issue.

        CP burst on the scene when Linford Christie credited his success in the 92 olympics to it. Greek runners from the beginning were thought to have “creatine loaded” (without knowing it) by eating very large amounts of red meat. I forget the details but somethng like 1g of creatine in 3-4 pounds of red meat.

        But, you’re right … CP sucks the water in the muscles like crazy (which is how you add 10 pounds in 2 weeks), and that can be dangerous for very active, poorly hydrated athletes. The muscle (via CP) will suck in the water, even if they have to draw it from organs that need it more.

        One could go on a dehydration diet and lose 10 pounds of water weight in a week, and then start taking creatine and gain those 10 pounds of water back plus an additional 10 pounds of water weight, and then claim that “taking CP led to a 20 pound gain in 2 weeks” … oh wait, marketing companies already do that. *grin*

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        Using that same logic, we’re all criminals. How many of us want to be grouped with murderers and rapists because we’ve had a speeding ticket (or five)?

        Only in God’s eyes are all sins equal. Heh Heh. The rest of us (i.e., society) have a hierarchy. The system is based on it.

        Whether steroids provide a significant amount more improvement than greenies or spitballs is irrelevant in stating that one thinks that Bonds is the best player ever.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Wes says:

      I thought Barry is an evil bastard because he’s a huge asshole.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • YP says:

        He was prickly with the media, but he doesn’t seem like that bad of a guy.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        His ASU teammates voted him off the team before the CWS, but the coach allowed him back on the team because one member of the team was absent for the vote, squashing the “unanimosity” of the thing … or so the story goes.

        His Pirate teammates and manager didn;t seem to like him too much, as didn’t some of his Giant teammates.

        He is one of those guys that’s so talented, you’re better off putting up with him. As far as stat analysis goes, that’s irrelevant. It’s always interesting to me that his college teammates voted him off the team, given that a championship ring is the only thing most of those guys are playing for.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        “Barry Was Barry: Even in College”
        http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=pearlman/060504

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Oh my god Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson were good. Imagine how good they could’ve been if they did it the traditional way. You know, taking greenies, not facing Latinos or African-Americans, getting to beat up on a fatigued starter who throws 88 instead of a fresh reliever who throws 96… the way Ruth and Aaron did it.

    +55 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • YP says:

      I really love this comment.

      +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • This brings up a fun discussion though… what would happen if a super-talented guy like Ken Griffey Jr. or Barry Bonds went back in time and played in Ruth’s time. Ignoring the race issue, people would look at them like an alien, being able to hit balls a mile, run, and field like no other. The way the games has evolved…. it’s insane. I guess I’m kind of pointing out the obvious, but it would be awesome to see those guys back then.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • YP says:

        I wonder if we’ll make similar progressions in the next 50 years or so, where those superstars will face even harder conditions than those of this era.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • BG says:

        Heck, look at Ruth. Is that basically not what Ruth did to popularize baseball?

        “Come to the ballpark – Look at this guy who led the league in ERA set a recond for HR!!”

        I always had the impression that people back then were more interested in novelty than actaully following a team/ caring about winning. They probably would have gotten a real kick out of our stars of today.

        Fortunately, they’re here today, so I can watch them. :)

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Hussein says:

        Hypotheticals like that don’t do much for me. Hypothetically, if you teleported a league-average player(hell, even minor-league average) from today(with all our advancements in supplements, nutrition, game film, statistics) and stuck him in 1912 he’d probably smack 100 HRs and eat babies for fun – so where’s the fun in this argument? It’s like those basketball guys who go on about Hall of Famer X from the 1950s not being able to cut it in 2011 – well, duh. But in his era, he was all kinds of awesome. And that’s the only measurement worth taking.

        Not trying to piss in your proverbial Cheerios, sorry if it came off that way.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Ian says:

        Eat babies? Was that a Jason Maxiel reference on Fangraphs? Fantastic!

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Doogolas33 says:

        And if Babe Ruth was born now, with our nutritional advancements, conditioning advancements, etc, who knows how great he could have been.

