I’m not so much of a PED-guy defender that I believe PEDs have zero effects. I’m sure they do. They likely allow for players to recover from workouts quicker, thus allowing them to work out more. Some build strength and muscle mass, obviously. All of these effects likely lead to a situation where players can throw harder and hit the ball farther or, for hitters, wait on a ball longer before uncoiling on it. I say “likely” because I am no expert in any of this, but I am as sure as any lay person who hasn’t immersed himself in the research of the matter can be that, yes, many banned PEDs do, in fact, enhance performance.
But I have long believed that the effects on offense are overstated. Again, I don’t have exact empirical evidence of this, but I have found in life that highly-pitched hysteria about anything is likely evidence that someone’s case is being overstated. I’ll grant that there were communists in the U.S. government in the 1940s and 50s. I won’t buy crazy claims that they were systematically working to topple democracy and were one alcoholic senator from Wisconsin away from succeeding. Life just doesn’t work like that, usually. There are a lot of factors in play in almost any complicated system and people who point to one thing as a singular, efficacious factor in any phenomenon are usually trying to sell you a bill of goods or have another agenda altogether. And when some other factor emerges that makes the “threat” seem less threatening — like, say, large-scale expansion and a spate of cozy, home run-friendly ballparks coming online in the 1990s — those factors tend to be ignored.
Today David Schoenfield rounds up some past research on the matter from Joe Sheehan and David Cameron which demonstrates that there was a lot more going on in the 90s and early 2000s besides PEDs inflating offense and that there is a lot more going on now besides drug testing and players’ changing attitudes about PEDs that is deflating it. It’s well worth your time. And note: Schoenfield is not some crazy, unhinged PED-apologist. He’s just an analyst looking at data and showing that maybe, just maybe, the folks who think that PEDs ruined or distorted baseball are full of beans.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP