August 3, 2007

How many home runs would Barry Bonds have hit without steroids and human growth hormones?

By the most detailed account, Bonds didn't start juicing until after all the hoopla over Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's jet-fueled home run chase in 1998 made him jealous and frustrated. He turned 34 in the second half of 1998, his 13th season, finishing the year with 411 homers, having hit 42, 40, and 37 over 1996-98.

My best guess is that if Bonds had stayed clean, right about now he'd wrapping up his career at age 43, probably playing DH in the American League, and trying to hang around to reach 600 homeruns. A normal looking Bonds hitting 189 homers over 1999-2007, or 21 per year, seems quite plausible. That would have moved him ahead of Frank Robinson, who had long been in fourth place with 586, behind Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), and Willie Mays (660). (Sammy Sosa, who was likely a juicer, just passed 600, while Ken Griffey Jr., who certainly looked clean during his prime, is at 588 and counting.)

Assume Bonds had hit 600 homers, clean and while playing in pitchers parks most of his career. Add to that 500 stolen bases, a huge number of walks (e.g., 151 in 1996), a ton of runs scored, and good defense, that would likely have moved him past Frank Robinson and into contention with the great triumvirate of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Hank Aaron to contend for the honor of the greatest player since WWII. As time goes by and the statistics of the cheaters fall into disrepute, Bonds clean numbers would have stood out more gloriously.

But he decided to throw it all away to beat the cheaters at their own game.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Keeping in mind that one effect of steroids is faster recovery time from workouts and injuries, especially in older athletes, it's possible that a "clean" Bonds would have ended his career a few years ago. He still would have had HoF-worthy numbers, however.

Anonymous said...

Well are the pitchers using steroids and human growth hormones?

Anonymous said...

How in the world do you come up with 21 HR/season?

According to your "theory" Bonds was not a "juicer" until 1999.

At the end of the 1998 season -- his 14th -- Bonds had hit 445 homeruns. At the end of Aaron's 14th season, he had hit 481.


Aaron played 23 seasons. Bonds is in his 22nd.

In aaron's final 9 seasons, he hit 274 home runs, averaging 30.

In bonds's most final 8 seasons (remember he's only played 22), he has hit 309, averaging 39.

Now let's discard Aaron's last season, so compare aaron's seasons 15-22 and bond's 15-22. as mentioned above, bonds totaled 309/averaged 39.

aaron hit 264/averaged 33.

So over the same stretch, bonds was 19% more productive in terms of hrs, when for his career he had been 7.5% LESS productive.

So if bonds had continued at his same pace relative to hank aaron BEFORE juicing as you claim, he'd be sitting on about 691 home runs right now.

Anonymous said...

I might even argue that Bonds would have approached Mays. His eye for the ball is tremendous and consistent. He almost plays "catch" with the pitched ball and has a good sense of where to hit it.

Too bad he instead chose to pull a decade-long "Daughtry." He didn't even do it for championships: he did it for stats.

Anonymous said...

Through 1999, Bonds had played in exactly 2,000 games hitting 445 home runs.

Through Hank Aaron's first 2,000 games, he had hit ~451 home runs.

(Through 1,964 games he had hit 442 homers. The following season he hit 39 in 155 games, or roughly 9 homers for 36 games played.)

Anonymous said...

I believe thre is a simple way to express dissatisfaction with steroids, player jerk behavior, and high salaries: don't buy a ticket.

There's alternatives, such as minor or independent league ball, or even doing something yourself instead of paying to watch grown men play games.

Steve Sailer said...

You can't assume that anybody would have as big a homerun upturn over the last decade of his career as Aaron did. Aaron moved from a pitcher's park in Milwaukee to a hitter's park in Atlanta in 1966 and stayed in exceptional health. That's why Aaron confounded everybody by overtaking the much more famous Willie Mays in chasing Babe Ruth's career record. (For his career, Aaron played in average ballparks, so his record is legit.) Plus the hitting environment improved after 1968.

Bonds typically played in poor hitters parks throughout his career.

Roger said...

Bonds also did intensive weight-lifting for hours a day; gained weight; quit stealing bases; and focused on being a power hitter. Even without steroids, his home run production could have gone up.

TJ Hooker said...

