I'm somewhat bemused by the fact that readers think there's some bias built into BP's brand of analysis to favor the A's over the Angels. While it's true that the two teams' offenses are built along different models and that the A's follow one that's more in line with a sabermetric analysis, if you read what we've written over the years, you'll see that we have no shortage of respect for the latter as a team, particularly in the way the Angels run their bullpen and their farm system. We don't sit around trying to find measures that say, "Hey, we need to find a way to make the A's come out on top, or at least better than the Angels." As Bill James defined it, sabermetrics is the search for objective truth about baseball, and we hold to that standard. If we kept putting our thumbs on the scales every time the A's--or the Red Sox, or another saber-friendly team--came up, our analysis wouldn't have much value.Look, there's a reason the A's and BP both favor the sabermetric approach: it's a route to building a better ballclub, particularly when 90% of teams--and that percentage is much, much less now than it was a few years ago--aren't using it. Entire books have been written on the subject, so I won't belabor the point any further than that., except to say that nobody within the A's or BP signed Orlando Cabrera, he of the .315 career OBP, to a four-year, $32 million deal, nor do they keep writing Darin Erstand and his .371 SLG into the lineup at first base every day.
The Dodgers will need to make a baseball decision about Bradley, not a therapeutic one. But - and I'll apologize in advance for being soft on this one - if Bradley does leave, I'll be disappointed for non-baseball reasons. For all his problems, I have found Bradley's story so compelling ever since he became a Dodger, I don't want to see it play out somewhere else. I want to see the third act here. Not to gawk, but because I think there's value in the resolution. For all the talk about how difficult Bradley's presence has been in the Dodger clubhouse, I think that the team would become stronger, more cohesive, if they see this through. I think we'd all learn something.Having gone thermonuclear, Bradley has set off much soul-searching among the Dodger higher-ups. As an arbitration-eligible player who's going to be dealing with injury and rehabilitation to go along with his growing list of off-the-field woes -- new reports of multiple domestic violence incidents have surfaced in The Daily Breeze, a Redondo Beach newspaper -- he has now given the team every reason to non-tender him rather than sign him to a multi-year deal. He's played his last game in Dodger blue, cost himself millions of dollars, and lost the support of many who've stuck with him through the ups and downs, myself included. Sad but true.
And I know many have lost patience with him, and I don't begrudge that. But I'm still rooting for him. His emotions may not all be pleasant ones, but I just feel his struggle. I can't justify it beyond that; I can't be rational about it.
A unique figure in the history of the game, Bonds was third-generation black baseball royalty. His father was Bobby Bonds, who combined exceptional speed and power to become one of the most gifted five-tool players of the 1970s. With the Giants from 1968 to 1972, Bobby Bonds was mentored by his legendary teammate Willie Mays, who in turn became young Barry's godfather. Growing up in Riverside, Bobby Bonds was a childhood friend of Dusty Baker. Baker's father coached young Bobby through Little League. Like Bonds with Mays on the Giants, Dusty Baker, as a young outfielder with the Atlanta Braves, was mentored by the great Hank Aaron. As contemporaries of Jackie Robinson, Mays and Aaron were two of the most prominent forefathers of integrated baseball. As a child, Barry Bonds learned baseball directly from his father, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron. No black player of Bonds's generation would own such a personal connection to the roots of the integrated era, nor would any of his contemporaries be more closely linked to the major league black experience.Barry Bonds' penchant for seeing his career as an opportunity to revisit the battles his father fought has been discussed before in several places. But Bryant brings a new perspective to the equation. As a black writer himself, particularly one covering the Red Sox, no doubt he's found himself in the same shoes as the Bonds duo, needing to understand racial dynamics with a depth his white colleagues may not have had to. Here, that plays to his advantage.
Not only did Barry Bonds grow up in the game of baseball, but his experience was not unlike that of a privileged member of a political dynasty. When Bobby Bonds played for the Yankees in 1975, Billy Martin, then the manager, would constantly have to run the eleven-year-old Barry off of the field during batting practice. Years later, after Bonds signed a record-breaking contract to join the San Francisco Giants, his on-field performance would help Dusty Baker become the most influential and successful African American manager in baseball history. Baker would be Bonds' manager for his first ten years with the Giants. Baker's hitting coach for the first four of those years would be Bobby Bonds.
...As a major leaguer, [Barry] Bonds's battles with the press were legendary. He had inherited from his father a suspicion of the writers that was tied to a large degree to race. During his playing days, Bobby Bonds suffered through a difficult relationship with the writers and team executives, and he often warned his son to be cautious of the press. There would always be a distance between the players and the writers, he would say. Part of it is inevitable; it is your job to play, and their job to judge. But while the writers should be treated with respect first, Bobby Bonds believed, very few could be trusted.
To Bobby Bonds, what made the relationship especially volatile was the element of race. The overwhelming majority of the writers were white, and very few seemed willing to take the time to understand the special circumstances that existed for black players. In a sense, the relationship was no different than the black-white relationships that existed in the society at large. There was a certain unfairness to it, but that made it no less true: Whites could live their entire lives and never know or care to know anyone black. Yet it was impossible for a black person to be successful in America without knowing how to deal with whites and navigate the white world. As a result, there was a critical imbalance to the way white reporters would interpret the actions and personalities of black players that made it a virtual certainty that the black athlete would be portrayed inaccurately, if not unfairly. There was, especially when Bobby Bonds played, a type of conduct white reporters expected from black athletes. As much as the black player who was generally outgoing would receive fairly favorable coverage, the black player who showed any type of independence or intensity was met with an almost open hostility from the white press corps. There were a few reporters who would take the time to be fair, but most would not, and because they were the primary liaison between the player and the public (not to mention their connections to the upper reaches of club management), the writers could make life very difficult for a black player.
