Statistical evidence of drug abuse in baseball

Baseball stats

How many major league baseball players have used performance-enhancing drugs? The answer turns out to be buried in the performance statistics of players, if you know where to look.

Eugene Stanley and colleagues at Boston University have done the appropriate number crunching and say that a whopping 5 per cent of players must have been users, and that’s just a lower limit. The evidence comes from an analysis of home runs hit by players in the last 25 years.

Stanley’s analysis throws up some interesting takes on baseball. For example, it’s easy to imagine that pitchers and batters would both benefit from the increased strength and rapid recovery from injury that performance enhancing drugs allow. Not so, says Stanley:

We see evidence of competitive advantage mainly in the case of home runs. This indicates that the level of competition between pitcher and batter are tipping in the favor of the batter, possibly as a result of widespread performance-enhancing drug use.”


The statistics seem to back up the findings of former senator George Mitchell who published the results of a two year investigation into the widespread use of drugs among professional major league baseball players in December last year. The report listed 89 players who are alleged to have used steroids or other drugs.

Stanley ends by pointing out that drug use is by no means confined to baseball: “Performance-enhancing drugs are the core of a pandemic that not only poses personal health risk, but also places the integrity of sports in jeopardy.”

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0804.0061: Statistical Evidence Consistent with Performance-enhancing Drugs in Professional Baseball

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