Lies and Damn Lies
Barry Bonds is on the verge of breaking Hank Aaron’s all time home run record in Major League Baseball. It’s inevitable. In fact by the time you read this it might have already have happened. But, eh, nobody seems to care much. Well, nobody outside of the Bay Area or Bristol, Connecticut.
This probably stems from the fact that hardly anybody not being paid by Barry seems to like Barry very much and that people think he’s cheated his way to the record through the use of various anabolic steroids, growth hormones (both human and cow apparently), and a couple of BALCO products known as “the cream” and “the clear.”
And of course flaxseed oil.
But other than once for amphetamines, Bonds has never tested positive for any PEDs. Still, this hasn’t ended the speculation.
For a few reasons there is still rampant suspicion that Bonds’ inflated power numbers come from better living through chemistry. First, there is his involvement with BALCO, Victor Conte, and trainer Greg Anderson. Then there’s this. Finally, just look at Barry. There has clearly been a dramatic change in his physique from his earliest days as a skinny kid in a Pittsburgh Pirate uniform to the Giant (both senses) he is today.
To quote Stuart Mackenzie, “Look at the size that boy’s heed. I’m not kidding, it’s like an orange on a toothpick.”
Still most of the reporting remains focused on the feds, the remnants of the BALCO scandal, the toothless investigation by the Mitchell committee, or some other informant du jour. It’s almost as if the media and MLB are both waiting for someone to hand over a smoking gun registered to Barry with his prints on the still warm grip (“Hey look, Godot!”). What there hasn’t been much of is an examination of the probability that what Barry has done was legit from a purely statistical standpoint.
The below is attempt to do just that. It’s a analysis of Bonds’ 2001 single-season record-breaking home run mark of 73. It’s long. Sorry. But, statistically, it’s interesting because Bonds really didn’t hit 73 home runs in 2001. Or at least you can almost prove it.
Admittedly that’s a bit of an irresponsible use of the word “prove.” The numbers don’t prove anything. And Bonds actually did hit 73 baseballs that cleared the fence during that season. What the numbers do show is that it was so improbable that it would almost be more rational to believe it didn’t happen.