I always love it when people point out Barry lifted weights. Its like he never thought of it before 1998. In power/speed sports like baseball people just don't get better than their healthy prime (in absolute terms, adjusting for park/league effects) in their late 30s.

I wonder if Barry would have been more healthy if he hadn't bulked up so much. I also wonder if he would have been as motivated to keep playing, although he probably would have had some desire to go after Mays' HR mark so maybe he would have played all this time anyway.

Anonymous said...


First of all, there's no way to do anything other than take a wild ass guess. Your 21/HR season guess is a pretty wild ass one though, I think. I suspect that given the similarities of Bonds and Aarons careers, Bonds would have hit about 300 homers after his 12th season. THat's about the number aaron would have hit had not moved from milwaukee. Of course bonds has actually hit 380. I think it's reasonable to argue that bonds might have done better than 300 because training is better these days. Also, if he couldn't juice, he very wellmight have chosen to go to a different ballpark like coors or Yankee Stadium. That being said, bonds hasn't been penalized by his ballpark -- he hits as many at home as he does on the road. it's just that he didn't benefit from it the way aaron did (or the way a totally overrated player like todd helton does today).

anyway, here are numbers for you:

The negative impacts of Hank Aaron's pre-1966 ballpark and Barry Bonds missing games due to the strike are pretty much a washout.

In Hank Aaron's new ballpark you are right he hit 43 more homers on the road than at home. Meanwhile, Bonds has hit about the same number at home versus road in PacBell/AT&T.

That being said, in Aaron's first 12 seasons when you say he was penalized by the ballpark, he hit 398 homers.

In Bond's first 12 seasons, including when he was penalized by the strike, he hit 374.

You cannot assume anything counterfactual. So who knows.

Under your suggested scenario, Bonds would be closing in on 600 HRs this season. So from seasons 13-22 he would have hit about 225 dingers, roughly 23 per year.

In actuality, he hit 380. So you are arguing that 150 homers were caused by steroids.

Meanwhile, in seasons 13-22, Hank Aaron hit 347 homeruns. ~43 of those were due to moving out of milwaukee to new park. Of course, that doesn't really matter -- because he hit them, they count.

Steve Sailer said...

You can't just compare Bonds to Aaron, you have to compare him to other hitters. Through 1998, when Bonds was 33, he hit had 411 homers, which put him more than 100 homers off the pace. The record for most homeruns at age 33 is 519 by Jimmie Foxx, who ended up with 534.

Sosa 499
Aaron 481
Griffey 481
Matthews 477
Mantle 473
Ruth 470
Rodriguez 464
Mays 453
F. Robinson 450.

Bonds must have been, what, 30th or 40th on this list at age 33?

Foxx, Matthews, and Mantle were heavy drinkers and that no doubt explains a lot about why their homer totals peaked in the 511-535 range.

But, according to Bonds' ex-girlfriend, one reason he started juicing was he felt his body was wearing out, that his best days were behind him.

Steve Sailer said...

The reality is that clean, Bonds was more of a great all-around player than an awesome home run hitter. Before juicing, he didn't hit tape-measure homers like Mickey Mantle did. Granted, his homer totals through 33 are a little depressed because he played in pitchers' parks (most people hit a majority of their homers at home, not half), and because he took a lot of walks.

Indeed, after his ridiculous 73 homer season in 2001, he got held to 46, 45, 45 the next three seasons because he took an unbelievable number of walks, peaking at 232 in 2004, which was 62 more than Babe Ruth's old record.

So, he was an excellent home run hitter, but not an extraordinary one like Eddie Matthews, who hit 47 when he was 21. Bonds took longer to mature into his strength, reaching his unjuiced career high of 46 in an expansion year (1993) when he was 28.

After age 33, Bonds is far away the home run leader with 360, compared to 313 for Aaron, 298 for Rafael Palmeiro (busted for juicing), 298 for Ruth, 261 for Gallaraga (Colorado), 254 for Mays, 254 for McGwire, 230 for the underrated Darrell Evans, 223 for Reggie Jackson, 218 for Edgar Martinez, and 218 for Stan Musial.

So, 600 sounds like a best guess estimate for where Bonds would have ended up clean. With a lot of luck and dedication, or a trade to Colorado, he might have stuck it out to beat his godfather Willie Mays' 660.

Anonymous said...


