How deep into the steroid era were we?
It's crazy how the mind connects things together, isn't it? Like how a conversation about Clayton Kershaw can lead to thoughts on Mark McGwire.
Listening to the Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Onley Friday, he and Justin Havens were discussing the historical context of Kershaw's amazing season. The conversation goes on to talk about how voting trends might indicate the southpaw will miss out on an MVP award, despite being by far the best player int he National League.
To compare, they pointed towards Pedro Martinez's 1999 campaign with the Boston Red Sox. One of the greatest single season performances by any pitcher (ever), yet he finished second in the MVP race.
Curiosity piqued, I went to look at how the voting panned out that season, and Pedro finished 14 points behind Ivan Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers. Glancing up and down the list, I was really shocked by some of the numbers put up by even those who finished 10th (Seattle's Ken Griffey hit .285 with 48 HR, 134 RBI, 24 SB) or even 19th (Pittsburgh's Brian Giles hit .315 with 39 HR and 115 RBI) on the ballot.
Coming in the midst of the Braun and Rodriguez suspensions - I wonder just how much of these ridiculous numbers were pumped up by steroids? I know baseball goes through cycles, and we very well could just be seeing an age where pitching dominates the sport. But could a crop of talented arms really deflate total runs scored in the league by over 3,600 runs in just over a decade?
Here's just a few things to chew on when it comes to how that 1999 season matches up with today:
- A total of 79 players finished the regular season batting over .300 in 1999 (Larry Walker paced with .379), only 26 qualified players are actively doing so (Miggy leads the way at .354).
- Total strikeouts in 1999 vs. 2012? 31,119 vs. 36,426
- In 1999, 13 players topped 40 home runs (that was the season of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's shootout, finishing at 65 and 63 respectively). Just two are on pace to top that mark in 2013 (Chris Davis leads all with 46).
- Total home runs hit in 1999 vs 2012? 5,528 vs. 4,934
- Last season, 18 players drove in 100 or more runs, and roughly 12 are on pace to do so this year. Fourteen years ago, 59 players hit triple digit RBI's.
- Leaguewide ERA in 1999 vs. 2013? 4.71 vs. 3.88
- In 1999, the Minnesota Twins scored the fewest runs in baseball, with 686. That would have been good enough for 19th in last years rankings.
But how much do you guys believe they impacted the game? Was it really as rampant across the league as the numbers might indicate, or are we just in a different age of baseball? Comment, ignore, whatever- I'm just interested in what SB Nation might have to think.