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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Verducci: Why I’ll never vote for a known steroids user for the Hall of Fame

Here are the most popular rationalizations:

1. “It wasn’t against the rules.”

The conspiracy of silence to this day tells you all you need to know about the hollowness of such a claim. Again, we were a decade outside of the steroid bust of Ben Johnson. Steroids were a well-known taboo. Everyone knew, including those who took them, steroids were a conscious, elaborate, covert decision to go outside the boundaries of fair competition, not to enable performance but to enhance it beyond what was naturally possible.

Pitcher Matt Herges, who said steroids made him “superhuman . . . an android, basically,” once said, “We didn’t have drug testing anyways. But it was still wrong.”
When George Mitchell conducted his white paper investigation into steroids in baseball, his investigators contacted 68 players. Only one of them was willing to talk about steroids: Dan Naulty, the former Twins and Yankees pitcher whose chilling story I profiled last year. Naulty lived the lie. His debunking of the “it wasn’t against the rules” nonsense is as thorough as anything I’ve ever heard:

“I was a full blown cheater and I knew it,” Naulty said. “You didn’t need a written rule. I was violating clear principals that were laid down within the rules. Whether they were explicitly stated that I shouldn’t use speed or testosterone didn’t need to be stated. I understood I was violating mainly implicit principals.

“I have no idea how many guys were using testosterone. But I would assume anybody that was had some sort of conviction that this was against the rules. Look, my fastball went from 87 to 96! There’s got to be some sort of violation in that. It was not by natural cause. To say it wasn’t cheating to me was . . . it’s just a fallacy. There’s just no way you could say that’s not cheating. It was a total disadvantage to play clean.”

(emphasis added)

Danny Posted: January 09, 2013 at 10:33 AM | 130 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, steroids

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   101. cardsfanboy Posted: January 09, 2013 at 05:59 PM (#4343542)
it really doesn't matter that much about the individual pitchers anyways

say what?


Expansion is an expansion of talent. It means that you have lesser quality defensive players out there, which means people getting on base more often, meaning more opportunities to beat up on the pitcher or higher levels of frustration. It's not just about an increase in rate, it's about a drop in overall quality of play, allowing the better players to take advantage.

Has there ever been an expansion era that wasn't followed by increase in scoring?
   102. GuyM Posted: January 09, 2013 at 06:04 PM (#4343548)
Expansion is an expansion of talent.

I assume you mean a dilution of talent. But it occurs equally among hitters and pitchers, with little or no net effect on offense. At least, we know that was the case in 1993-94. Tango looked carefully at this issue. If you exclude all expansion hitters and pitchers, and expansion parks, and look only at constant hitter-pitcher matchups in the same parks, HRs go up 42%. Among all other players/parks, HRs go up 43%. No difference. This had nothing whatsoever to do with expansion.
   103. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: January 09, 2013 at 06:13 PM (#4343556)
It was the ball. It is the ball. What else can affect both leagues across the board at the same time?

Everyone starting steroids at the same time?
   104. cardsfanboy Posted: January 09, 2013 at 06:27 PM (#4343569)
I assume you mean a dilution of talent. But it occurs equally among hitters and pitchers, with little or no net effect on offense. At least, we know that was the case in 1993-94. Tango looked carefully at this issue. If you exclude all expansion hitters and pitchers, and expansion parks, and look only at constant hitter-pitcher matchups in the same parks, HRs go up 42%. Among all other players/parks, HRs go up 43%. No difference. This had nothing whatsoever to do with expansion.


Doesn't convince me. One study that lumps all quality of pitchers into one batch because they happened to have pitched in previous years, doesn't really mean much to me. And again, the extra fatigue of more men on base due to lesser defense, (and the corresponding higher averages that happen as a result of pitching from the stretch and holding the runners) aren't being factored out of it. I need more to believe that there is no expansion effect on offense.
   105. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: January 09, 2013 at 06:40 PM (#4343579)
It was the ball. It is the ball. What else can affect both leagues across the board at the same time?


