Archive for August 2012

More PED Suspensions and Other Nonsense

August 23, 2012

Bartolo Colon joined Melky Cabrera today as a known steroids cheat.  I guess that puts to rest the claim that Colon’s amazing comeback was due to bone marrow stem cell transplants.

The steroids explanation makes a lot more sense.  However, you can’t accuse a player of using steroids until you know for sure.

Derek Jeter got some flack recently from ESPN’s Skip Bayless for possible steroid use based on his performance this season at age 38.  Of course, given what we know about steroid use in baseball, Jeter’s use of steroids is certainly possible. However, Jeter has to get the benefit of the doubt until something more conclusive is revealed, particularly because his 2012 performance is not at all out of the norm for a player of his caliber.

Jeter is currently hitting .324 this year, with a .365 OBP and an .811 OPS.  These numbers fit perfectly into Jeter’s career.

Between 2006 and 2009, Jeter hit .343, .322, .300 and .334.  He posted OBP’s of .417, .388, .363 and .406 and  OPS’s of .900, .840, ,771 and .871 those four seasons.  After two years (2010 and 2011) well below these numbers, the law of averages and regression toward the mean (career .313 batting average and .831 OPS) suggest that Jeter’s 2012 is entirely the result of a player of this caliber having a final good season in the course of a long, illustrious career.

In other words, don’t accuse Jeter of steroid use until you have something more substantive than statistical analysis to go on.  Needless to say, also don’t bet on Jeter repeating his 2012 numbers in 2013.

In completely unrelated news, Cincinnati Reds’ minor leaguer Billy Hamilton has set a professional record with 148 stolen bases (and counting), breaking Vince Coleman’s record of 145 stolen bases in the Class A Sally League in 1983.  Hamilton’s record has been accomplished in the  Class A+ California League (104 stolen bases) and the AA Southern League (44 stolen bases and counting.)

When I first saw this headline, I initially assumed that some minor leaguer had broken a record of “Sliding” Billy Hamilton, major league baseball’s greatest base stealer before Ty Cobb.  The original Billy Hamilton is credited with 914 stolen bases, good for third all-time, behind only Rickie Henderson and Lou Brock, and just ahead of Ty Cobb.

The list of greatest base stealers in baseball history is actually fairly short.  Billy Hamilton, Ty Cobb, Maury Wills, Lou Brock, Ricky Henderson, Vince Coleman, Tim Raines and maybe Max Carey.  How appropriate the next potential all-time great base stealer is also named Billy Hamilton.

The new (and perhaps improved) Billy Hamilton looks an awful lot like the real deal.  He turns 22 on September 9 this year, and his .418 on-base percentage this year is tremendous.  He had a .383 OBP in 2010, and last year he stole 103 bases in 123 attempts.  A former 2nd round pick, he plays shortstop, which means he’s already very close to being a major league player if his defense is adequate.

The new Billy Hamilton has been caught stealing 34 times this year, which is fewer times than Rickey Henderson was caught (42 times) the year he set the major league record and about equal to Vince Coleman’s record-setting season (31 caught stealings in 176 attempts).

In yet another unrelated matter (or at least tangentially related, at best), how long will the Reds keep Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen?  While it is obvious the Reds won’t change what’s working for them this year, Chapman is simply too good to keep out of the starting rotation much longer.

With a 1.31 ERA and 7.5 K’s to BB’s ratio, the Reds can’t reasonably limit Chapman to 80 or 90 IP per season beyond 2012, when he’s clearly got the arm to pitch between 200 and 240 innings a year.

In conclusion (to return to the top), major league baseball’s PED program is working.  Cheating stars are being caught.

Given the money and fame at stake, certain players will always cheat to get an edge.  While it backfired for Melky, who will now get of a fraction of the free agent contract he would have received if he’d gotten away with it, Bartolo Colon is well ahead even having been caught.

Colon looked to be through in 2010, but assuming that steroid use got him back into the majors in 2011, he’s at least $2.5 million to the better as a result of steroid use.  Sure, getting caught taints his legacy, but he wasn’t going to make the Hall of Fame anyway.  In the meantime, he got to return to pitching in the major leagues, something he likely enjoys enormously and for which he was well compensated.

The incentives are too great for all major league or potential major league players to give up PED use entirely.

Giant Developments

August 18, 2012

I’ve been off in the Philippines on vacation for the last three weeks and a great deal has happened with the San Francisco Giants in my absence.

Initially, I thought the Giants gave up way too much for Hunter Pence, a corner outfielder with a .784 OPS who is projected to make about $14 million through the arbitration process in 2013 unless the Giants non-tender him.  Specifically, I was disappointed that the Giants included catching prospect Tommy Joseph in the Giants’ three player package.

Joseph’s minor league numbers don’t look that impressive, but the numbers are misleading.  AA Richmond, where he played most of this season, and Class A Augusta, where he played in 2010, are terrible places to hit, but Joseph more than held his own as a very young player who only turned 21 this past July 16.  His defense is considered good enough for him to catch at the major league level, and he has power.

That has value, and I realistically believe he’ll establish himself as a major league catcher before the end of the 2014 season.  If the Giants had kept him, they could have moved Buster Posey to first base full time by 2015 and gone with Hector Sanchez and Joseph as their primary catchers. The Giants really need to move Posey to another position eventually in order to maximize his offensive potential and reduce his risk of future injuries.

Now that Melky Cabrera has been slapped with a 50-game PED suspension, the Pence trade looks brilliant.  Going into the season’s final 45 games with Nate Schierholtz, Gregor Blanco, Justin Christian, Brett Pill and, if healthy, Aubrey Huff as their only corner outfield options would have been grim for a team trying to win now.

I don’t have much to say about Cabrera’s suspension that hasn’t already been said, except that it isn’t very surprising.  Before his breakout year with the Royals in 2011, Cabrera was known as a talented young player who hadn’t shown enough power and about whom there were persistent rumors about his lack of commitment to conditioning.  Steroids was an easy solution to both deficiencies.  In other words, the relative risk-benefit ratio made Cabrera a prime candidate for steroid use.

In a minor deal that is somewhat mystifying, the Giants were able to claim left-handed short man Jose Mijares for a pro-rated portion of his $925,000 2012 contract after the Royals were unable to trade him by the deadline and at least 23 teams failed to claim him when the Royals placed him on waivers.  It’s hard to understand why the Royals were so eager to dump a low-paid pitcher with a 2.56 ERA and decent ratios and why no other team wanted to take him on at the waiver cost.

Given his list as 6’0″ and 230 lbs, it’s reasonable to speculate that Mijares doesn’t train hard enough.  Presumably, the Royals had already decided that they would not offer Mijares a contract this off-season, given that as an arbitration eligible player coming off a statistically successful season the Royals would have to pay him more than they think he’s worth to keep him.  As such, the Royals apparently decided they’d rather use his roster spot to develop someone young and under control.

However, these speculations do not explain why no team in the AL thought he was worth claiming off waivers.  It’s possible he has a bad reputation in the clubhouse, but having made five appearances for the Giants without being charged with a run, he’s given his new team plenty of reasons to like having him around.