Which Players Would Benefit Most from Steroids?

Posted by on Jul 20, 2007 in Baseball

While watching the Giants GameCast today, watching Bonds inch closer to the home run record, I started wondering if there were any OTHER players who could theoretically benefit MORE from using steroids than Barry Bonds has. I’m not just talking home runs, but overall hitting. Bonds is/was certainly one of the game’s best hitters, but are there any other players who may be able to improve their game more than Bonds did by using steroids? I’ve never seen any kind of analysis attempting to answer this question, so I went for it.

It occurred to me that the players who would improve their game the most are not just the home run hitters, but the hitters who are able to make consistent contact with the ball AND have some sort of power. The guys who are able to make contact would benefit by having more outs turn into singles, more singles turn into doubles, and more doubles turn into home runs. Guys who strike out a lot would just swing and miss harder, so those guys won’t gain as much of an advantage as the guys who can put the bat on the ball. Also, the guys who have shown some power in the past are more likely to reap the benefits of added strength. It’s unlikely that Wade Boggs would ever become a serious power threat no matter how much flaxseed oil he took. But a guy like Garciaparra, who makes a lot of contact and already has a bit of pop, is the kind of player who I think would really shine with some buttcheek injections…

I whipped up a formula to look for players who meet these qualifications. First, strikeouts are strikeouts whether or not you are juicing, so best to reduce the effect of steroids for hitters who strikeout a lot. I did this by creating a Contact Score to estimate the percentage of the time that the hitter makes contact with the ball:

Contact Score = (AB – SO) / AB

Then I created a Power Score, which estimates how many bases the hitter gets with each hit on average:

Power Score = TB / H

I then multiplied these two together to create a Steroid Score:

Steroid Score = Contact Score * Power Score

Using career numbers, here’s a first pass at active players who would have benefited most by using steroids (through 2006, in descending order):

Rank Player Contact Power Steroid Score
1 Barry Bonds 0.84 2.04 1.72
2 Albert Pujols 0.89 1.89 1.68
3 Vladimir Guerrero 0.88 1.80 1.58
4 Ken Griffey Jr. 0.82 1.92 1.57
5 Gary Sheffield 0.88 1.77 1.55
6 Frank Thomas 0.83 1.86 1.55
7 Brian Giles 0.87 1.78 1.55
8 Todd Helton 0.87 1.78 1.54
9 Nomar Garciaparra 0.90 1.70 1.53
10 David Ortiz 0.78 1.94 1.52

Even though the numbers aren’t park-adjusted, the list looks “right” to me. These aren’t just power hitters. These are guys who hit the ball often AND hard. These are, I would argue, the best specimens for steroid use. Of course, there is the possibility that some of these players HAVE used steroids already (Bonds, Sheffield, etc.), in which case their ranking is meaningless.

I even took a look at Bonds’ pre-steroid stats (which I took to be pre-2000) to see where it would rank. The new list:

Rank Player Contact Power Steroid Score
1 Albert Pujols 0.89 1.89 1.68
2 Barry Bonds (pre-steroids) 0.84 1.94 1.63
3 Vladimir Guerrero 0.88 1.80 1.58
4 Ken Griffey 0.82 1.92 1.57
5 Gary Sheffield 0.88 1.77 1.55

Notice how high Bonds remains on the list… A very good candidate for steroid use.

The top all-time Steroid Scores:

Rank Player Contact Power Steroid Score
1 Barry Bonds 0.84 2.04 1.72
2 Babe Ruth 0.84 2.02 1.70
3 Joe DiMaggio 0.95 1.78 1.69
4 Ralph Kiner 0.86 1.97 1.68
5 Albert Pujols 0.89 1.89 1.68
6 Lou Gehrig 0.90 1.86 1.68
7 Ted Williams 0.91 1.84 1.67
8 Mark McGwire 0.74 2.24 1.66
9 Johnny Mize 0.92 1.80 1.65
10 Hank Greenberg 0.84 1.93 1.62
11 Hank Aaron 0.89 1.82 1.61
12 Yogi Berra 0.95 1.69 1.60
13 Albert Belle 0.84 1.91 1.60
14 Roy Campanella 0.88 1.81 1.59
15 Willie Mays 0.86 1.85 1.59
16 Rocky Colavito 0.86 1.84 1.59
17 Mel Ott 0.91 1.75 1.59
18 Hank Sauer 0.85 1.86 1.59
19 Ernie Banks 0.87 1.82 1.58
20 Stan Musial 0.94 1.69 1.58
21 Hal Trosky 0.91 1.72 1.58
22 Vladimir Guerrero 0.88 1.80 1.58
23 Harmon Killebrew 0.79 1.99 1.57
24 Ken Griffey Jr. 0.82 1.92 1.57
25 Jimmie Foxx 0.84 1.87 1.57

Ruth was a freak of nature. If he had used steroids, who knows what numbers he would have put up. I’m assuming that DiMaggio never WAS on steroids, and I’m not sure I can even imagine it. But from his baseline performance, I bet DiMaggio would have benefited more than any other player in baseball history if he did.

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