Maple bats. Increased dedication to weight training (no PEDs required.) Strike zone changes (specifically the combination of umpiring into a single MLB standard rather than league specific umpiring.)
   106. Mendo Posted: January 10, 2013 at 02:10 AM (#4343860)
Expansion is an expansion of talent. It means that you have lesser quality defensive players out there, which means people getting on base more often, meaning more opportunities to beat up on the pitcher or higher levels of frustration. It's not just about an increase in rate, it's about a drop in overall quality of play, allowing the better players to take advantage.

Has there ever been an expansion era that wasn't followed by increase in scoring?


I've always wondered... why would dilution of pitching and/or defensive talent have more of an effect than dilution of hitting talent?

Empirically, it does seem to work out that way, but any ideas why? Shouldn't more crappy hitters depress scoring?
   107. cardsfanboy Posted: January 10, 2013 at 03:50 AM (#4343895)
I've always wondered... why would dilution of pitching and/or defensive talent have more of an effect than dilution of hitting talent?

Empirically, it does seem to work out that way, but any ideas why? Shouldn't more crappy hitters depress scoring?


Not really. The addition of more triple a pitchers and hitters is always going to work out to an advantage of offense. You are going to have lower quality defense, meaning more hit balls are going to drop in. You are going to have better batters who are going to feast on the inferior pitching. Meanwhile the inferior hitters are going to be stuck down at the bottom of the lineup, getting fewer plate appearances, so the chance for good pitchers to feast on lesser hitters is reduced. Everything else being equal, the advantage of setting up a lineup is going to automatically lead to better offense if the talent level drops equally. On top of that there are generally more major league ready hitters in the minors than there are major league ready pitchers.



   108. vivaelpujols Posted: January 10, 2013 at 08:15 AM (#4343919)
Holy crap CFB

ot really. The addition of more triple a pitchers and hitters is always going to work out to an advantage of offense. You are going to have lower quality defense, meaning more hit balls are going to drop in.


This is possible, but I doubt it. Most AAA players that get called up are good at defense and terrible at hitting, I'd bet that's the most common profile of a replacement level player. Just check out the list of non pitchers who got 50-100 PA this year (which are going to be mostly call ups). Those 69 (giggity) guys put up a combined -1.8 WAR meaning they were replacement level. They also put up a combined 9 UZR, meaning they were average defensively. So I reject the idea that replacement level players are bad at defense.

You are going to have better batters who are going to feast on the inferior pitching. Meanwhile the inferior hitters are going to be stuck down at the bottom of the lineup, getting fewer plate appearances, so the chance for good pitchers to feast on lesser hitters is reduced.


Can't have it both ways. The shittier pitchers are also going to be put in the back of the rotation and the back of the pen and thus pitch fewer innings.

Ultimately there is zero evidence to anything your saying and there is plenty of evidence to counter it.


   109. Walt Davis Posted: January 10, 2013 at 08:36 AM (#4343923)
the hollowness of such a claim. Again, we were a decade outside of the steroid bust of Ben Johnson. Steroids were a well-known taboo.

Sorry, late to the thread. This is from the excerpt.

This argument actually works more in the roiders favor. The Olympics started testing in 68 and full-scale in 72 -- stimulants being the main target. They added steroids in 75, testing in 76. I'd forgotten about this but the 83 Pan Am Games when dozens of athletes withdrew at the last second rather than face unannounced testing. The NBA started a mostly recreational drug program in 83 (stimulants on the list) and added steroids in 99. The NFL started testing in 87. Johnson in 88 and federal laws in 88 and 90. Alzado dies in 92 -- widely linked to steroid use without evidence.

Through all of this MLB did not have a drug testing program or even rules forbidding use.

In every major sport, pretty much everywhere in the world, you had testing. But not baseball. This is not evidence that steroids were seen as cheating in baseball, this is evidence that steroid use was perfectly acceptable in baseball.
   110. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 10, 2013 at 08:46 AM (#4343927)
It was the ball. It is the ball. What else can affect both leagues across the board at the same time?
Yup, the ball has to be the primary factor. It's the only thing that can explain the size and permanence of the drop in offense in 2010 as well.

