Steroids do not help hitters hit home runs

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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.  

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.