        Hell, even without them his bat speed was still absolutely outrageous.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • BS says:

        What kind of conditioning would Krispy Kreme and Whoppers done for Ruth?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Joel says:

        If Babe Ruth was in the game today, even with all the training, nutrition etc………he would still look like John Kruk.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cliff Lee's Changeup says:

      Well expanded rosters also need to be taken into account. When The Babe played yes he didn’t face the best non-white players, but because he played in a league with so few teams, the quality of players wasn’t so terribly low. If no minority players were allowed in the league today, with the number of teams as is, the quality of opposition for guys like Ruth would be far lower. Also Ruth could not chose to face African Americans in an MLB setting, where as Bonds certainly chose to chemically revive his career and then lie about it. Furthermore Ruth played fewer games a season and lost seasons to being a pitcher. Also I don’t think Rickey turned himself into a human guinea pig, so why didn’t he do it the traditional way?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Sure, the league has grown from 16 teams to 30 teams, but the the pool of talent has grown just as much. Not only have African-Americans been allowed to play, but scouts also regularly draw from the entirety of Latin America and a number of countries in East Asia. Also consider that the US and world populations have grown.

        If you look at the ratio of MLB players to the-world-population-of-baseball-players-who-would-be-considered-for-an-MLB-roster spot, I’d say the ratio’s probably been pretty consistent.

        +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • King Kaufman says:

        Fewer teams so fewer MLB players in Ruth’s time, but also a much, much smaller player pool. 106 million people in the U.S. in 1920, 122 million in 1930. More than 308 million today.

        The number of teams hasn’t even doubled, and there are a LOT more players coming from Latin America today than in Ruth’s time, not to mention that small matter of the color line.

        +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Pretentious Polyester Poodle says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong but i think a majority of pitchers is still white.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jim says:

      wow you’re a douche

      -9 Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Briks42 says:

    I like the way pro-football reference did this when examining whether Jerry Rice had 2 HOF careers, which was to use even and odd ending years.

    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=5473

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. P?D's says:

    Has anyone ever seen proof that PED’s actually ENHANCE baseball performance? I havent. I have seen multiple studies that have concluded there is NO enhancement to baseball performance. SImply put, P?D’s and enhanced baseball performance are at best completely inconclusive. Many many hitters and pitchers used them during the 90′s, the playing field was equal (as it was during cocaine and amphetamine use in the 70′s and 80′s). The media went on a witch hunt against Bonds ’cause he’s an asshole. Dead ball pitchers had higher mounds and faced hitters using inferior bats in MASSIVE ballparks. Put this P?D talk to rest already.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • YP says:

      SHHHH!!!! Don’t tell the average joe and the media that. PEDS turned Barry Bonds from a 46 HR hitter to a 49 HR hitter (his 73 HR year aside)

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Pretentious Polyester Poodle says:

        YP, you meant ”PEDS turned Barry Bonds from a hitter who topped 40 HRs twice in his prime years to a hitter who hit 49,73,46,45 and 45 HRs while being 35-39 years old”, right?
        Otherwise you’re an idiot.

        +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        Yeah, if you put aside Bonds 73 HR season, McGwire’s 70 HR seasons, and Sosa’s 3 60+ HR seasons, steroids really didn’t influence much. Throw away Canseco’s 40-40 season, etc.

        Really, your comment is hilarious. You’re essentuilly comparing Bonds at 38 to Bonds at 28 and noting there’s not a drastic increase. Well, no shit. What you’re failing to note is the significant increase where a drastic decrease should be.

        Seriously take Bonds aging curve and overlay to any other players and its laughable … actually it’s not laughable … it’s one of the most compelling evidences for the effectiveness of PEDs. Patrick Arnold should be grateful. Someday, many of us 38yo, soon to be 48yo, gents will be taking some form of this “anti-aging compounds”.