Now, there's a lot of movement in RS/G that didn't occur in 93/94 or 08/09, and it's important to identify the other causes. I think weight training and attendant steroid use are an important secondary cause of the sillyball offensive explosion, along with the new bats, the tightening strike zone, the parks, and the innovations in opposite field power hitting. But the shape of the biggest changes in run scoring don't suggest organic, population-wide shifts, they suggest something discrete. So it's got to be the ball first off.
   111. Rants Mulliniks Posted: January 10, 2013 at 09:21 AM (#4343937)
I think maple bats have played a bigger role than people realize. Sugar maple is about 10% harder and 6% heavier than white ash, and has a slightly higher modulus of elasticity. This makes a ball travel further when comparing two equally proportioned bats, but then maple, being stronger, allows for bats to be made with thinner handles, therefore creating an effectively end-loaded bat.

I'm sure these tests have probably been done, but the above leads me to believe that a ball would probably travel 10-15% farther with a maple bat.

Mechanical properties of woods
   112. AROM Posted: January 10, 2013 at 10:52 AM (#4344001)
Out of curiousity, when was the first time Tom Verducci mentioned steroids in an SI article? It was pre-season 1998 in a feature on McGwire. Steroids come in on page 6. SI's vault is one of the coolest things in the world of sports media.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1012322/index.htm

Maple bats. Increased dedication to weight training (no PEDs required.) Strike zone changes (specifically the combination of umpiring into a single MLB standard rather than league specific umpiring.)


Maple bats, weight training, and steroids are not plausible as to explain the 1993 jumps in league wide BABIP and HR%. All of those things, if the primary cause, would play out over a longer period of time. Unless we knew that all (or at least the vast majority) of hitters made the decisions to bulk up and switch to maple at the exact same time in the 1992-3 offseason.

In addition to the baseball, a strike zone change would be a plausible explanation.
   113. GuyM Posted: January 10, 2013 at 11:35 AM (#4344052)
In addition to the baseball, a strike zone change would be a plausible explanation.

Agreed that it could cause a sudden league-wide change in scoring. But I don't think it was a factor in 1993-94:
1992 vs. 1994: B%: 8.5, 8.9
1992 vs. 1994: K%: 14.7, 15.9
Delta: K% +8%, BB% +5%
It's hard to imagine a hitter-friendly shift in the zone that yields a proportionately larger increase in strikeouts than walks.

Now, this is complicated by the fact that hitters and pitchers undoubtedly both adjusted as they saw the consequences of the new balls. Hitters probably became more aggressive, increasing Ks, even as pitchers probably became more cautious in the zone as the cost of giving up hits dramatically increased. It's not impossible that there was some change in the zone contemporaneous with the new balls, but if so it was likely pretty small, and could even have favored pitchers.

One interesting question is how much of the HR increase came from the balls alone, and how much from hitters adjusting to the new opportunity by changing their approach at the plate (and working out more). Did it take 2 years for the full impact to be felt because some "old" balls were still in circulation in 1993, or because it took time for hitters to learn to fully exploit the new opportunity?
   114. AROM Posted: January 10, 2013 at 12:08 PM (#4344094)
It's hard to imagine a hitter-friendly shift in the zone that yields a proportionately larger increase in strikeouts than walks.


Yeah, I think the ball is more likely explanation for the shift in this case. The big strike zone changes are fairly well documented. You had one in (I think) 1962, 1988, and 2001 or 2002.

From here on out any questions about the general interpretation of the strike zone could be analyzed with pitch fx data.
   115. Moeball Posted: January 10, 2013 at 02:21 PM (#4344255)
Maple bats, weight training, and steroids are not plausible as to explain the 1993 jumps in league wide BABIP and HR%. All of those things, if the primary cause, would play out over a longer period of time. Unless we knew that all (or at least the vast majority) of hitters made the decisions to bulk up and switch to maple at the exact same time in the 1992-3 offseason.


IIRC, there may have been a few players using maple before 2001, but I seem to recall some articles that year on Bonds adopting the Maple Mantra and, shortly thereafter, many players followed suit to the point where by 2010 almost 70% of bats in major league use were maple.

So I don't think that would have any impact on HR/scoring increases in the 1990s.