It was a mistake to view Bonds' obdurate demeanor as a sign that he had not been profoundly affected by a society that was clearly racist and whose racism inflicted considerable damage on people whom Barry Bonds loved. He did not advertise his hungers, for there certainly would be no advantage in it for him, but Bonds sought redress through his play. There would come a time when he would have a chance to avenge the slights, both small and large, that contributed to his father's alcoholism and bitterness. To Monte Poole, when it became clear that he had an opportunity to reach the elite milestones in the game, Bonds began to sharpen his focus. His evolving black conscience paralleled his rising place in the game. He did not want to break Hank Aaron's record, he said. What he wanted to do, he once told Poole, was to erase the white men who played in the segregated era from the top of the record books. They were leaders because they were great players, but only in part, Bonds believed. The other reason was that they did not have to compete against a significant part of the baseball-playing population. It was not lost on him that the great black players of the Negro Leagues were cheated out of their moment in history by racism, and that many white players became legends at their expense. It was also not lost on him that despite his incredible natural talents, he, too would have been denied the opportunity to compete against the white players who would become icons had he been born in the segregated era. He was fueled to a large degree by addressing this historical racial slight.With a great deal of skill, tact, even-handedness and historical perspective, Bryant provides a fascinating level of insight into Bonds and his link with the steroids scandal. It's just one more reason I can't recommend this book enough.
...Bonds went through the decade consistently dominant, amassing staggering numbers, yet paying a price for his freedom. For despite his brilliance, something remarkable happened: The game started having fun without him. The best player in the game was not its most celebrated. Bonds may have been the best player in the National League, but he nevertheless seemed to be diminished by the home run fiesta that took place in the poststrike years. While Bonds smoldered, the story was Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. To Jon Heyman, watching Sosa and McGwire led Bonds to a fateful choice to transform himself into an incredible hulk of a baseball player, which led him eventually to use steroids. "I think he got mad when he saw lesser players like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa getting all the attention, and he said to himself, 'Let's level the playing field,'" Heyman said. "And when he leveled the playing field realized he was two times better than everyone else. He literally became twice as good as anyone else playing baseball."
Kahrl... adds that her heart's been warmed by the utter nonreaction she's gotten from baseball and baseball-journalism folks since converting to womanhood. At insider baseball events she's hosted at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, and at her alma mater, the University of Chicago, all the focus has been on her knowledge of the game, even from those who knew Chris Kahrl back in the day.Kahrl's column was itself the hook that got me reading BP on a regular basis; my email archives are filled with great lines I've clipped and sent to friends as they've generated laughs while providing spot-on analysis. Prior to meeting her in 2004, I had been briefed on her situation, but I had no idea what to expect. I'm pleased to note that we hit it off instantly and have since hosted each other on trips to our respective cities. Male or female, her love for the game is the same, and she remains one of the best baseball writers in the country, and has proven herself to be a great friend and ally as well.
"Nobody has batted an eye," says Kahrl. "Everybody has been great and supportive, from friends and family and colleagues to everybody with the White Sox to the University of Chicago alumni. A reader said, 'I had no idea that Chris was short for Christina.' And I was like, 'Yeah, that's what it's short for.' But that's it. So whatever people might be saying about the rising tide of conservatism in America today, from my experience, we're also in a place now, a better place and a better society, than we were 50 years go. I'm certainly happy. Again, this isn't something I broadly advertise, because it's a secondary issue. Yes, it's proof that life is interesting, but it doesn't change the fact that I love baseball. I still love the game."
Kahrl's love of baseball comes through in each installment of her Prospectus column, Transaction Analysis, and whenever she even talks about the game. There is no way to exaggerate how well Kahrl knows the names and numbers of baseball and how good she is at cramming that knowledge into her writing and conversation.When talking about the Oakland A's, the first team Kahrl fell for as a kid growing up in Northern California in the '70s, she uses "the Chris Codiroli years" as a punch line. (Codiroli was a right-handed pitcher who put up a 38-47 record with the A's, Indians, and Royals from 1982 to 1990. But everybody knows that.)
Got a question I thought you might have some thoughts about. I figure that Maddux, Johnson, Pedro and Clemens are sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famers. And I also figure that Glavine and Mariano will get there too.In the midst of the Yankees' drubbing by Toronto, it seemed a better use of my time to research for a more definitive answer than a quick off the cuff response, so I broke out my JAWS gear. First off, I have to commend Alex for correctly identifying the top nine active starting pitchers according to the system; he almost certainly did so without scouring their Baseball Prospectus figures, but he didn't miss one. Here are the nine, updated through yesterday (so leaving aside Mussina's drubbing at the hands of the Blue Jays), along with some average JAWS scores for Hall of Fame pitchers:
1. Do you think T. Hoffman will?
2. Of the remaining starters with a legitimate shot now how would you rank the following pitchers: Mussina, Boomer Wells, Smoltz, Schilling and K. Brown (and is there anyone else I'm missing?).
Age PRAA PRAR WARP3 PEAK JAWSThe listed ages are as of July 1, which is the convention in dealing with baseball databases. Clemens just turned 43, but we're not too concerned about that here; he's a freak who could likely pitch another five years at some level of effectiveness, but not all of thes guys has so much in the tank. PRAA and PRAR are Pitching Runs Above Average and Above Replacement, respectively; the two give a good secondary measure of peak and career value. WARP3 is a player's career Wins Above Replacement Player total, adjusted for all-time, PEAK is his best five-consecutive year stretch, and JAWS is the average of those two numbers. The PEAK score skips over injury years in which a player misses more than 1/3 of a season; Pedro gets a mulligan for 2001, and Schilling, whose peak runs from 2000-2004, would get one for this year if his 2006 is better than his 2000 score of 7.2.
Roger Clemens 42 637 1787 187.5 53.9 120.7
Greg Maddux 39 471 1535 159.3 57.5 108.4
Randy Johnson 41 442 1336 130.7 49.9 90.3
Tom Glavine 39 290 1255 125.2 42.0 83.6
Pedro Martinez 33 417 1036 106.2 56.2 81.2
Mike Mussina 36 304 1084 112.2 43.0 77.6
Kevin Brown 40 279 1084 107.4 45.7 76.6
John Smoltz 38 295 1019 102.0 38.2 70.1
Curt Schilling 38 301 1020 94.0 42.9 68.5
David Wells 42 142 957 94.0 33.2 63.6
Avg HOF Pitcher 205 964 95.1 43.1 69.4
BBWAA HOF Pitcher 260 1174 114.9 46.9 80.9
VC HOF Pitcher 137 705 70.7 39.6 55.1
ClemensI'm banking Martinez and Mussina will surpass Glavine, who at 39 is striking out 3.87 hitters per nine innings, a rather unsustainable rate. Brown is done, and Smoltz likely doesn't have another 22 WARP in him (needed to add 11 JAWS points to top the higher average). Of course, none of this takes into account awards or postseason performance. I'd imagine Smoltz, who won a Cy Young award and a World Series ring, and Schilling, who has two World Series rings, have enough hardware to get the call from the writers, Brown, with one ring and no Cys, does not. Mussina might get his candidacy downgraded over the fact that in all likelihood he'll have neither a ring (you'd have to be naive to assume otherwise at this juncture) nor a Cy to show for his effort.
W-L RS RAThe A's, despite losing, at least did a relatively good job of preventing runs, which tends to have a positive effect on those Pythagorean calculations. The Angels actually allowed fewer runs per game, and they've got a better raw run differential this year than the A's, but once all of the adjustments are thrown in, the A's still come out ahead this week.
A's 1-5 17 24
Angels 3-4 30 27
Braves 2-4 33 36
White Sox 1-5 14 28
With roughly the same number of positives as last year -- a group that makes up less than 1 percent of those tested -- it's tough to point to testing and its penalties as solely responsible for the drop in home runs. A few other reasons for the decline stick out. It's easy to point to the absence of Bonds, who from 2000 to 2004 homered with a frequency more than four times the league average. Bonds has sat out the season with a knee injury, likely sending some 40-plus homers missing. More important, the return of baseball to the nation's capital via the former Montreal Expos has not only introduced RFK Stadium -- the most pitcher-friendly, homer-suppressing park in the majors -- but also taken away a more favorable environment by removing Olympic Stadium and its shotgun-wedded bandbox of a bride, San Juan, Puerto Rico's Hiram Bithorn Stadium, where the Expos played 22 games apiece in 2003 and 2004. Thus far this season, the number of homers in RFK is 36 percent lower than in other major-league parks. If we exclude the home games of the Nats and Expos in our year-to-year comparisons, homers have fallen just 6.5 percent.Controlling for new ballparks appears to account for about one-quarter of the recent drop, as well as more than two-thirds of last year's rise (on a per-game basis, homers went up 4.77 percent overall). This backs up my assertion that neither steroids nor ballparks alone can account for the rise we saw in homers during the 1994-2004 period, a stretch in which nine of the top 10 single-season home run per game rates were produced.
Because ballparks generally take a few years for their full effects to reveal themselves, due to weather patterns and other sample-size issues, a more responsible approach to comparing recent homer rates can be taken in controlling for the parks where we have less than three full seasons of data to draw upon. Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, Cincinnati's Great American Park, and San Diego's PetCo Park all opened in the past three years, while Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium moved the fences back considerably prior to 2004. All have shown themselves to lean toward the extremes at either end when it comes to homers. Citizens and GAP are very conducive to the long ball, while PetCo and the reconfigured Kauffman are quite suppressant. Removing those as well as the Nats and Expos, we see a 5.6 percent drop in homers per game from 2004 to 2005.
By themselves, new ballparks can't explain the decrease any more than they could explain the rise, but it's clear they've been a contributing factor in the variations. So, it's tough to credit drug testing for the drop when, using the same controls, homers increased by 1.7 percent from 2003 to 2004, despite an 86 percent decrease in the number of positive tests.
Is there steroid speculation about Giambi throughout baseball? Sure there is, and there always will be, because of the leaked grand jury testimony printed last winter in the San Francisco Chronicle. That said, he has passed all of his steroid tests. We also know that if any player wanted to find a way around the testing system, they could use human growth hormone.Recall that HGH won't show up in a urine test; it's a naturally occurring substance in the body, it requires a blood test for detection and as such, it's beyond the reach of the current program. Even the blood test is unreliable. As Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll reported back in December:
HGH, in forms like Seristim and Nutropin, are created by advanced genetic techniques and are chemically indistinguishable from naturally occurring hormones. Dr. Lewis Black told me in his BP Radio interview that tests for HGH are difficult and that instead of looking for a drug, as is normal testing procedure, testers are likely actually looking for metabolic byproducts. HGH testing was said to have had its first run last summer in Athens, but according to sources, the test is dubious at best. There were no positive tests. One source told me that "there's a primitive test, but it'd get beat in court. It's a good first step and a nice scare tactic. They're keeping the samples in hopes that the test gets more reliable, more sensitive."Giambi now finds himself in a no-win situation, but such is his burden since BALCO. His accomplishments will forever be tainted, even with a thousand clean whiz quizzes. He can't be caught, nor can he be proven innocent.
Unlike the other prominent players linked to baseball's steroid scandal, it is Giambi who has emerged as the game's most redemptive story. Barry Bonds has been injured all season. The retired Mark McGwire, Giambi's mentor, broke down in tears before Congress in March. Sammy Sosa is a shadow of himself. Rafael Palmeiro, who pointed his finger at Congress and swore he had always been clean, was suspended this week for failing a drug test.While I've held firmly to my belief in due process and the presumption of innocence with regards to the various developments in the steroids story, I'm having a hard time maintaining that stance these days. As a Yankees fan, it's a real conflict to root for Giambi even without the current allegations, and I've taken little pleasure in his resurgence even before the latest rumors made their way into the mainstream. I've had to practice keeping my enthusiasm in check no matter how clutch his hits get, and as his role in the their offense becomes more prominent, rooting for the entire team becomes that much less fun. It's not just Giambi who's in purgatory for his transgressions, it's all of us who love the game. This is the true legacy of the steroid scandal.
...Giambi is proof, perhaps, that a player can stop using steroids and regain his old aura. But he does not frame his redemptive season in those terms. To Giambi, his story is about overcoming the tumor that all but incapacitated him last summer. If he were tempted to use steroids now, he said, he would be a fool to give in. "Trust me, there is no way, no possible way," Giambi said this week, over two revealing interviews about his comeback. "I've gotten to this point because I'm healthy. There's no chance I'm going to take a chance on doing anything. There's no way."
But Giambi, who has been tested this season, told the news media before the 2004 season that he had never taken steroids. It was later reported that he had said the opposite a few months earlier, before the grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.
With Barry Bonds absent, Sammy Sosa irrelevant and Rafael Palmeiro disgraced, the duty of carrying the banner for old ballplayers who stretch the limits of human possibility falls to Roger Clemens.Got it? "Not a hint of taint" except "snickers" and "whispered suspicions" which, golly, happen to have made into print via this here column full of one-sentence, innuendo-laden paragraphs written by a "skeptic" who's looking askance. Hmmmm.
Why not leave it to the oldest? Clemens turned 43 last week and continues to pitch at an incredibly high level. Houston's ace, who won his 339th game Sunday, an 8-1 win over the San Francisco Giants at China Basin, is the only oldster in line to receive honors this season.
More to the point, Clemens is the only one of the four whose age-defying productivity, even in the age of performance-enhancing substances, generally is credited to the American work ethic.
So it is his willingness to work that has made Clemens, at his age, the most unhittable pitcher in baseball. He leads the majors in ERA by nearly a run per game, and opponents were batting a majors-low .188 before Sunday... Yet the explanation for Clemens' numbers is as simple as his dedication?
Don't get it twisted; there are plenty of skeptics who look askance at Clemens' intriguing ability to perform so well. There are snickers. And muted suspicions, some of which actually get whispered.
... There is, so far, not a hint of taint staining baseball's grandest old man.
The scariest thing is that it doesn’t look like we’re done with this, the debate or the suspensions. Multiple sources in baseball have confirmed to me that there are ongoing appeals and/or grievances, portending future suspensions. It’s unclear how long this process takes, though indications from both the Palmeiro and Ryan Franklin cases give a two to three month timeline from test to suspension. Yes, this means that there are players out there on fields now, perhaps affecting pennant races, leading categories, or heading towards winning awards, that are facing suspensions at some point. It’s also possible that some of these procedures might not be finished during this season. This isn’t about naming names or questioning the necessary due process. This is about the fact that public perception of this is going to be poor. Baseball is getting pummeled by this, by the press, by Congress, and by the public, all despite the fact that there’s plenty of performance-enhanced athletes making headlines this weekend in other sports. When asked for comment, the MLBPA declined due to confidentiality concerns, while MLB had not return our calls as of press time.On Wednesday, Carroll followed up:
The story continues, however, with Congress jumping in again. As Palmeiro waits to see what one committee does with the information released to them, another is sending letters to MLB. The letter includes eight questions that would clear things up -- for someone not paying attention. The answers are pretty well known for six of the eight questions, if not specifically then generally. The interesting stuff will come if, as some rumors are now saying, that Palmeiro is ready to play the part of Joe Valachi. Yes, there are rampant rumors going through clubhouses and press boxes across baseball, and yes, there’s another name coming soon. Names don’t solve problems.The speculation about the next shoe to drop has reached such a crescendo that late on Wednesday, Major League Baseball and the Players' Association issued a joint statement about them:
Faced with a swell that was becoming a storm, Major League Baseball and the players' union took what they called an "unusual step" -- the sides issued a joint statement Wednesday, with hopes it would quash the rampant speculation.It would be a relief if baseball fans could hang our hats on "totally false," but unfortunately, MLB's denial is worth as much as a pinch-hitting at-bat from Enrique Wilson (offer void if you're Joe Torre). You don't have to be a member of Congress to believe that we're far past the stage of being able to take anything from either the union or the league at face value when it comes to steroids. They're in purgatory, along with you, me and nearly every major league player, and we all figure to be here awhile.
"Reports of large numbers of positive tests currently unreported are totally false. Reports of big-name players having the reporting of their test results delayed are totally false," it said.
"All drug-testing results are processed in precisely the same manner, and without regard to the identity of any player or to the volume of positives at any given time. These media reports and rumors are totally, and completely inaccurate, and do not deserve further comment," it said.
The statement was issued by Rob Manfred, executive vice president for labor relations in the commissioner's office, and Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the union.
On Tuesday, commissioner Bud Selig said a young player -- as in, not a star -- was currently in the steroids system. Once a player is informed he has tested positive, he can appeal before any penalties are announced.
Team Rook Hit Rook Pit Total Rook%PA and %IP are the percentages of the team's total plate appearances or innings pitched used by rookies. All told, the average team is getting 18.9 runs above replacement from their rookies. If you're looking for a reason the A's have been kicking ass instead of rolling over as the Beane-haters expected them to, look no further.
VORP %PA VORP %IP VORP
OAK 35.0 14.8% 56.5 23.2% 91.5
ATL 43.5 35.1% 22.9 17.4% 66.4
TOR 31.9 15.1% 29.0 17.0% 60.9
COL 49.8 45.2% -9.2 25.6% 40.6
TBA 34.4 15.0% 4.4 26.5% 38.8
MIN 3.9 9.6% 33.4 11.4% 37.3
PIT 23.4 21.3% 12.2 7.3% 35.6
SEA 10.4 20.4% 19.0 8.0% 29.4
ANA 8.7 9.7% 18.7 14.2% 27.4
MIL 19.2 13.3% 5.5 6.2% 24.7
NYN 10.8 3.7% 12.8 8.3% 23.6
SFN 10.2 17.0% 12.7 12.1% 22.9
WAS 12.6 8.3% 4.7 6.2% 17.3
CHN 9.9 6.5% 7.2 19.4% 17.1
CHA 19.9 13.0% -3.0 3.7% 16.9
PHI 8.0 4.6% 5.7 8.8% 13.7
NYA 7.6 10.2% 4.5 12.9% 12.1
KCA 0.7 14.5% 11.1 22.1% 11.8
DET -0.8 2.2% 11.3 5.1% 10.5
BAL -0.6 2.2% 8.4 7.8% 7.8
CLE 0.6 0.9% 7.1 2.1% 7.7
TEX 0.2 1.4% 2.9 22.9% 3.1
SDN -2.8 1.3% 5.5 12.0% 2.7
ARI -4.2 10.1% 5.8 28.7% 1.6
SLN -4.5 6.3% 3.1 8.4% -1.4
CIN -6.4 3.4% 1.8 15.4% -4.6
BOS -3.4 0.6% -4.1 1.4% -7.5
HOU -5.9 22.6% -6.0 20.0% -11.9
LAN -3.5 18.5% -9.8 20.1% -13.3
FLO -4.5 4.3% -12.1 7.6% -16.6
Into the breach stepped a handful of homegrown rookies, who have improbably led the team to a 32-18 record since June 16. In the outfield, Ryan Langerhans and Kelly Johnson have combined to hit 240 BA/.327 OBA/.398 SLG- hardly earthshaking, but still better than the lifeless .231/.283/.345 combined performance of [Raul] Mondesi and [Brian] Jordan. At third base, Wilson Betemit has hit .296/.355/.451 in place of [Chipper] Jones, who has missed 50 games with injuries. Catcher Brian McCann, recalled when backup Eddie Perez went on the DL, has hit .280/.350/.419, and with starter Johnny Estrada now sidelined by a cervical strain, he's the new regular. Kyle Davies has put up a 4.56 ERA in 14 starts, proving himself a reasonable stopgap for a desperate team. John Foster and Blaine Boyer have provided solid middle relief, allowing the bullpen to be reshuffled to cover for [Danny] Kolb's woes.The rotation's injuries -- to Mike Hampton, Tim Hudson, and John Thomson -- are part of the reason the team ranks fourth in salary lost to the DL, $15.6 million through last Friday, 18.4% of the team's payroll (the Giants, with Sir Douchealot sidelined, lead at $27.2 million, the Dodgers are second at $25.1 mil, the Yanks fifth at $15.4 mil). They're only 24th in days lost to the DL, with 408 (the Nationals and Mariners have both lost over 1100), so it's really been a matter of losing quality over quantity. Thanks to BP's Mike Groopman for supplying the data, which (sigh) also got left on the cutting room floor of the Sun piece.
Year hVORP pVorp Total Top Rookie (VORP)The scary thing about that list is that not only is Francoeur going to pad that number considerably but that it includes a negligible contribution from BP's #1 top prospect, Andy Marte, who figures to take over the third base job sooner or later. The Braves are well-stocked for the future.
