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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wellman: Statistical Blips and Possible Steroid Use - Part II

Carl Yastrzemski: As far as I know, nobody has ever publicly accused Carl Yastrzemski of using steroids. Given critics’ willingness to accuse other players so swiftly, I really don’t know why not.

While Yaz’s 1967 season was only 22 home runs over his eventual career baseline, it was a whopping 28 home runs—a whopping 175%–over his 1966 season, a season that fit neatly into his career to that date. He had a baseline of just 17 home runs per 162 games to that point in his career. How could he have hit 44 home runs and won the Triple Crown in 1967?

The history we all learned is that Yaz chose to lift weights during the winter of 1966-67, and that his decision to work out was enough to cause a 175% increase in home runs. That could be true. If Yaz had been using steroids, one might expect swift increases in power hitting from other Red Sox, too, once they saw how well they worked for Yaz. But we did see that: Ken Harrelson came to Boston and went from 12 home runs in 1967 to 35 home runs in 1968, and Rico Petrocelli then went from 12 home runs in 1968 to 40 home runs in 1969. Both Harrelson and Petrocelli then endured swift, somewhat abnormal declines that ended their careers at ages 29 and 33. Yaz endured a similar precipitous drop from 1970 to 1972, a decline blamed upon injury, but a decline that left him somehow at almost exactly his 1961-66 level as a power hitter. He continued his career at, more or less, an arc appropriate to his pre-1967 career for another decade before retiring at age 43.

Did Yaz juice? I don’t know. I certainly have no proof. But I’ll say this: both his career arc and the career arcs of a couple of his teammates look as if steroids might have been involved, and steroids were certainly available to athletes in the 1960’s. Players in the Steroid Age have been accused of juicing on far less circumstantial evidence, and few players from before the Steroid Age ever boosted their power hitting in a single winter the way Yaz did.

I got to the Maris bit but I had to mop up some dripping brain empyema…and lost my place. Sorry.

Repoz Posted: September 10, 2009 at 11:54 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: fantasy baseball, history, rumors, steroids

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   1. Rants Mulliniks Posted: September 10, 2009 at 01:10 PM (#3318781)
I find it really disturbing how so many analysts view players like machines. The accuracy of player projections has never come close to having an r² value high enough to be accepted in any scientific field, yet this writer tries to say that anyone having a fluke year or two used roids, because they veered off the bell-curve. This article is utter nonsense.
   2. Smiling Joe Hesketh Posted: September 10, 2009 at 01:54 PM (#3318813)
If he's going to cite Yaz, why not Musial? Yaz' breakout HR season came in his age 27 year, same as Musial.

HRs, up to Age 26 season: 10, 13, 12, 16, 19.

HRs, age 27 Season through age 26: 39, 36, 28, 32, 21, 30, 35, 33, 27, 29.
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 10, 2009 at 02:10 PM (#3318826)
I find it really disturbing how so many analysts view players like machines. The accuracy of player projections has never come close to having an r² value high enough to be accepted in any scientific field, yet this writer tries to say that anyone having a fluke year or two used roids, because they veered off the bell-curve. This article is utter nonsense.

I'm only mildly surprised that he didn't make any references to Babe Ruth's eating goat testicles, or whatever the hell he was supposed to have eaten, other than the hooch-spiked hot dogs and pussy pie that were responsible for all those 600 ft. home runs.
   4. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: September 10, 2009 at 02:21 PM (#3318837)
Basically this guy wrote a two part article that was; "Here is a list of guys who had a fluky season in their career"
   5. Dan Szymborski Posted: September 10, 2009 at 02:47 PM (#3318852)
He's not accusing these players of using steroids, he's mocking people who accuse players of using steroids based solely on statistical blips.

For example, Brady Anderson's name is brought up so often that one would think he was named as one of the BALCO bunch or named in the Mitchell report.

And Wellman's right. Many, many players have used performance-enhancing drugs for decades, but "Just look at him!" and "OMG TEH HOME INCREASE!" have been thoroughly debunked as diagnostic tools.
   6. BDC Posted: September 10, 2009 at 02:59 PM (#3318863)
I didn't read TFA that way, Dan, though my irony detector may be off this morning. Wellman says of Anderson,

PED use was widespread in MLB at that time, and, although Anderson has not yet been implicated, most folks assume that Anderson had to have been using something to morph into a far more dangerous power hitter not once, but twice, in his career


It's just a citation of the common wisdom on Anderson. Later he says,

It was Brady Anderson’s remarkable 1996 season that first got us wondering, when we should already have been disbelieving. When we cheered as a nation for McGwire and Sosa in 1998, we should all have known that something was wrong.


It's possible these remarks are just saturated with irony, of course, but normally one sees more markers of such irony. I may just be missing them.
   7. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: September 10, 2009 at 03:06 PM (#3318869)
I don't think he is Dan. This is his response to a comment I made (not particularly nicely) about the methodology being flawed because he used just a select group of players, not all "known" PED users;

Within the context of PEDs enhancing the ability of leading home run hitters, I don’t care what Alex Sanchez does. That might be an interesting study, if you’d like to take the time to do it. When I look at the effects of PEDs on other players’ careers, though, I find that one runs into, among other issues, the challenge of so many marginal PED users being players so close to the fringe of replacement-level that it’s tough to gauge performance effects. One can work to evaluate effects on careers of a longer minimum length, but that’s not the subject of this piece.


I think his analysis was intended to be 100% irony free.
   8. Dan Szymborski Posted: September 10, 2009 at 03:21 PM (#3318880)
Yeah, reading it again it seems my irony detector was over-sensitive. Carry on!
   9. Harlond Posted: September 10, 2009 at 08:11 PM (#3319189)
If he's going to cite Yaz, why not Musial? Yaz' breakout HR season came in his age 27 year, same as Musial.

HRs, up to Age 26 season: 10, 13, 12, 16, 19.

HRs, age 27 Season through age 26: 39, 36, 28, 32, 21, 30, 35, 33, 27, 29.
Al Simmons has the same sort of power, spiking from 15 to 34 HRs at age 27. Bill James noticed this spike in these three players and attributed it to the fact that they're all Polish.

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