"Steroids made me superhuman"

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USA Today collects some comments from five of the ten still-active Mitchell Report All-Stars.  The most interesting quote comes from Matt Herges, who is clearly not part of the “steroids just help me stay in the lineup” camp:

“I know what steroids did for me. It made me
superhuman,” Herges said. “It made me an android, basically. Your body
shuts down, and the stuff takes over. You had guys throwing harder than
95 mph when they had barely touched 90 mph their whole life. It wasn’t
just that but the strength, the confidence it did for you. “The confidence, the feel, the results, is mentally addictive. It’s habit-forming to say the least.”

People always point to the offensive explosion of the Steroid Era, but I’ve always wondered if it wasn’t the relief pitchers like Herges who benefited the most from PEDs. They’re the closest thing to sprinters in baseball, doing one thing — throwing fire — in shorter bursts than anyone else on the field, and I suspect they more than anyone else would benefit from added chemical strength.  Hitters still have to have good timing and a good eye. Starters need more stamina and a more nuanced mental approach given that they gotta face guys two or three times. With most relievers, gas makes the difference.

I won’t name the name because I’ve never seen him attached to steroids in print, but there was a Braves reliever who showed up one year in the bad old days throwing the ball approximately 249 miles per hour faster than he ever had earlier in his career. With each pitch I wondered whether his arm or the hitters’ bats would explode first. Turns out the arm did, but not after an uncharacteristically large number of strikeouts.  Maybe it was steroids, maybe it wasn’t, but he certainly demonstrated what added velocity can do for a guy who makes his living one inning at a time.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.