2005 42.3 23.9 66.2 Jeffrey Francoeur, RF (19.2)
1999 11.2 45.9 57.1 John Rocker, P (26.0)
1994 45.9 0.8 46.7 Ryan Klesko, LF (22.1)
1997 20.6 24.8 45.5 Tony Graffanino, 2B(11.5)
2002 -10.3 50.9 40.6 Damian Moss, P (28.1)
1998 -3.4 41.6 38.1 Kerry Ligtenberg, P (21.4)
1993 6.5 30.1 36.7 Greg McMichael, P (32.6)
1995 23.6 12.3 35.9 Chipper Jones, 3B (28.0)
2001 16.7 16.5 33.2 Jason Marquis, P (20.2)
1996 1.6 26.4 28.0 Terrell Wade, P (16.8)
2004 21.9 1.3 23.3 Adam Laroche, 1B (19.1)
2003 0.5 21.4 21.9 Horacio Ramirez, P (21.5)
2000 21.6 -1.4 20.2 Rafael Furcal, SS (37.0)
1992 -1.4 13.4 12.0 David Nied, P (9.4)
1991 11.3 -0.8 10.6 Brian Hunter, 1B (8.8)
Three such trades in which Schuerholz gave up unproven talent have been crucial to patching this year's staff. Last spring, Chris Reitsma was acquired from the Reds for two pitchers, and after a year of middle relief, he's taken over the closer role from Kolb. This spring, the Braves sent second baseman Nick Green to Tampa Bay for Jorge Sosa, who had yielded a 5.14 ERA in three seasons of Devil Ray purgatory. He started the year in the bullpen, where he was issuing more walks than strikeouts. But since being forced into the rotation, Sosa has been more than solid, allowing a 2.77 ERA in 12 starts while posting a passable 1.81 K/BB ratio. And at an otherwise quiet trading deadline, Schuerholz pulled off one of the few notable deals, sending rookie pitcher Roman Colon and minor-leaguer Zach Miner to acquire hard-throwing setup man - and likely future closer - Kyle Farnsworth from the Tigers.It's actually been something of a rocky ride with Reitsma (3.56 ERA, 6 blown saves out of 21) but the larger point stands. If you want an organization that knows how to reap the rewards of its farm system, look no further than the Braves.
Labels: New York Sun
New York Yankees - C. Montgomery Burns - Driven to success by an almost unimaginable wealth of resources, which they use to ruthlessly crush their enemies, although typically not by the most efficient means possible (blocking out the sun, Bernie Williams). Seemingly unaware of the (obvious) reasons why they are hated. They seem to have been a key actor in pretty much everything important that happened before 1970.That still leaves you 25 to discover yourself. In the words of C. Montgomery Burns, "Exxxxcellent."
Oakland A's - Bart Simpson - Reliable bad-boy winners who march to the beat of their own drum. Locked in a constant struggle against the overbearing establishment. Every time you think they're going to get what's coming to them, they weasel out of it and surprise you again.
Cincinnati Reds - Principal Seymour Skinner - Spent much of their existence under the hand of a domineering, insane woman who was impossible to please (Agnes Skinner, Marge Schott). Possessors of a dirty little secret that they would rather sweep under the rug (Skinner's true identity of Armand Tamzarian, Pete Rose). Their lives were given meaning in the '70s (Vietnam, the Big Red Machine) but now all they have to escape the monotony of their everyday existence is the flashbacks.
Los Angeles Dodgers - Disco Stu - Overconfident and forever predicting the return of their glory days. Brought up by devoted fans more often than is probably reasonable, considering their sporadic appearances. Haven't been relevant since the '80s.
Atlanta Braves - Ned Flanders - The very definition of "traditional," "white-bread," and "boring." Quietly keeping their affairs in perfect order, but they always end up as the butt of the joke. Spurred to success by a horde of Bible-thumpers. Made a living out of left-handedness in the '90s.
The person who said that Palmeiro tested positive for stanozolol did not want to be identified because the testing policy prohibits anyone in baseball from disclosing information about test results without authorization.If that 128 number has you scratching your head, it's because several of the players who tested positive -- 96 in 2003, 12 last year -- tested positive for more than one substance, a term known as stacking. According to Carroll, "Stacking Deca and Winny is pretty common." Deca/nandrolone is also the steroid most commonly associated with "false positive" tests due to the widespread use of a metabolite. Winstrol/stanzolol is less easily challenged because it's not in any supplement. In an email, Carroll described the substance:
...Palmeiro said Monday that he had never intentionally taken steroids, but stanozolol does not come in dietary supplements and is among the most popular steroids on the market. It can be ingested or injected and usually remains in a person's system for at least a month.
"It's a mildly strong to strong steroid," said Dr. Gary Wadler, a professor at New York University who is an expert in sports doping. "Potent is the word I would use."
...In 2003 and 2004, Major League Baseball reported 128 positive steroid tests, including 74 for the steroid nandrolone (known commercially as Deca-Durabolin) and 37 for stanozolol. But last year, only one positive test was for nandrolone and 11 positive tests were for stanozolol, an indication of a changing trend.
Dr. Harrison G. Pope, a Harvard professor, psychiatrist and steroids expert, said nandrolone is detectable in the body for a much longer period than stanozolol. Nandrolone also was common in dietary supplements before it was added to the list of controlled substances in 2005.