Am I somehow not remembering this correctly?
   116. cardsfanboy Posted: January 10, 2013 at 02:35 PM (#4344273)
an't have it both ways. The shittier pitchers are also going to be put in the back of the rotation and the back of the pen and thus pitch fewer innings.

Ultimately there is zero evidence to anything your saying and there is plenty of evidence to counter it.


Disagree, the shittier pitchers are going to be pitching as 4/5 starters. Not just as mop up relievers. You don't take your legitimate pitching prospect(who isn't ready for the majors but you have to use him because you don't have anyone else) and put him in the reliever role. Pitching call ups inherently are going to require you putting them in higher quality situation. With a legitimate hitting prospect, you still bat him 7th or 8th until he proves himself. And again, there are more major league ready hitters in the minors than there are major league ready pitchers.


It was the ball. It is the ball. What else can affect both leagues across the board at the same time?


Forgot to mention. Absolutely agree. By far probably the single largest factor. My point is that historically expansion years increase scoring, the one study that GuyM listed isn't that good at proving anything(You need to list the homerun rates going up for pitchers by groupings...aces, true starters, 4a players and true replacement level...at the least..instead of just saying that all pitchers who appeared before and after the supposed expansion had their homerun rates go up.)

Again, the ball is obviously the number one factor. It is not the sole factor.

   117. Ron J2 Posted: January 10, 2013 at 02:51 PM (#4344291)
#110 As I've noted before the percentage of PAs given to switch-hitters dropped during sillyball. And by and large it was fast, low power switch-hitters who were being replaced.

IOW part of the league wide increase in home runs was driven by selection.
   118. GuyM Posted: January 10, 2013 at 03:02 PM (#4344302)
My point is that historically expansion years increase scoring, the one study that GuyM listed isn't that good at proving anything(You need to list the homerun rates going up for pitchers by groupings...aces, true starters, 4a players and true replacement level...at the least..instead of just saying that all pitchers who appeared before and after the supposed expansion had their homerun rates go up.)

Let's recap: Expansion makes no sense theoretically. Expansion also has zero evidence backing it up. Other than that, it's a real strong explanation.

Start with the fact that the "new" pitchers (most of whom aren't new at all, just guys given expanded roles) pitch only a small fraction of all IP. No matter how bad you want to speculate they are, they can't possibly account for a 40% increase in HRs. To do that the new/expanded pitchers would have to give up HRs at more than 1000% the rate of returning pitchers.

There have been plenty of efforts to measure replacement level talent, using different methodologies, and they all find that hitters and pitchers are about equally "bad" vis-a-vis league average. There is simpley no evidence that replacement pitchers are relatively worse than replacement hitters, and certainly not enough to create more than a trivial change in league scoring. And as noted above, replacement players are average defensively, so that theory is wrong too.

And then there's the actual, you know, historical evidence. We see that the same pitchers, facing the same hitters, in the same parks, give up 40% more HRs. This can't possibly be a function of expansion. And it's not "one study," it's an examination of the entire body of relevant evidence -- all the players who played across these years!

This is really quite simple: expansion had no impact in explaining the 1993-94 HR surge. Still lots of other interesting questions, e.g. role of maple bats. But the expansion issue is settled.
   119. cardsfanboy Posted: January 10, 2013 at 03:28 PM (#4344334)
Start with the fact that the "new" pitchers (most of whom aren't new at all, just guys given expanded roles) pitch only a small fraction of all IP. No matter how bad you want to speculate they are, they can't possibly account for a 40% increase in HRs. To do that the new/expanded pitchers would have to give up HRs at more than 1000% the rate of returning pitchers.


No one in the history of the internet ever said that they accounted for 40% of the increase. My argument.(which you just quoted) is that expansion years increase scoring. It might have accounted for 5% of the increase(which seems reasonable) It might have been 10%(which seems high)

But the expansion issue is settled.


