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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

BtBS: Grosnick: The Fall Of Melky Cabrera

Just to calm some people the #### down (Hi interlocking YESNetworkers!)

If I can be allowed to present opinion for a moment (hardly objective), I’d like to remind the world at large that correlation, as always, does not always suggest causation. Melky’s batted-ball data shows that he’s hitting more ground balls (and his BABIP is spiked as a result), but that he’s not hitting many more HR on his fly balls than he had in 2011 with the Royals (2011 - 9.8%, 2012 - 10.7%). By pitch values, it looks like Melky is doing much more of his damage to opposing pitchers on changeups, cutters, and sliders in particular, for whatever that is worth, And he’s showing slightly more plate discipline than he had in his 2011 season with the Royals as well.

None of these appear to be indicators that point directly to an upsurge in power or strength due to an upsurge in testosterone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly a biologist, and can’t quantify whether or not a banned substance might give a player an advantage in other ways (or if he’d been using it long-term, not just in 2012). But an uptick in performance for the 2012 season ... to me doesn’t look like it would have come solely from using a banned substance. On the same token, there’s no question to many that Cabrera’s body has changed dramatically since he played for Atlanta. So hey, jump to any conclusion you’d like. But I find it a little tough to imagine that a giant (no pun intended) upswing in BABIP, improved BB% from 2011, and better hitting against changeups would come from increased testosterone.

...It’s nearly impossible to talk about performance-enhancing drugs in a free, objective manner without finger-pointing and high-road-taking and overstating the obvious. I like to give players the benefit of the doubt, both in terms of their moral (ethical?) choices and presumed innocence versus guilt. I give Ryan Braun the benefit of the doubt. I give Jeff Bagwell the (well-deserved) benefit of the doubt. I gave Mark McGwire the benefit of the doubt until he admitted fault. I’m an optimist, and I understand that not everyone feels the same way. So if you’re looking to hear someone excoriate Cabrera for doing something incredibly risky and counter to the rules of Major League Baseball, super, go ahead and look somewhere else.

Repoz Posted: August 15, 2012 at 04:59 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: giants, steroids

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   1. Shock Posted: August 15, 2012 at 08:23 PM (#4209241)
I don't give two shits about who uses steroids or anything else, BUT

being stronger and thus being able to hit the ball harder SHOULD result in more singles should it not?

Has there ever been any studies done on, say, bat speed and its correlation to BABIP?

The obsession with relating steroids to homerz and only homerz is as tedious as it is unfounded.
   2. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: August 15, 2012 at 08:39 PM (#4209260)
It's a pretty straight line from 'PEDs help you get into better shape' to 'being in better shape helps you play baseball better'. I'm not sure how so many get lost.
   3. McCoy Posted: August 15, 2012 at 09:23 PM (#4209312)
It's a pretty straight line from 'PEDs help you get into better shape' to 'being in better shape helps you play baseball better'. I'm not sure how so many get lost.

Well, it's possible to get into better shape without PEDs thus the effect of PED are open to debate.
   4. Bruce Markusen Posted: August 15, 2012 at 09:32 PM (#4209320)
Great line, Robert. Couldn't agree more.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: August 15, 2012 at 11:32 PM (#4209401)
Probably but ...

Being in better shape won't help your hand-eye coordination and it won't fix a crappy swing. I don't have a clue if his swing has changed at all.

Cabrera's dWAR hasn't budged one bit in the last 5 years really. In the three years before 2011, the "out of shape" Cabrera was 26 for 31 in SB in about 1500 PA; the last two years he's 33 for 48 in 1200 PA, not exactly an improvement although he does now run more (but he's been on base more). So there's no apparent impact on his speed.

Now, controlling for hand-eye and swing and whatever else, sure it makes sense that being stronger would help you hit the ball harder and farther. But lots of guys who hit the ball hard and far don't have high BABIPs and even during the height of the sillyball era I don't think anybody maintained a BABIP at Cabrera's current 370+ so it's pretty clear a good chunk of that is just luck. He has shown a jump in ISO but (a) it's not particularly out of line with his age 24 season (although that is out of line with his pre-2011 career) and (b) he's had the ISO bump at ages 26-27 which is hardly unusual.

Cabrera's 2012 doesn't look any more unexplainable than Alex Gordon's 2011.

As McCoy hints ... PEDs probably did help Cabrera get into shape faster than he could have otherwise. Baseball, with the agreement of the players, has defined this as a rules violation so I have no problem with Cabrera being punished. But that doesn't mean he is exhibiting an "unnatural" level of strength? What role PEDs has played in his breakout is unknown.
   6. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: August 15, 2012 at 11:36 PM (#4209403)
I can't wait for Trout to be busted.
   7. madvillain Posted: August 15, 2012 at 11:40 PM (#4209405)
What role PEDs has played in his breakout is unknown.


From my own experience as a one time lower level college player, and just in a general as a guy that still likes to "work out", I feel that what PEDs do, more than anything for baseball players, is reduce the fatigue that comes with an 162 game season at the highest level. They take away the general soreness, muscle fatigue, "wasting" etc that come during the season. When you play baseball almost every day, it's pretty hard not to fall into a chronic period of tiredness and fatigue.

It's my theory that PED use allows players to continue to train hard *in season* so they keep their strength, energy, flexibility etc during the season. When other guys might be tiring out in July and August, or even tired in May after an exhausting off-season and spring workout regime, the guys on synthetic testosterone or HGH or whatever, have a real advantage.
   8. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: August 15, 2012 at 11:47 PM (#4209407)
It's my theory that PED use allows players to continue to train hard *in season* so they keep their strength, energy, flexibility etc during the season. When other guys might be tiring out in July and August, or even tired in May after an exhausting off-season and spring workout regime, the guys on synthetic testosterone or HGH or whatever, have a real advantage.


