Steroids, baseball and Hank Aaron

I’ve been following the steroid controversy in baseball from a distance, and am wondering just how building up extra muscle in this fashion is so effective in increasing home run scores. (This may well be a silly question, as I have never hit a baseball in my life, so don’t really appreciate what is involved in the mechanics of putting bat to ball.) Feel free to chip in with the simplest of answers.

Anyhow, baseball is not weight lifting, or 100m sprinting, were the whole exercise can be reduced to fairly simple parameters of strength and power. There must be numerous variables involved in hitting a home run, it certainly doesn’t seem like you would need freakish strength to hit one. Surely the weight-training regimen of any professional slugger should be sufficient to give you more than enough power to hit the longball? I guess I’m not seeing clearly how piling on the muscle from steroids, to an already musclebound frame, makes such a big difference in HR hitting.

I see the all time HR leader is Hank Aaron, with 755. Wow! Googling for him turns up images of an athletic, relatively lean-looking dude by today’s standards. What was so special about Hank that he blasted so many home runs? Also, are there players around today with analogous physiques and styles who are similarly effective?

Hitting has a lot to do with Bat speed, Batting Eye & Arm strength.
Bat speed is the ability to whip the bat very fast to build the force you want to transfer to the ball.
Batting Eye is the ability to judge the balls location so that the sweet part of the bat makes contact with the ball.
Arm Strength is the other factor in building up force, would allow use of a heavier bat at high speed. (My physics here is crap, I parroting 35 years of listening to baseball players talk about hitting)
Aaron had incredible Bat Speed and great arm strength and a very good batting eye. From what I have heard he had some of the fastest wrist in the history of the game.
Soriano of Texas Rangers is compared to Aaron for Wrist speed but he lacks the Batting Eye.
Ted Williams was reknown for superhuman Batting Eye, he could see the seams of the baseball as it came towards him. He also had great strength and wrist speed.
Ruth was known for a Good Batting Eye and incredible strength.

Concerning Steroids & other enhancements:
Players these days can get laser vision repairs done to correct eyesight to 20/20 or better. This is legal and is a major component in increased Homers.
The Steroids allow for much better Arm strength is exactly what they are for.
Additional Steroid benefit. I have heard they let you recover from workouts quicker. So exercises to build up bat speed could be performed more often.

They are also widely held to accelerate recovery from minor injuries, making the normal slumps of a season or career shorter and perhaps less frequent.

This is said to be a reason why they may be of increasing benefit to an aging athlete. And why certain high-profile former users may now be taking an unusually long time to bounce back from injury.

Who could you possibly mean? :wink:

He stayed healthy for the better part of his career. Many players just can’t say that they had that good fortune. I think Aaron is in the top five or so for games played, giving him plenty of opportunity to hit HRs.

Aaron had good bat speed and a good eye. I think that’s evidenced by his relatively good BA throughout his career and his relatively low strikeout total.

Remarkable consistency was a hallmark with Aaron. He never hit more than 50 HRs in any season. But he consistently got into the 35-45 range even late into his career.

I don’t think it hurt that he played in Atlanta Fulton County stadium for much of his career which was known as a hitters park.

Hank Aaron wasn’t the most phenomenal physical specimen. He was however, a perfect storm of good hitting skills, good health and a favorable stadium.

Other players had a chance to exceed Aaron’s totals, but had something that kept their career totals down. Ted Williams lost several years to war. Mays’ career went south before Aaron’s did. Ruth was a pitcher first and later was a fat drunken lout whose personal habits caught up to him.

Aaron had unusually strong wrists; supposedly this was in part due to his habit in his youth of hitting “cow handed” (with the wrong hand on top of the other) which is very hard on the wrists. He got out of that before he got to the majors but had tremendous wrist strength, so he tended to get maximum force at the point of impact.

Aside from that, what E-diddy said; he started very young, stayed healthy and played a long time. Lots of guys have hit more homers as a percentage of their at bats, but none of them had Aaron’s durability.

