Home Run Averages and Steroids: The Numbers

Home Run Averages and Steroids: The Numbers
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Home Run Average is calculated out just like batting average, except you substitute home runs (HR’s) for hits. So home runs divided by official at bats equals a player’s home run average.

This is a simple way to determine who the best home run hitters in baseball are. In 2006, Jim Thome of the Chicago White Sox had 42 HR’s in 490 at bats. So his home run average was .086. That was the 5th best home run average in baseball last season.

Home run average is not just another way of measuring slugging percentage (SLG). Last year Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals led baseball in SLG at .671. David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox SLG percentage last season was .636. So Pujol’s was .035 ahead of Big Papi in SLG, but Papi had a better home run average (.096) last season than Pujols (.092). So David Ortiz was a better HR hitter last season than was Albert Pujols.

Who were the best HR hitters in baseball last year? Here are the top ten home run average players in baseball for 2006:

1) Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies) – .100
2) David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox) – .096
3) Travis Hafner (Cleveland Indians) – .093
4) Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals) – .092
5) Jim Thome (Chicago White Sox) – .086
6) Frank Thomas (Oakland A’s) – .084 (now with Toronto Blue Jays)
6) Lance Berkman (Houston Astros) – .084
8) Jason Giambi (New York Yankees) – .083
9) Jermaine Dye (Chicago White Sox) – .082
10) Carlos Beltran (New York Mets) – .080

What is generally a good number for home run average? Anything above .060 is good. Anything above .070 and you are one of the best HR hitters of all time. Occasionally player’s go above .100 for a season, as Ryan Howard did last year. That is very good.

When Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants hit 73 HR’s in 2001 his home run average was an unworldly .153. And when Mark McGwire hit 70 HR’s in 1998 his HR average was .138.

Who are the best home run average hitters of all time? Surprisingly Babe Ruth is not number one. Here is the top ten list current through the end of the 2006 season:

1) Mark McGwire – .094
2) Babe Ruth – .085
3) Barry Bonds – .077 (active)
4) Jim Thome – .074 (active)
5) Albert Pujols – .072 (active)
6) Ralph Kiner – .071
6) Manny Ramirez – .071 (active)
8) Sammy Sosa – .070 (active)
8) Harmon Killebrew – .070
10) Alex Rodriguez – .069 (active)

Notice anything about the list? Six of the all time top ten hone run average hitters are still active. And Mark McGwire has been retired for just six years. Active players just missing the list include Ken Griffey (.068), Carlos Delgado (.067), Richie Sexson (.065), and Mike Piazza (.063). Recently retired players just missing the list include Jose Canseco (.066), Juan Gonzalez (.066), and Albert Belle (.065).

Why are so many of the best HR hitters of all time active, or recently retired? We have all heard the reasons. The new ballparks are smaller. The pitching is watered down. The ball is juiced. We now have a team in the majors, the Colorado Rockies, that plays its home games a mile in the air (Coors Field). But looking at the list we all know the real reason.

The use of performance enhancing drugs, particularly steroids. Three of the top ten home run average players of all time have been directly linked to steroid use. And two more players, Canseco and Belle, who just miss making the list are also directly linked to steroid use.

Home run average is a simple way to determine who the best home run hitters in baseball are. Looking at the list, and the number of players on the list who are either directly or indirectly linked to steroid use, it also might be a way of pointing out which players might be cheating.

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