9 volt

The next hot PED? How about electrical currents to the brain?

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This is fun. And by “fun” I mean it has all of the makings of a hilarious ethical battle in professional sports at some point.

It’s from Outside Magazine, and describes a new technique that could dramatically enhance athletic performance. It’s called transcranial direct current stimulation, and it’s basically giving your brain a little shock in an effort to bypass the central regulator which most researchers believe we all have. Once that central regulator is down, your brain won’t shut your body down when you’re fatigued. You’ll just keep going.

Here’s how it works:

tDCS is disarmingly—almost disturbingly—simple: you connect a voltage source (a 9-volt battery will do) to two electrodes placed on opposite sides of your head. The precise placement of the electrodes determines which regions of your brain the current flows through. As it passes, the current changes the excitability of the neurons in the affected region, making them slightly easier to trigger (or harder, depending on which direction the current flows). Edwards and Putrino’s primary interest in tDCS is to help patients recover from brain and spinal cord injuries—but “rehab and high-intensity training are not as different as people believe,” Putrino says. “Whether you’re a high-end athlete or a patient fighting locked-in syndrome, you’re dealing with the same limitations of muscle fatigue.”

 

The ethical part of all of this will be fun. As the article notes, it tDCS doesn’t give you more power or performance, really. It just unlocks what you’re capable of doing already, breaking down a barrier. Much in the same way a good trainer can train you to fight through pain and fatigue to get that extra bit of oomph. But because it’s new and weird, I assume people will fall into the old PED arguments rather than actually look at the science of it all and see if it works and what the pros and cons are.

(thanks to Will Carroll for the heads up)

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.