So they are merely restorative? Don't tell Andy.
   9. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 15, 2012 at 11:50 PM (#4209408)
I feel that what PEDs do, more than anything for baseball players, is reduce the fatigue that comes with an 162 game season at the highest level. They take away the general soreness, muscle fatigue, "wasting" etc that come during the season. When you play baseball almost every day, it's pretty hard not to fall into a chronic period of tiredness and fatigue.


Isn't this basically what Ken Caminiti said about his MVP season?
   10. madvillain Posted: August 15, 2012 at 11:55 PM (#4209411)
Isn't this basically what Ken Caminiti said about his MVP season?


I don't really follow the PED issue that closely, it's all in sport to me, so I don't really care who's using, who's not, who's caught, etc.

My perspective comes from my own limited experience playing baseball every day (in my early 20's no less) and using legal PEDs like creatine to recover from my now late 20's workouts.

So they are merely restorative? Don't tell Andy.

What Victor Conte said today makes sense. You don't have guys going on "cycles" any more and loading up on roids, at least not during the season where a) there is more frequent testing and b) you aren't actively trying to gain mass, just simply trying to stay fresh.

Now that greenies are gone, players need something to keep them fresh, that is synthetic, quick metabolizing synthetic testosterone: put a little cream on on "getaway day" and slide into your off day workout feeling great. Better yet -- the next day, when you're up at the ballpark taking 100 swings before the game -- you have no lingering soreness or lack of range of motion.
   11. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: August 16, 2012 at 12:06 AM (#4209416)
What Victor Conte said today makes sense. You don't have guys going on "cycles" any more and loading up on roids, at least not during the season where a) there is more frequent testing and b) you aren't actively trying to gain mass, just simply trying to stay fresh.

Now that greenies are gone, players need something to keep them fresh, that is synthetic, quick metabolizing synthetic testosterone: put a little cream on on "getaway day" and slide into your off day workout feeling great. Better yet -- the next day, when you're up at the ballpark taking 100 swings before the game -- you have no lingering soreness or lack of range of motion.


That's kind of what I meant. Sounds similar to greenie use back in the day. I didn't mean to be flip, but I think this exposes Andy's blind side WRT PED's. Maybe roids today aren't as "bad" as the roids used by Bonds, Mac, and Raffy, but maybe the use today is at least close as the use of greenies by players BiTD, and maybe this can help us put all that baggage behind us. One can only hope. Maybe we can come to an agreement that if Bonds is Stalin, maybe Aaron is Lenin. Not as evil, but no saint to be sure.
   12. Dan Posted: August 16, 2012 at 12:10 AM (#4209419)
He has shown a jump in ISO but (a) it's not particularly out of line with his age 24 season (although that is out of line with his pre-2011 career) and (b) he's had the ISO bump at ages 26-27 which is hardly unusual.


A decent chunk of his ISO jump has come from the jump in triples rather than an actual increase in XBH.
   13. Dan Posted: August 16, 2012 at 12:14 AM (#4209420)
Now that greenies are gone, players need something to keep them fresh, that is synthetic, quick metabolizing synthetic testosterone: put a little cream on on "getaway day" and slide into your off day workout feeling great. Better yet -- the next day, when you're up at the ballpark taking 100 swings before the game -- you have no lingering soreness or lack of range of motion.


I know I've heard Kuiper and Krukow lauding Melky's preparation several times during the season, talking about how he takes dozens and dozens of swings from the tee every afternoon. Perhaps the real gain he's gotten from PED use is that he's able to do a lot more swings on the tee and more BP without wearing himself out before games, which has lead to an increase in hitting skills, rather than benefitting directly by a gain in strength or fitness.
   14. madvillain Posted: August 16, 2012 at 12:33 AM (#4209424)
Perhaps the real gain he's gotten from PED use is that he's able to do a lot more swings on the tee and more BP without wearing himself out before games, which has lead to an increase in hitting skills, rather than benefitting directly by a gain in strength or fitness.


Well said. I started thinking about this theory and just practicing hitting longer -- and then popped into my mind Tiger Woods -- another known workaholic at least tenuously linked to PEDs.

_________________________

What strikes me about PEDs is that by all accounts, the guys that use them are freaking workaholics obsessed, I mean, obsessed, with being the best. There is prima facie evidence that steroids work, see Mark McGwire, Bonds, etc and the wisdom of the crowd: despite being illegal, players seek PEDs out.

Is it any surprise that the guys that already work the hardest use PEDs? We tend to think of the "little guy" that just wants to hang in the league a bit and make some dough or claim a little fame -- but the flip side is guys that are already driven to be the best using one of the tools available, even an illegal one, to get there. Give PEDs to a marginal player and he'll become an All-Star (Melky, etc) but give one to an All-Star (Bonds, McGwire, Clemons) and they become a legend.
   15. The_Ex Posted: August 16, 2012 at 09:04 AM (#4209491)
After all this PED debate can we all agree that taking PED's won't let a guy off the street suddenly become a good pro baseball player. PEd's do not improve hand eye coordination. To me those arguments are straw men.

The debate is do PED's allow a fringe major leaguer, or a AAA player, become a full time major leaguer? If they do, that is a great financial return on an investment.

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