Q: I'd like to pick apart this article. Where should I start?
A: Pretty much anywhere. Everything in the article -- especially the number 616 -- is rooted in educated
Q: Such as?
A: The player mass to bat speed formula. Physically modeling a big-league swing -- what physicist Robert
Adair calls "a rather complex energy transfer system" -- isn't easy. Adair's formula is a logical approximation rooted in the assumption that the total energy a batter can generate is linearly proportional to his muscle mass. The root assumption is pretty sound; the bat speeds it produces are estimates.
Q: Let's talk distance. Are Bonds' home run lengths totally accurate?
A: No. Home run distances are historically -- and notoriously -- inaccurate, calculated via mathematical
formulas, specialized cameras, inexact eyeballing and old fashioned walking out the distance by foot. Some
teams, like Boston, don't even bother. Check out this excellent Wall Street Journal article for more information.
Q: OK, so the home run distances are approximations. How about your estimates of where they
cleared the park?
A: Also guesses. And fairly crude ones at that. Along with date, opponent and distance, each Bonds home run
came tagged with a letter code marking the general area it left the stadium. Stats, Inc. provided Page 2
with a radial chart (click to see popup) matching each letter to a portion of the field. Page 2 then
matched groups of letters to the outfield distances available for each stadium: center, right, left, down
both foul lines, and sometimes a few additional (often quirky) markers. In general, we broke things up as
follows: C-E, left-field line; F-K, left; L-O, center: P-U, right; T-X, right-field line.
Could these estimates be more accurate? Definitely. Watching videotape of each Bonds home run, for
instance, would be a good place to start. Unfortunately, Page 2 has neither the time nor the access. (If anyone out there wants to take up the gauntlet, drop us a line. We'd love to know what you find out).
Q: How about all those extra walks the supposedly juiced-up Bonds started receiving? Even if a
non-juiced Bonds hit home runs less often, he would have seen more pitches. Shouldn't Barry get a few home
A: We struggled with this, but ultimately decided to leave it out, mostly because walks are highly
dependent on: a) game situation; b) the pitcher on the mound; c) manager discretion.
Still, for the sake of argument, suppose that a non-juiced Bonds walks in 1999-2005 at the same rate
he did in 1996-98, once every 4.84 plate appearances. He gets 223 extra at-bats, and at his 1996-98 home run
rate (one per 13.45 at-bats), hits another 17 home runs.
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