Not by a long shot. You pointed to one weak ass study as your evidence. Sorry not enough data there.
   120. GuyM Posted: January 10, 2013 at 03:57 PM (#4344364)
Not by a long shot. You pointed to one weak ass study as your evidence. Sorry not enough data there

"Not enough data?" LOL. It's ALL the data! Either you don't really care about data, or you didn't understand the article. In contrast, your posts 107 and 116 are just wild conjecture that aren't even internally logical. Do you have any evidence at all for your half-baked theory? Anything? If not, give it up....


   121. AROM Posted: January 10, 2013 at 04:05 PM (#4344371)
Not by a long shot. You pointed to one weak ass study as your evidence. Sorry not enough data there.


Calling names does not make it so. That THT study looks both comprehensive and definitive to me. If you have something better, please send it to Studes at THT. if he's not already inclined to publish it I'll put in a good word.

Expansion years, change in runs per game:
1961 +.22
1962 -.07
1969 +.65
1977 +.48
1993 +.48
1998 +.02

Expansion years have generally coincided with increases in offense, but it's probably not much when you consider the other causes:

1962 - expansion of strike zone more than offset any increase from expansion of teams
1969 - lowering of mound, regression to mean (after 1968 offense could only go up)
1977 - fluke, almost all the offensive gain was gone in 1978.
1993 - Mile High Stadium, baseball manufacturing technique.

Only 1961 and 1998 expanded with no easily observable confounding factors. Average those and expansion might increase run scoring by .1 per game, I can buy that.

   122. OsunaSakata Posted: January 10, 2013 at 04:18 PM (#4344383)
Just looking that year before expansion/year of expansion RPG, they have increased or stayed the same every time, going down to the hundredth of a run. Expansion doesn't lead to "rushing through the minors". The new jobs are generally given to older AAAA players with extensive minor league experience. Just as a guess, perhaps the new pitchers did all right in a limited role. Once expansion came on and they got an expanded role and didn't do so well. New hitters were more likely to be one-dimension hitters who fielded badly, but didn't hit well enough to be a full-time DH. Those guys get stuck in the minors when the last hitter on the roster is usually someone who can field multiple positions, especially now with a 7-man bullpen. Add teams and those guys get starting jobs, being able to hit, but fielding poorly, which could also be a contributor to increased offense. Look at the kind of career minor leaguers from the days of the independent PCL. The legends were DH-type power hitters, not slick fielders or great pitchers. So that's my theory FWIW. RPG goes up in expansion years because the added hitting ability doesn't slip as quickly as the added fielding and pitching. Those guys could hit, but did not have the complete package to stay in the bigs.
   123. smileyy Posted: January 10, 2013 at 04:19 PM (#4344386)

Maple bats. Increased dedication to weight training (no PEDs required.) Strike zone changes (specifically the combination of umpiring into a single MLB standard rather than league specific umpiring.)


Gestalt effects that become nonlinear when simultaneously combined.
   124. AROM Posted: January 10, 2013 at 04:20 PM (#4344388)
I spoke too soon on 1961. The previous season, AL scoring was 4.39 runs per game. It increased to 4.53 in 1961. The 1961 Angels played in a ridiculous HR park, LA's Wrigley field. There were 869 runs scored by both teams. Take out that ballpark, and the league scored 4.43 runs per game.

I believe the NL was mostly unaffected by expansion, as in those days AL expansion teams could only draft players from other AL teams.
   125. SandyRiver Posted: January 10, 2013 at 04:48 PM (#4344427)
There were lots of small parks in the 1920s thru 1950s, too - Baker Bowl, Sportsmans', Crosley, Ebbets, some I'm missing. There were also some larger than any of today's except perhaps Coors, and some with weird dimensions like the Polo Grounds. I see park size as a minor player when looking at the long term.

One thing I did look at was top seasons for OPS+. The top 15 seasons post-1890 (different rules) and non-Ruthian (ahead of his time freak) include 9 posted by players 22-29 yr old and 6 posted by players 34-39. Of the former, only Bagwell and Thomas in strike-shortened 1994 came since Mantle in 1957. Of the latter, only Williams (age 38) in 1957 came prior to McGwire (age 34) in 1998, and the other 4 are Bonds 2001-04, ages 36-39. SSS, but another statistical oddity.