E-diddy, his stadium didn’t have that much to do with it; he hit 385 homers at home, 370 on the road; so at his rate of hitting them on the road he still would be the all time leader. He is still the all time road game home run leader, just ahead of Ruth and Bonds:

Aaron - 370
Babe - 367
Bonds - 361, I think
Willie - 325

Fulton County Stadium was a great home run park, but Milwaukee County Stadium, where Aaron played the great majority of his home games, was a pitcher’s park.

If you’re curious, the most helped player of all the all-time home run greats was Mel Ott, who hit 323 homers at home, “only” 188 on the road.

The all-time home run great most robbed by his home run parks was Eddie Mathews; 237 at home, 275 on the road.

Fulton County Stadium was a great home run park, but Milwaukee County Stadium, where he played the great majority of his home games, was a pitcher’s park.

My assertion was only that it didn’t hurt that he playerd there. It certainly didn’t hurt that he played there in the latter half of his career. But as I said, it was the perfect storm of all those factors combined. Had Aaron played in a pitchers park his entire career would he have been able to hit 30-40 HRs as late as he did? Who knows?

Mathews only got one year in Atlanta and appears that had an impact. Although not knowing the precise dimensions of the parks, I can’t make that assertion based on any hard evidence. Mathews was also a lefty and I don’t know how the dimensions of both parks affected rightys vs. leftys.

The guys using steroids don’t last long enough. Bonds only has a chance because he had a good number of home runs, before he started using steroids and of course it isn’t for sure that he will be able to return. Before the past week the only records that seemed worth keeping in the last 10 years were Palmiero’s and now that has gone down the drain. Our national sport is a national disgrace. :smack: [sup]Aren’t they due to go out on strike again?[/sup]

Let’s not turn an honest question about Henry Aaron into your personal rant about how baseball sucks, hmmm?

As to how long you can last on steroids, what evidence do we have that steroids shorten your career? If Mark McGwire used steroids it very likely LENGTHENED his career; he was having significant injury problems that seemed to go away at about the same time he suddenly started belting homers at record-breaking paces. Bonds, too, has been astonishingly productive at a very advanced age; he is far and away the best old player in baseball history. Palmiero has certainly played a long time and been very healthy. I know people point to Jason Giambi as evidence steroids shorten your career, but there’s no evidence he wouldn’t have gotten hurt anyway; he was never the lightest guy on the field.

The name of the thread is Steroids, baseball and Hank Aaron, hmmm. Steroids is the reason baseball sucks. It didn’t suck during Hank Aaron’s career.

[sup]Try this[/sup]
Lyle Martin Alzado

Obviously, nobody knows, but there’s evidence that suggests to me he might’ve. Aaron’s BB/K ratio improved significantly as he got older. I’ve posted about this before, but from 1969 on, Aaron never had more strikeouts than walks in a season (except for 1976, when he was 42 years old and definitely done). Prior to that, he’d only had three seasons out of fifteen when he didn’t have more strikeouts than walks – though he never had more than 100 Ks in a season, he came very close several times. At the same time, his HR/AB went up commensurately – he only had one season before 1969 that was as good as each of his seasons from 1969-1973 in HR/AB. To restate that a little more clearly: after he turned 35, Aaron hit more homers per at bat than he ever had before (except in 1962), until he turned 40. During that same period, he started walking more than he struck out, which he’d also rarely done before. So to me, Aaron’s power surge late in his career seems likely to have been a result of better plate discipline (not that he was bad before), rather than any park effect; he likely would have done much the same as what he did in a less hitter-friendly environment.

I don’t know if you can pinpoint with research just how much it would help any given player. But extra muscle would help you move the bat through the hitting zone faster, and if you’re stronger, you could turn some long flyball outs into home runs. As mentioned, steroids can also aid injury recovery.
It’s also been speculated - not proven to my knowlege - that some players are using human growth hormone (HGH), which would also help the muscles and improves eyesight. Improved eyesight also has some clear advantages.

That’s true. It’s also true that McGwire’s body absolutely fell apart on him at the end of his career. So if steroids gave him the peaks, they may have also made him taper off more quickly.

In all likelihood, Lyle Alzado did not die from steroid abuse. As this article states:

The health risks of steroid use in adult men is vastly overstated. It is unlikely that steroids cause Mr. Alzado’s death.

