Thanks largely to the work of Sam Miller, the Orange County Register has one of the best baseball blogs of any newspaper in the country. The other bloggers, though, don’t always measure up, and Jeff Miller decided to take on Jim Thome’s 600th homer today, claiming that it’s just fine for us to assume he did steroids.
His big point to back it up?
“From 2001-03, Thome averaged 49 homers a year. He never hit more than 42 in any other season. A single statistic, a ton of suspicion.”
It’s a ton of something, alright.
I have no idea whether Jim Thome used steroids, but I strongly dislike it when amateurs go to the numbers to try to figure out when a guy was cheating. It’s a ridiculous exercise, particularly since there’s just no reason to think that taking an average player and juicing him up is going to add 10 or 20 homers to his year’s total. There’s simply no evidence that suggests that’s the case.
Anyway, Thome did peak in 2001-02. But to say Miller’s three-year span stands out from the rest of his career is nonsense. Let’s look at Thome’s at-bats per home run per year, ranked from top to bottom and only counting the seasons in which he had 300 plate appearances.
If Thome had exactly 500 at-bats at those rates in all of those seasons, he would have peaked at 54 homers in 2002. However, his next seven best seasons all would have come in between 40 and 47 homers and those seasons were spread out from 1997 to 2010.
So, go ahead, find the steroids seasons in there.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.