So, did Major League Baseball’s steroid craze lead to the decimation of the baseball record book? The argument is straight forward enough, with the help of performance-enhancing drugs, hitters got bigger and stronger and started knocking the tater out of the park with alarming frequency. The extra-ordinary seasons from the likes of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds are the proof in the steroid pudding.
But Art De Vany at UC-Irvine says it just isn’t so, and he just published a paper in Economic Inquiry making his case. The paper is appropriately titled “Steroids and Home Runs,” and it has a very direct and confident abstract:
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 runs follow 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.
Ah, where would we be without the Paretian distribution? If you don’t feel like plowing through the paper, you can hear him chat with Russ Roberts at EconTalk.
De Vany is quite a character. In addition to his academic prowess, he is a former professional athlete and a bona fide fitness and diet guru. He looks pretty good for a 50-year old… and he’s 70.