To further spread amazement about Aaron, remember that he played in the Negro leagues for several years and the homers he hit there are both unrecorded (in part) and not part of his MLB stats. If it wasn’t for segregation, his record would have been substantially higher.

Not a valid argument. He was a fulltime MLB player by age 20.
He hit 13 his first year which is great for a rookie in 1954.
At 21 & 22 he hit 27 & 26
If he had been in MLB at 18 & 19 I think he may have added 20 HR’s. It is better to just treat those lost years as his Minor league time.
He had 755 lifetime in MLB which is an unbelievable accomplishment. He is one of the greatest players ever.
Does anyone know if he spent anytime in the Minors?
The +20 Homers may even be to high.
He was not Rookie of the year, it may be fair to say, he didn’t lose any MLB time.

I know he did play one season at Eau Claire (Northern League, Class C) and one in Jacksonville in the Class A South Atlantic (Sally) League (where he was among the first few black players in the league), in the Braves’ farm system. His only Negro League experience was a short period at the beginning of the 1952 season, with the Indianapolis Clowns – he was quickly signed by the Braves and sent to Eau Claire, where he played most of the 1952 season.

BTW, for those who keep track of such things, the South Atlantic League that Aaron played in at Jacksonville in 1953 is actually the same league as the one now known as the Southern League. The current Sally League was the Western Carolina League until 1980.

He also broke his ankle before the season was out and missed a number of games, which undoubtedly kept his total down.

Thanks for the info. I was just pointing out, he really didn’t lose any Homers.
I think your answer confirms this.
If we get into specualtion you get into the circular arguments of:
Ted Williams lost 5 seasons to active duty in 2 wars. I write that and I can’t believe it. I hate the Red Sox but what an incredible hitter.
Ruth lost 6 prime years to pitching/dead ball error and then to own lack of self-control. On other hand he didn’t bat against a good chunk of top pitchers as a they were pitching in the Negro leagues. On the otherhand all top white athletes went into MLB back in 20’s and in 50’s a lot of top athletes were in NFL & NBA.

Okay I can’t construct a clean table but these are the AB/HR stats all-time.
Hank is only 13th.
Player AB HR AB/HR Ratio***
Player AB* HR* AB/HR Ratio*
Mark McGwire 6187 583 10.61
Babe Ruth 8399 714 11.76
Barry Bonds 8725 658 13.26
Sammy Sosa 7543 539 13.99
Harmon Killebrew 8147 573 14.22
Alex Rodriguez 4989 345 14.46
Ken Griffey,Jr. 7079 481 14.72
Ted Williams 7706 521 14.79
Mickey Mantle 8102 536 15.12
Jimmie Foxx 8134 534 15.23
Mike Schmidt 8352 548 15.24
Willie McCovey 8197 521 15.73
Hank Aaron 12364 755 16.38
Willie Mays 10881 660 16.49
Eddie Matthews 8537 512 16.67
Frank Robinson 10006 586 17.08
Reggie Jackson 9864 563 17.52
Rafael Palmeiro 9553 528 18.09
Ernie Banks 9421 512 18.40
Mel Ott 9456 511 18.50
Eddie Murray 11336 504 22.49

There are a lot of ways to argue great home run hitters.
The top 3 steroid suspects are #1, #3 & #4 on list. Raffy is #18.
Aaron was a great athlete, I would still give Mays the nod as greatest living Player. I largely ignore the Steroid Cheats but man does it help an already good home run hitter.
I think most people feel A-Rod & Griffey are clean but McGwire, Sosa, Bonds & Raffy are cheats.
Jason, Pudge & Sheffield don’t really on the Home Run charts.
Sorry for way too much info.

I wouldn’t even get into an argument with someone over that. I think Mays was better when both were in their prime. But as I said before, Mays career started to go south after 35 while Aaron was quite productive after 35.

Both have a claim to the title of the greatest player. Both started their careers before black players were as commonplace as today. They faced off against some of baseball’s greatest pitchers from Drysdale and Koufax, through Bob Gibson, and finishing as Seaver, Ryan, Carlton were coming into their own. Both players were integral parts of a championship team.