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.  

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.