Winstrol's a seriously potent anabolic steroid that's been around for decades. It's probably the second most commonly used steroid in baseball, after deca, due to its short transit through the body. It is short-acting, so must be taken daily. It can be injected or taken orally, in depot form. Winstrol has similar efficacy to deca without the side effects of gynecomastia (growing breasts on a man) and "juice bloat." I won't bore you with the 5-alpha reductase or methylization profiles, so let's just say it's effective, it's potent, and that it's used mostly for "cutting" -- getting ripped and recovering -- than it is for bulking.In today's edition of "Under the Knife," Carroll elaborates further:
This is the same steroid that Jose Canseco said he used on Palmeiro in his book. There are few products that could cause a cross-indication of Winstrol in the system, putting more of a burden on Palmeiro's defense that he doesn't know how it got into his system. Sources tell me that further developments in the case should come public in the next 48 hours. For those of you that have jokingly asked me about the use of Viagra by bodybuilders, don't laugh. Viagra is a nitric oxide enhancer and some advanced researchers in the anabolics field have discussed the use of Viagra in muscle recovery.Elsewhere, Wadler told Newsday if the substance was stanzolol, then Palmeiro's explanation didn't wash:
"If it's stanozolol, this was a deliberate act... The likelihood of sabotage is remote and improbable, and to suggest as much would be to send people on a wild-goose chase."Palmeiro has thus far refused to confirm the identity of the drug, citing confidentiality rules. But as ESPN's Buster Olney points out, those rules are built in to protect him, meaning that Selig or the Players' Association can't talk about his case, though he can. That he won't is a sign that his explanations about "cross-contamination," his usage, and his intentions won't stand up to harsh scrutiny. He is up shit creek until he comes clean.
...an insider's history of the professional game since Fay Vincent was commissioner. It features a huge cast of characters and explores how and why the current Offensive Age, the Steroids Era came to be. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the book is that Bryant does not attempt to simplify a complicated situation. The bottom line may not be complex (mo money, mo problems), but Bryant doesn't lay the blame on one thing in particular -- instead, the entire game is complicit...While Belth's review is informative, I'm obliged to give him a little tweak for not disclosing that his partner in Bronx Banter crime, Cliff Corcoran, was the book's editor (both Cliff and Alex are great friends of mine as well, so caveat emptor). Nonetheless, Belth, who took Bryant's writing style to task in discussing his first book, Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston, has fewer complaints about the style here, saying that the story was told with "great precision and focus," important in a book that's 400+ pages. Having cracked open my copy of Juicing the Game last night, I concur -- I couldn't put it down until about 2 AM. Ignore it at your peril.
Casey Stengel was a purveyor of memorable mound quotes. One time, Tug McGraw begged Stengel to let him stay in a Mets game.Don't miss it, especially if you need a laugh during these dark days for baseball.
"Let me pitch to one more man," McGraw said. "I struck him out the last time I faced him."
Replied Stengel: "Yeah, but the last time you faced him was this same inning."
Another time, in a game against San Francisco, Stengel went out to talk to Mets pitcher Larry Bearnarth with two on, no outs and future Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda at the plate.
"Tra-la-la," was all that Stengel said before walking off, leaving a puzzled Bearnarth. On his next pitch, Cepeda grounded into a triple play to end the inning. Bearnarth couldn't wait to ask Stengel what "Tra-la-la" meant.
"Tra-la-la, triple play," replied Stengel.
"When I testified in front of Congress, I know that I was testifying under oath and I told the truth," he said during a telephone conference call Monday. "Today I am telling the truth again that I did not do this intentionally or knowingly."In the distance from "never" to "not knowingly," Palmeiro implied that the banned substance he'd been nailed for had come from an over-the-counter supplement, but his denial rang hollow. Salon's King Kaufman, for one, wasn't buying:
Even if Palmeiro's denial is legitimate and he got caught unknowingly using a banned substance in some over-the-counter supplement, you have to either admire the nerve or wonder at the chuckleheadedness of a guy who would wag his finger at Congress, knowing he'd be tested at some point, and then not double-, triple- and quadruple-check the ingredients in anything he put in his body.The revelation of Palmeiro's guilt also brings to mind a quote of his that becomes much more telling in hindsight: "In my opinion, everyone that plays baseball in this era has been tainted... Not just the people that he has named in the book, I think this whole era over the last 10, 15 or 20 years has been tainted. Regardless of whether you did or you didn't do anything, this whole era will have that label." When Palmeiro said that, he had to know he was talking about himself, whether or not he could have foreseen being caught. Rereading those words four months later, there's a sadness and resignation there, rather than the hubris of one who believes he can beat the system.
What does this do to his Hall of Fame chances?If some of that sounds familiar, it's because I cribbed it from my recent blog entry on Palmeiro. I did err on one point in my answer: Arlington Stadium, where Palmeiro played from 1989 through 1993, was something of a pitchers' park; in those five years, the Park Factor for runs (according to Baseball-Reference's numbers), averages out to 98.4, meaning it depressed scoring slightly. D'oh!
It gives voters skeptical about his credentials an easy excuse not to vote for him. Palmeiro's already a target for a number of reasons. He's never led the league in any major category nor won an MVP or a championship. He's played his entire career in hitter's parks (Wrigley Field, Arlington Stadium, the Ballpark at Arlington, and Camden Yards) that have certainly inflated his numbers. He's a shining example of a player whose consistency obscures his peak value. And now he's got a steroid rap.
