Steroids do not help hitters hit home runs


Now that I have your attention, I would like to point out two pieces that, if you do not read them and at least attempt to engage with their analysis, will cause reasonable people to henceforth dismiss you when you make blanket claims about the ethics and the efficacy of steroid use in baseball:

  • Eric Walker’s comprehensive analysis of the ethics, health risks and, most importantly, performance effects of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, with copious references to the relevant scientific literature on the subject; and

OK, I’ll cut you slack if you don’t read the entirety of Walker’s piece. It’s long, it’s difficult, the page design kind of sucks and it’s not exactly as engaging as detective novel.  But at the very least read Posnanski’s overview and then at least explore Walker’s piece here and there to test some of the assertions.

For those of you who don’t plan on doing either, at least take away this much: essentially none of the claims people make about what is so “obvious” about PED use are, in fact, obvious. Yes, there are still ethical hazards — and, of course, rule breaking — associated with PED use by ballplayers, but such things (a) are not as hazardous as we are led to believe; and (b) PED use does not logically and inevitably lead to the conclusions you so often hear about home runs and other hitting records being fraudulent.

Posnanski in particular makes some excellent points about the history of baseball juicing — as opposed to baseball player juicing — that seem like a far more obvious source of the new home run marks.  And as I and so many others have said so many times, the fact that the home run boom came around the same time as large-scale expansion and a spate of cozy, home run-friendly ballparks coming online is criminally underplayed when the subject of home runs and baseball comes up.

I know that many of you don’t care what anyone says about these subjects and that you’ll continue to call all of the home run marks of the past 15 years fraudulent or worse. Just know that if you do, such arguments will be (a) counter to the empirical evidence; and (b) a function of your willful ignorance on the matter.

I do my best to limit the discussion of religion and politics on this blog. If you ignore the relevant data on PEDs and baseball and still spout off about it, however, you’re essentially arguing religion and politics.  

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.