During the seasons 14-18, Bonds hit 247 home runs and Aaron hit 197.

During Aaron's 19-23 seasons, he hit 116, playing in 583 games.

During Bonds' 19-22 seasons (he's 2/3 the way throughn season 22), he hit 96, playing 385 games.

Since Bonds stopped using steroids, his HR/game has been .249; in the 5 years before he used steroids it was .259. When he used steroids it was close to .365 or something. Without steroids he probably would have hit .254 per game.

That would have dropped his output by about 77 home runs, however he missed a lot of time due to steroids in 1999 and 2005 (not to mention having missed 68 games in 1994-5 due to the strike).

Your focus on age is misleading; Bonds and Aaron did not start their careers at the same age. Bonds started was 1.5 years older than Aaron when he started his career.

However, if you're stuck on using age instead of season or games played, Bonds steroid years were 35-39.

From 34.5-38.5, Aaron hit 192 home runs; from 35.5-39.5, Aaron hit 203 home runs. In his seasons 14-18, he hit 197 home runs.

No matter which way you slice it, Bonds increased output relative to Aaron was between 45 and 55 additional home runs.

However as I showed above, you can compare pre-roids Barry with post-roids Barry. Then the gap is something more on the order of 77 HRs, a gap which is mitigated to some extent if you assume that he would not have missed as much time in 2005 and perhaps 1999 if he hadn't been screwing around with his body.

Anyway, this is all moot because ARod will end up setting the record. The impressive thing is that Arod will have done while facing pitchers who were certainly using the juice.

BTW, has anybody accused Roger Clemens, who has a secretive workout regime, of using roids? I tend to think that he hasn't done the juice, because he doesn't look THAT much bigger than when he was younger. On the other hand, Rafael Palmeiro's body seemed congruent to me.

No wonder he needed Viagra. Maybe that ad was his downfall, eh?

But regardless, I suspect that if Barry Bonds hadn't used roids, he would have switched to a cheap ass ballpark and would be past Willie Mays by now.

By the way, I am not in any way a Giants fan nor do I even really like Bonds.

I am a huge Ken Griffey Junior fan and a Seattle Mariners season ticketholder. It's such a shame that Jr. got injured in Cincy. I wish he'd stayed in Seattle. In 11 years with seattle he hit 400 or so dingers. In the 7 or 8 years he's been a red, he's not yet even hit 200. There's no chance he ever used roids; he barely even worked out.

One final baseball note: watch out for the Yankees. They are on pace to having one of the best net run scored differentials in the last 25 years; the are on pace to be 18th best during that span; of the 17 teams that did better them 6 made the WS, and 4 won it.

And I really hate the Yankees.

Have a good weekend.

Cedric Morrison said...

>"As time goes by and the statistics of the cheaters fall into disrepute, Bonds clean numbers would have stood out more gloriously."

I suspect as time goes by, human augmentation is going to become common. We are already seeing the primitive beginnings with steroids, but as our knowledge grows and this stuff becomes safer, people are going to make changes in themselves. I'll give some examples that illustrate my speculations.

Instead of using glasses or contact lenses or crude surgery, myopic people start getting their entire lenses replaced. Suppose these lenses are actually better than the original equipment, and we start seeing many people with 20/10 vision, as Ted Williams is said to have had. Is this cheating?

The cost of gene sequencing is dropping fast. Within maybe the next 10 years or so, it will fall in price enough that it will be routine for every middle-class citizen of the industrialized world. We will have lots of data to use for predictions. Suppose someone has a newborn son and gets a routine gene sequence. The child is going to be five-foot five-inches tall, give or take an inch. Knowing the crap that gets handed to short males, they give him growth hormones, and he tops out at six-one. Instead of being a good gymnast, he ends up a fine high-school running back and center fielder. Cheating?

Going with the above, the fathers who dream of their sons being football stars realize that they will now be competing with kids who have been given growth hormones for years. They decide that even though their kids would have been in the normal range of size, they need to be even bigger to compete. Six-foot-five guys become common.

Growth hormones are actually pretty beanbag. Some young guy dreams of being a sprinter, but his ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fiber is all wrong, so he goes to a clinic in the Caribbean and has a procedure done that drastically increases the white fiber in his legs.