        +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • YP says:

        He “topped” 40 twice, but hit at least 40 3 times before the “dark ages” and was hovering in the upper 30s for a lot of his career. And even post steroid testing as a 42 year old, Barry Bonds was OPSing over 1.000…is it so unfathomable that a player could just age that well? How would people take a fatass like Babe Ruth hitting 40ish homers in his upper 30s? Some players are just really, really good. And, it is impossible to say the exact of effect of PEDs, as it’s all conjecture. PEDs didn’t give Barry Bonds a better batting eye or make him make contact with the ball. Anyways, my main point is that if you criticize Bonds, you better be willing to criticize all the hall of famers that did amphetamines or any other “performance enhancer” that wasn’t allowed. Willie Mays did greenies, who knows how that affected everything. Hell, he’s probably a HoF’er based on chemicals alone……that’s sarcasm for anyone who couldn’t notice. I promise if steroids were available back in the day, your favorite player probably would have taken them.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • CircleChange11 says:

      It’s quite possible that baseball is the only physical activity that is not enhanced by PEDs.

      If a compound enhances recovery, how could it not enhance performance during a long season? Seriously, how could it not?

      Let’s put the naive PED commentary to rest.

      Athletes weren’t risking everything and putting up career best numbers because they didn’t enhance their performance.

      At this point, people don;t even accept that athlete’s commentary themselves. Why did Canseco and McGwire say that they wanted to take steroids? Because they didn’t do anything?

      I can’t believe that I’m engaging in this discussion again.

      I think a lot of folks that don’t know any better drastically underestimate the effect of steroids and similar compounds. They, literally, are miraculous compounds with many amazing medical uses. Enhancing sporting performance is no different.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • YP says:

        I seriously doubt they were showing McGwire, etc charts on how it would increase performance. They just took them because they potentially could make them better. Just the possibility to be better was enough for most of these players. Hell, even if there was a difference, it could easily have been a placebo effect too.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jake R. says:

      I am very far from an expert but steroids and other PED’s possess the ability to increase both strength and recovery time. Increasing strength, if done in a way where other skills remain constant (like bat speed) will result in more power. This is pretty straightforward.

      Enhanced recovery is another significant benefit. If a player does not experience the same wear and drain over a season as they would without chemical enhancement, they are going to be at a significant advantage, are probably less likely to slump and more likely to be able to sustain stretches toward the upper levels of their performance ability.

      I am not a steroid/PED hawk. I really don’t care too much about the issue. But, the idea that drug usage wouldn’t enhance athletic performance is laughable. Of course, if you want to make the very specific argument that there is no evidence that HGH enhances athletic performance I would be far more receptive. In the case of Bonds, you would also have to convincingly argue that HGH was the only substance he used and that his ballooning size was simply the result of increased water content in his muscles and didn’t translate into any performance related gains. Given that his performance contradicts that argument, I’m inclined to believe that he was either using other substances in addition to HGH or that HGH has real athletic benefits. Once again, I am not trying to argue for any sort of discounting of Bonds performance history just that the dismissal of the potential performance benefits of PED usage is foolish.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • flyingelbowsmash says:

      PEDs enhance performance by enabling the player to be out in the field more often. They help players recover from injuries quicker or avoid them altogether. I believe McGwire benefited from them the most because he probably wouldn’t have been playing at all in the late 90′s due to injuries. We know PEDs have this effect. As far as making one a better baseball player (as opposed to better athlete, faster, stronger, etc), yeah, we may not know.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Rickey Henderson says:

    Rickey is mad because, while reading an article about Rickey, Rickey sees that everyone is talking about some guy named Barry and some girl named Ruth.

    +23 Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. William says:

    I like the snake draft idea better

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. GiantHusker says:

    Great article, except for the “peak years” stuff. Henderson is the paradigm of how long-term great perforamance counts more than having a few great seasons.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. jim says:

    i like the idea of this article, but do you really think that bill james meant that “rickey henderson has the career WAR total of two average hall of famers?” surely you could have included more statistics than WAR in your analysis

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • I call BULLSH*T says:

      Nope, he’s pointing out with one statistic that Rickey Henderson is just that much more superior than every other Hall Of Famer EVER!!! lol

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. dxclancy says:

    This must be the guy rickey was talking about when he referred to himself in the 3rd person.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • ChuckD says:

      Don’t you mean “This must be the guy Rickey was talking about when Rickey referred to Rickey’s self in the Rickey-person.” ??

