Runs scored in the Alleged Steroid Era

I was on the Internet today (I do that now and again), and somebody was asking: did the 1999 Indians have the most potent lineup of the last 25 years?

I thought to myself, this looks like a job for the Lahman database. If you’re into baseball nerdery like I am, this is a cool thing to have: it’s a complete collection of baseball stats from 1871 to 2013. It’s available in comma-separated, Microsoft Access, and SQL formats, and it’s free.

If you use runs scored as a measure of lineup potency – and why not? – the 1999 Indians were, in fact, the best-hitting team of the last 25 years. Here’s the list of the highest scoring teams since World War 2, courtesy of the Lahman database:

1950 BOS 1027
1999 CLE 1009
1996 SEA 993
2000 CHA 978
2007 NYA 968
2000 COL 968
1998 NYA 965
2003 BOS 961
1996 COL 961
1953 BRO 955
1996 CLE 952
2000 CLE 950
1996 BAL 949
2004 BOS 949
2000 OAK 947
1999 TEX 945
1998 TEX 940
2000 HOU 938
2006 NYA 930
1996 BOS 928

When I looked at this list, I noticed something: almost all of the leaders were from the five-year period between 1996 and 2000, which is when many players were first accused of using steroids and other interesting chemical enhancements. Of the 20 teams on this list, 14 were from those five years. The only pre-1996 teams on the list were the 1950 Red Sox and the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers (the Boys of Summer!).

As a comparison: the highest-scoring team in 2014 was the California or Los Angeles or Anaheim or Whatever Sells The Most Tickets Angels, who scored 773 runs, or nearly a run a game less than the lowest-ranked team on this list.

About davetill

I'm a writer and occasional web designer. I live in Toronto.
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