Sports Corner: Steroids and Home Runs

by robekulick

I recently found a pretty interesting article in the Journal of Economic Inquiry on Home Runs and steroid use in Major League Baseball. Here is the abstract from De Vany (2011):

“There has been no change in Major League Baseball home run hitting for 45 yr, in spite of the new records. Players hit with no more power now than before. Records are the result of chance variations in at bats, home runs per hit, and other factors. The clustering of records is implied by the intermittency of the law of home runs. Home runsfollow a stable Paretian distribution with infinite variance. The shape and scale of the distribution have not changed over the years. The greatest home run hitters are as rare as great scientists, artists, or composers.”

Full article: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1790150

I’m still a bit skeptical because it seems so obvious that steroids must help baseball performance…why else would players take them? Also is there really a physiological explanation for how huge Barry Bonds became so huge in his (relatively) old age.

However, a quick perusal of this analysis has somewhat compelled me…although these aren’t the sort of statistical techniques that are common in economics, so I’m not exactly sure what to make of it. It’s certainly an interesting argument and really makes you think though.

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