Archive for January, 2007
David Pinto has a very interesting graph in this article about hit batters. The graph shows that high ERA pitchers have been facing more and more hitters, (as opposed to historical norms, in which the worst pitchers faced substantially fewer hitters than the best). Starting around 1993, the number of batters faced by low ERA pitchers and high ERA pitchers essentially converged, and stayed that way for most of the next ten years.
I found that to be striking, since my own research indicated that the real spike in offense began within a couple of years of then. The first time I looked at the issue, I picked 1995 as the cutoff; however, I may have been too hasty to forget about 1994. If you consider that in 1994, the strike year, Matt Williams had a chance to break Maris’ record, and Tony Gwynn had a shot at batting .400, I think you’d have to come to the conclusion that the offensive spike had already begun.
What’s more noteworthy, is that if you look at David’s graph full size, you can see that in 1999 and 2000, the bad pitchers faced more hitters than the good ones. So right as Bonds entered the stratosphere, the number of poor pitchers in the game skyrocketed. I’d say David may have stumbled into yet another contributing factor to the offensive onslaught that has so many people in an uproar. Which means that, even more so then when I first wrote it, it was the game that changed, not the players.
…. Batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, total hits, home runs…. offense as a whole exploded just after Bonds 30th birthday. Bonds also began his serious weight training not long after his 30th birthday as well. Could it be that the combination of the two is the real explanation for his power surge? Isn’t it at least possible?
I’ll tell you what, Bonds didn’t change, the game conditions changed. If more sportswriters took the time to write about what is really happening, as opposed to doing the same thing the casual observer does; there would be far less speculation.
The speculation hasn’t stopped, in fact, it’s increased exponentially, regardless of the fact that the more we know, the less likely it becomes that steroid and PED use were really behind the huge numbers these players were putting up, the more likely it seems that the real benefits of PED use were more subtle, enabling pitchers (relievers, primarily) to recover more quickly, and allowing position players (like, say, McGwire) to avoid those little nagging injuries, and stay in the lineup.
Which, of course, is hardly adequate cause for the outrage so common to today’s baseball writers.
John Brattain has an excellent article on this year’s Hall of Fame vote, most notable is this full transcript of Mark McGwire’s statement to the Government Reform Committee:
…. What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates. I retired from baseball four years ago. I live a quiet life with my wife and children. I have always been a team player. I have never been a person who spread rumors or said things about teammates that could hurt them. I do not sit in judgment of other players, whether it deals with their sexual preference, their marital problems, or other personal habits, including whether or not they use chemical substances. That has never been my style, and I do not intend to change this just because the cameras are turned on.
Nor do I intend to dignify Mr. Canseco’s book. It should be enough that you consider the source of the statements in the book, and that many inconsistencies and contradictions have already been raised.
I’ve been advised that my testimony here could be used to harm friends and respected teammates, or that some ambitious prosecutor can use convicted criminals who would do and say anything to solve their own problems and create jeopardy for my friends.
Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem. If a player answers no, he simply will not be believed. If he answers yes, he risks public scorn and endless government investigations. My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself. I intend to follow their advice.
I am happy to include McGwire’s words in my permanent record.
Is it possible for Barry Bonds to have sunk even lower? Can a man who is the face of baseball’s steroids “scandal” manage to fall even farther from grace? Yep. It is. Finding out that Bonds not only failed a drug test for using amphetamines is bad enough, but how we found out is positively laughable. (I’m not linking to every article, here’s the Chron’s Sports Page if you’re dying to hear what Gwen Knapp thinks)
Bonds has done the impossible, he’s made himself irrelevant. No one cares anymore. We don’t care if he breaks the record. We don’t care if Selig or Aaron is there when he does it. We don’t care if MLB honors his acheivement. We don’t care if he used steroids. We don’t care if he gets hurt, we don’t care if he doesn’t. We don’t really care about him at all. He’s going to break the most hallowed record in American sports, and he’s pretty much gonna do it all by himself, in a vaccum.
That’s what you get when you spend your entire adult life pushing people away.
Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna go eat worms.
Here’s another example of the kind of thinking that I am arguing against:
…. Prior to 1994 – Bagwell hit an average of one HR every 31.6 AB. Suddenly in 1994 Bagwell’s slugging percentage jumps an astounding 234 points (from .516 to .750) and he suddenly hits one HR every 10.3 AB? You can’t tell me that isn’t a bit suspicious.
As I wrote, (in an article on Bonds) way back in 2004, the 1995-96 seasons were where we began to see the offensive explosion that is the reason we have this steroid “scandal” today:
…. Starting in 1996, home runs, batting average, slugging, runs scored; virtually every offensive categories begiins to rise towards historic or near-historic highs.
Virtually all of Bonds’ contemporaries will have this type of career surge in their stat lines. To look at just one player is to miss the forest for the trees; which, of course, is the mistake all of these “sportswriters” are guilty of.
Two things to mention…. One, SI has the Zito contract details:
…. Pitcher Barry Zito will make a base salary of $10 million from the San Francisco Giants in 2007, then receive raises of $4 million in each of the next two seasons.
Two, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, just the funniest sportswriter alive, takes on the Mark McGwire/Hall of Fame hypocrisy:
…. Some writers won’t vote for McGwire because he probably used steroids — keep in mind there’s never been proof that he did, other than a visible bottle of andro and those 135 pounds of muscle he added from 1990 to 2002 — which would be fine if they weren’t so pious about it. Not content with simply dismissing McGwire’s candidacy and moving on, they need to climb on their high horses and rip the guy to shreds. Of course, many of them would appear on any radio or TV show for 50 bucks and a free sandwich. We’re supposed to believe they would refuse the chance to take a drug that would enable them to do their job twice as well and make 10 times as much money? Yeah, right.
These people have now become the self-proclaimed moral arbiters of baseball, and they need you to know that Big Mac cheated, disgraced the game, deceived the public, tainted the record books and pushed the sport into a spiritual free fall. They rush to tell you that they can’t vote for McGwire because their conscience won’t allow it. San Jose Mercury News columnist Ann Killion wrote that she can’t vote for McGwire because she wouldn’t be able to explain it to her kids.
She concluded her column with this: “All I can do is cast my own vote judiciously. And be able to look my kids in the eyes when I do it.”
Ann, I’m glad you’re such a thoughtful mom. Seriously, that’s great. But a vote for McGwire isn’t exactly an endorsement of drug use. And anyway, part of our country’s problem is the shortsighted way we “protect” our kids from life’s harsh realities.
Wait, Bill, are you saying you don’t want to save the children?
Seriously, I’d love to just cut and paste the whole thing, but there’s enough there to give you a very clear idea of where he’s coming from. And as for my readers who wonder why I spend so much time fighting for the “cheaters,” well, it’s because so few voices of reason are out here in the sportwriting world. I keep banging the drum, because so many others are playing guitar, as it were.
…. That San Francisco projection shocked the hell out of me. They may regret that Zito signing in a few years, but for now it seems to have helped them become contenders.
The projection, based on 100 simulated seasons, shows the Giants winning 89 games, on average, to the Padres 82. Surprising, to be sure. I guess this bunch of “veterans” is a little bit better than the recent collection of stiffs.