Edit: If Ruth is included and I expand it to top 20, there's 11 seasons for age 22-29, Mantle the most recent. (Cobb's age 29 and the two in 1994 don't make the new cut, thanks to Ruth being on it 8X.) The 9 oldster seasons now include Ruth age 31,32,36 plus the 6 above.
   126. GuyM Posted: January 10, 2013 at 04:59 PM (#4344436)
So that's my theory FWIW. RPG goes up in expansion years because the added hitting ability doesn't slip as quickly as the added fielding and pitching.

Why would that be? Don't expansion teams need catchers, middle infielders, and CFs? Is there evidence that expansion teams have an unusual number of good bat/no glove players?

More generally, we should expect defense to be a relative strength of the new players (replacement position players are about average fielders). So it seems to me that our default assumption should be that expansion will tend, on the margins, to reduce offense. (That said, the number of new players from expansion is so small that any tiny impact of expansion on league averages will likely be swamped by other factors.)
   127. OsunaSakata Posted: January 10, 2013 at 05:50 PM (#4344490)
Don't expansion teams need catchers, middle infielders, and CFs?


Not just expansion teams, I'm talking about the new jobs created. Some expansion team players are good enough to be regulars even without expansion. I'd say that some of those CFs should have been RFs or LFs, that good hitters are stretched into too-demanding positions. A non-pitcher's value is more in their hitting than their defense. I think teams are more likely to stick with a minor leaguer who can hit and hope he can master a position, rather than try to see if a good fielder can hit. So I'm thinking a Ken Phelps-type would be stuck in the minors, but might find a starting job in expansion.

Is there evidence that expansion teams have an unusual number of good bat/no glove players?


The 1962 Mets?

It's just a theory and I'm not discounting the other factors. I'm just making up some reasons why hitting, rather than pitching seems to go up in expansion.
   128. AROM Posted: January 10, 2013 at 05:59 PM (#4344501)
The 1962 Mets?


They had Ashburn putting up a .424 OBP, and the original Frank Thomas hit 34 homers. But otherwise they were a collection of bad bat/no glove players. Finished 9th out of 10 teams in runs scored.
   129. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 10, 2013 at 06:01 PM (#4344502)
Why would that be? Don't expansion teams need catchers, middle infielders, and CFs? Is there evidence that expansion teams have an unusual number of good bat/no glove players?


Not based on any numbers but if you had to replace a mid-rotation starter or an average corner outfielder I think finding a competent hitting outfielder would be a hell of a lot easier than finding a competent starting pitcher. 4A hitters seem to be everywhere, there doesn't seem to be an equivalent among pitchers.
   130. GuyM Posted: January 10, 2013 at 06:34 PM (#4344532)
Not based on any numbers but if you had to replace a mid-rotation starter or an average corner outfielder I think finding a competent hitting outfielder would be a hell of a lot easier than finding a competent starting pitcher. 4A hitters seem to be everywhere, there doesn't seem to be an equivalent among pitchers.

This seems to be a common intuition, that marginal position players are better than (or less bad than) marginal pitchers. Statistically, it isn't true, but I think the perception is widespread. Why is that? A couple reasons come to mind:

1) In judging the position player, we tend to think first of hitting. And we can all think of some decent hitters who ride the bench. But as your example shows, these are corner OFs (or 1B), with limited defensive skills. They may be only a bit below average as hitters. But you have to compare them to the offensive peformance of CR OFs, which is far above average. Do that, and the gap is quite large. Change your example to "catcher" or "SS," and it's a lot harder to think of some 4A hitters.

2) Starting pitcher is not just a "position," it's a measure of talent. They are, for the most part, the 5 best pitchers on a team. So when we think of the "average" performance of a starting pitcher, we're taking an average of the top half of the pitching universe. The result is we tend to systematically underestimate the value of starting pitchers; this is why fans often find it incomprehensible when a mere "innings eater" gets a contract for $11M. The fact is that most 4th and 5th starters are very talented and valuable baseball players. Imagine if we averaged the OPS for the best 5 hitters on every team, and called that "league average" hitting performance. You would then find that the gap between your 4A hitter and "league average" was large indeed.
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