Players busted for PEDs don’t show any notable uptick in performance

85 Comments

A week after ESPN’s Buster Olney decided that Melky Cabrera’s excellent-so-far 2014 season justifies people assuming he’s back on PEDs, ESPN’s Dan Szymborski dives into the numbers and shows that such a decision is not based on any evidence at all:

Despite the rhetoric surrounding PEDs, players caught for steroid/testosterone use do not show a pattern of overperforming their projections in the years leading up to the drug suspension or a pattern of underperforming their projections in the years after a drug suspension.

All of this is based on Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system, which shows that Cabrera is doing about what you’d expect him to do this year. And that, as a group, guys busted for PEDs don’t really deviate too much from their expected performance one way or another before, during or after they are caught for PEDs.

Obviously there are a lot of caveats in play here. Small sample sizes, imperfect data about when guys start and stop taking PEDs and, of course, the flaws any projection system, even one as generally reliable as ZiPS, brings to the table.

But if you’re making a case for something — and Olney and others who are questioning the legitimacy of Melky’s performance this season are clearly making a case for something — it’s incumbent upon you to present some evidence. Szymborski’s analysis doesn’t necessarily prove anything about the efficacy or lack thereof of PEDs. But it has far more evidence on its side than anything people are hurling at Cabrera lately.

Shelby Miller left Sunday’s start with forearm tightness

Denis Poroy/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller left Sunday’s start against the Dodgers after four-plus innings due to tightness in his right forearm, the team announced. He’ll be reevaluated tomorrow. Needless to say, though, a forearm injury is very concerning. In his four innings, Miller gave up three runs on four hits and five walks with three strikeouts, raising his ERA to 4.09.

Miller, 26, has had a nightmare of a time since joining the Diamondbacks in December 2015. Last year, he made 20 starts and posted a 6.15 ERA. He suffered a finger injury suffered from scraping his hand on the pitcher’s mound with his follow-through, and he was also demoted to Triple-A during the summer as well.

Ivan Nova finally issued his first walk. It was to an AL pitcher taking his first major league at-bat.

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
2 Comments

Pirates starter Ivan Nova has been outstanding in his first three starts of the 2017 season. He yielded only five earned runs in 20 innings for a tidy 2.25 ERA. But even more impressively, Nova didn’t issue a walk in any of those starts.

That changed on Sunday afternoon against the Yankees, but in a most peculiar way. Nova had struck out the side in the first inning, notched a 1-2-3 frame in the second, and got two quick ground outs to begin the third inning, bringing up Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery for his first major league at-bat. Montgomery never batted in the minor leagues, either, so Sunday’s AB against Nova was his first since his senior year of high school in 2011. Montgomery took the first two pitches for balls, then a called strike, a ball, and another called strike to even the count. Nova came in with his sixth consecutive fastball but it missed low, walking the Yankees’ pitcher for his first free pass of the 2017 season.

Nova got out of the inning without any further issue. He wound up going seven innings, giving up a lone run on four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts, lowering his ERA to an even 2.00.