Even with the inflated totals, Palmeiro measures up well against Hall of Famers once his stats are normalized; using the Jaffe WARP Score system (a.k.a. JAWS), he would rank fourth among Hall first basemen, behind only Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Eddie Murray. Among active and recently retired hitters, only Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken, and Rickey Henderson rank ahead of him. Those are rock-solid credentials. The only two players with similar or better JAWS scores who aren't in the Hall are Pete Rose, who's ineligible, and Bert Blyleven, who's been jobbed for having a resume similarly favoring consistency over peak (at least in perception).
Palmeiro has almost certainly put himself in the unenviable position of being the first bona fide Hall candidate with a positive test on his resume. He'll likely be made an example of, at least in the early voting. He might have an easier time once the voters admit players linked to the steroids scandal but without so much (or any) hard evidence in their dossiers, such as Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa. But his wait for Cooperstown just got several years longer.
AVG OBP SLG OPS AB/HRAll of which brings me to the point of dredging up my own research into the matter, dating from back in those crazy days of March between the Canseco book's release and the hearings, a period in which I even got to go on cable TV to discuss the steroid issue. Will Carroll had written a piece for the YES Network's website (home of Steven Goldman's Pinstriped Bible) in which he analyzed some of Canseco's claims and took a look at the year-by-year aging patterns of Palmeiro and fellow Texas teammates Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez, both of whom were also implicated in Jose's tell-all. I took issue with what Will called "no significant change" in Palmeiro's statistical profile, writing the following in an email to BP's internal mailing list:
1986-91 .302 .360 .462 .822 36.47
1992* .261 .343 .407 .750 34.73 (pre Canseco's arrival on 9/4)
1992-1993 .283 .350 .500 .850 19.22 (with Canseco, 9/4/92-6/23/93)
1993-2005 .286 .379 .545 .924 14.94
Raffy came into the season with a career line of .296/.351/.440 and put up that nice .322/.389/.532 line in his age-26 season. I think that if we somehow retro-PECOTA'ed him to that point, we'd find that performance would be above his 75th percentile (I'm guessing here, but it doesn't matter exactly where) -- possible, especially given that he was still young enough to be on the upside of the growth curve, but perhaps not so likely. Still, those kinds of things happen, whether they're fluke seasons or real growth. FWIW, his park HR factor that year was 97, so it wasn't like he suddenly got help there.I don't recall if I ever got that list of 456+ homer hitters (anybody with the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia who can bang out that query, please email it to me), but I did do some crunching of Palmeiro's numbers. I compared his homer rate to that of the league on a per plate appearance basis (AB + BB), adjusted for park, and indexed it to the league, such that an HR+ of 150 means a rate 50 percent better than league average (like ERA+):
But for him to chain together the sequence of seasons he's had beyond '92, to pull off what essentially comes out to one of the greatest sustained HR binges in history (how many people pulled off 456 HR in 12 years? Less than 10, I'll wager, and invite somebody with da mad data skillz to count them for me) as he's aged into his late 30s, that would have to show up as extremely unlikely by any forecasting measure. I mean, even if you re-PECOTA'ed him after each of those seasons, as his baseline moved up, you'd find him consistently exceeding his weighted mean projections as he aged (the same would hold true for Bonds, of course). Beating those projections like a rented Rockies staff until you've got a guy who's #10 on the all-time HR list. Whether that's due to the needle or to the Viagra or to voodoo, that would have appeared extremely unlikely, yet it happened.
Year Park Raffy League HR PF HR+So we've got a big spike from Palmeiro relative to the league, even as we entered an era when homers rose by about 40 percent. The biggest jump coincides with Canseco's arrival in the last year of Arlington Stadium, and after that Palmeiro hit homers at nearly twice the adjusted league average rate. Hmmmmm.
1986 Wrigley 3.9% 2.1% 91.2 203
1987 Wrigley 5.8% 2.5% 123.9 187
1988 Wrigley 1.3% 1.8% 127.0 57
1989 Arlington 1.3% 2.0% 119.7 53
1990 Arlington 2.2% 2.1% 94.2 110
1991 Arlington 3.7% 2.3% 96.9 168
1992 Arlington 3.2% 2.1% 101.6 152
1993 Arlington 5.5% 2.4% 71.5 318
1994 Camden Yds 4.7% 2.9% 121.3 133
1995 Camden Yds 6.3% 2.8% 118.4 191
1996 Camden Yds 5.4% 3.1% 96.9 179
1997 Camden Yds 5.6% 2.9% 122.6 158
1998 Camden Yds 6.2% 2.9% 102.3 208
1999 Bpk Arling 7.1% 3.0% 103.2 226
2000 Bpk Arling 5.8% 3.1% 123.4 153
2001 Bpk Arling 6.7% 2.9% 95.3 240
2002 Bpk Arling 6.6% 2.9% 134.8 170
2003 Bpk Arling 5.9% 2.9% 119.6 169
2004 Camden Yds 3.6% 3.0% 104.6 114
86-92 2.7% 2.1% 106.0 117.3
93-04 5.8% 2.9% 107.1 186.5
June 2001 July 2001 August 2001 September 2001 October 2001 November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010
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