You have probably seen the pictures of the human child and of the whippets whose bodies don't break down muscle tissue as fast as normal. They bulk up like bodybuilders. What happens when that becomes adapted into something anyone can use, especially if it turns out to be safe?

A young pitcher throws out his arm. He gets the damaged tendon/ligament replaced with an excellent new material, and while it is there, the arthroscopic robot surgeon replaces the other vulnerable tissues, too. After his rehabilitation, the young pitcher can throw harder than ever before. Is that therapy or augmentation? (I would say both.) What happens when it is noted by other athletes that people with the new tissues are better than those who have all original parts?

We will probably start seeing anti-aging therapies. Heavy steroid use is somewhat dangerous, but will it be cheating if/when something is developed that safely maintains muscle mass and/or nerve conduction speeds and athletes see their careers extended another ten or twenty years?

That is all stuff that looks like it is almost certain to arrive. But what about something like brain augmentation? Add a computer chip to your skull, and get the situational awareness of a Wayne Gretzky.

All of this is further confused by most of these augmentations being useful for stuff other than sports. Everyone is going to want to improve, or at least maintain, their muscles, nerves, circulatory systems, and joints. Many people will want to improve their minds. Crude brain drugs are already being used on college campuses. I have trouble believing that non-athletes will be allowed to use these things while athletes aren't. I suspect future sports heroes are going to be increasingly created in the laboratory, and there is nothing that is going to stop it short of civilizational collapse.

James said...

Anonymous said...

Steve, how come you never told us about Bonds' other not-so-secret assistance?

Bionic arm

Anonymous said...

I can't state categorically that ANYBODY is clean, so I won't swear that Roger Clemens hasn't used any illegal substances.

But the difference between Clemens and Bonds is this: late in his career, Bonds started doing something he'd NEVER done before! When a guy who's normally hit 28-30 homers a year starts hitting 60 or 70, people notice and ask, "What's going on?"

If somebody like Greg Maddux or Tommy Glavine started throwing smoke and striking out 250 batters a year at age 36, fans would wonder if they'd started cheating, too, because Maddux and Glavine were NEVER power pitchers, even in their prime.

Roger Clemens WAS a power pitcher in his youth. So, while it's a bit surprising that he can still throw so hard, nobody is shocked, because they're USED to seeing him throw heat. Clemens didn't suddenly start doing something he'd never done before; rather, what makes him remarkable is that he's been able to REMAIN at a high level for so long.

Anonymous said...

astorian - Carlos Baerga in an old nytimes article said he noticed that Clemens velocity went up in 97. Prior to then, he said he noticed Clemens velocity wasn't the same anymore, and he looked like he'd reach a slow decline. Suddeny, in 97, he was stronger than ever. Take it for what it's worth.

Anonymous said...

Baerga MAY be right. Again, I am not asserting that Roger Clemens hasn't used steroids or other illegal substances- at this point, there are VERY few athletes I'm certain haven't done so.

I'm merely pointing out what I think is the big reason people haven't gotten as suspicious about Clemens as they have about guys like Barry Bonds.

Bonds started doing something he'd NEVER done before. He was almost certainly the best overall ballplayer of his generation, but he'd NEVER been a big home run hitter before 1998. When a formerly skinny guy who hits 25 or 30 homers a year suddenly gets a lot bigger and starts hitting towering homers, people can't help but notice and wonder why.

Roger Clemens DID show some signs of decline in his last few years at Boston, no question. But when he turned things around again (legally or illegally, I don't pretend to know), he didn't suddenly start striking out 400 batters a year or throwing 110 MPH fastballs. He just started throwing like the old Roger Clemens again.

A mere return to previous levels of performance doesn't raise eyebrows the way a sudden spike in performance does. Maybe it SHOULD, but it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

i guess the debate is over with clemens

Aquaria said...

::::Anyway, this is all moot because ARod will end up setting the record.::::

Five years later, and you're proven horribly wrong. He had 654 HRS as of 2013, but was also suspended for juicing. The suspension is so long that his career is probably over. His HR output had plummeted precipitously during that year, so it's extremely unlikely that he'll make it to the Babe's record, never mind Bonds'.

:::The impressive thing is that Arod will have done while facing pitchers who were certainly using the juice.:::

Do you really think that Bonds, McGwire, et al didn't face juiced pitchers?


Naivete is calling, and says that even it isn't that blind.