On Jim Thome and steroids

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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.

2002: 9.2
2001: 10.7
2010: 11.0
2006: 11.7
2004: 12.1
2003: 12.3
2007: 12.3
1997: 12.4
1996: 13.3
1998: 14.7
2008: 14.8
1999: 15.0
2000: 15.1
2009: 15.7
1994: 16.1
1995: 18.1

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.

Mariners acquire Nick Rumbelow from Yankees

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The Mariners acquired Yankees’ right-hander Nick Rumbelow in exchange for minor league righty Juan Then and left-hander JP Sears, per an official announcement on Saturday. Rumbelow made 17 appearances for the Yankees in 2015 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and could provide some bullpen depth for the Mariners in 2018.

The 26-year-old right-hander spent the majority of his 2017 season in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he delivered an 0.62 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 9.3 SO/9 over 29 innings. The Yankees didn’t rush Rumbelow into a full workload after he missed the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John, but he didn’t appear to have any significant setbacks with his health or performance and should be ready to compete for a role next spring.

Sears, 21, was ranked 21st in the Mariners’ organization by MLB Pipeline. He was drafted in the 11th round of the 2017 draft and features a deceptive, low-velocity fastball that he can throw for strikes to either side of the plate. In his first year of pro ball, he split 17 games between Short-Season A Everett and Single-A Clinton, turning in an 0.65 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 16.6 SO/9 across two levels.

Then, 17, also completed his first year of pro ball after signing with the Mariners as a free agent. He went 2-2 in 13 games of rookie ball, pitching to a 2.64 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 in 61 1/3 innings. Neither Sears nor Then will take the mound for the Yankees anytime soon, and offloading Rumbelow to the Mariners should clear up some room on New York’s 40-man roster as they prepare for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.