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. flyingelbowsmash says:

    To me, the most amazing aspect of Rickey’s career is his all-time walks. He was number one until passed by Bonds. How does a player like Rickey, the greatest base stealer of all-time, draw so many walks? Walking Rickey is the last thing you want to do (unless runners are on second and third, I guess). Rickey had power, but he isn’t a guy you are afraid he is going to jack anything over the plate. I’d throw it over the plate and take my chances he hits into an out. Plus, he is prone to strike out. You have around 70% chance of getting him out if you throw strikes, if you walk him with open bases, you have about 80-90% chance he is standing on second. It is unbelievable, but another testament to his greatness.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • SnowLeopard says:

      I think it was Bill James who said that when Rickey got into his crouched up batting stance, his strike zone was “the size of a pack of cigarettes”.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • I call BULLSH*T says:

      Rickey’s strike zone was something that we will never see again. If you dared to throw him a pitch in his wheelhouse he could easily deposit it in the seats, the only problem he ran into was shitting ump in my opinion ;)

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. SnowLeopard says:

    What I don’t get as a long-time Giants fan is that when internet baseball fans discuss the performance of most juicers, say for example Troy Glaus, David Justice, Paul Lo Duca, Luis Gonzalez, Eric Gagne, even Sheff and IRod (and, usually, ARod), they usually end up just simply discussing the performance of say for example Troy Glaus, David Justice, Paul Lo Duca, Luis Gonzalez, Eric Gagne, Sheff, IRod, and ARod.

    But there are a few guys (McGwire, Palmiero, Sosa, Camanetti, Canseco, and especially Bonds) where it seems impossible to simply discuss as players’ performance without roids becoming the main topic of the conversation.

    As people said: I think the main reason people have such animus towards Bonds is: (1) he didn’t have the best social skills, and (2) if you’re a fan of a non-SF NL team, well, he absolutely destroyed you for years. Sorry, but, fact is, PEDs or not, Bonds was one of the three or four best players ever, possibly the best, and I feel should be a unanimous first-ballot inner-circle HOFer (and, yes, I feel the same way about Clements (and I hate the Yankees)).

    I now will keep my eyes out for the pages and pages of internet dedicated to discussing Sarge Jr.’s PED use.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Michael Humphreys says:

    Matt,

    You might find interesting the way I split Rickey in two in my recently published book Wizardry: Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed (Oxford University Press 2011). On pages 216-17 I show how Rickey’s speed created about 340 runs above the league average via baserunning and fielding, which is about a Hall of Fame career all by itself, and another 450 runs above the average left fielder counting just batting.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. THE_SLASHER14 says:

    Amphetamines were illegal LONG before 1985 — I used to buy them on a sort of black market during finals week back in the early 1960s. And they were never ILLEGAL; it was illegal to have them without a doctor’s prescription. They are legal to this day — for various legitimate purposes, such as weight loss.

    When Willie Mays took amphetamines (it’s generally agreed he did), he was almost certainly committing a crime since it’s unlikely a young athlete would need amphetamines for any legitimate medical reason. A crime which was, BTW, virtually never punished — the law existed mainly to be used against “Dr. Feelgoods” who handed the stuff out like candy to celebrities. Steroids fall into exactly this category — they’re not illegal, but their use is illegal if not done under proper medical supervision.

    None of this, of course, addresses the issue that got Bonds into trouble with MLB, to wit, that he used steroids AFTER MLB had banned them. Mays may have committed a crime but MLB really didn’t care at the time, nor did any of the writers covering the game. Bonds did his thing (presumably knowingly) when MLB was on the warpath, which is the only reason idiots like some of those in this thread charge him with breaking the law as if that had anything to do with anything else. Yeah, he broke the law — so did Babe Ruth (with alcohol), Willie Mays (see above), and hundreds of other players over the years. You can condemn Bonds for violating MLB’s laws if you’ve a mind to, but to get all high-and-mighty about his committing a crime is a major exercise in hypocrisy.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. I call BULLSH*T says:

    Oh, are we really putting Barroids in the same conversation as Rickey “THE G.O.A.T” Henderson!?!

    This is where I make one point and leave; IF Barry Bonds had never abused PED’s he would have been in the HOF as a 500-500 guy, BUT since his actions completely betrayed his father and his God Father (Willie Mays) he should not gain entrance due to the travesty of the his actions against his lineage.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>