Sunday, September 16, 2007

500 Homerun Club Waterdowned?

3 players have joined the 500 Homerun Club this year. That has never happened before. If it was not for an injury to Gary Sheffield and a slow season for Manny Ramirez, it could have easily been 5.

The 500 Homerun Club is no longer an automatic invitation to the Hall of Fame. Just ask Mark McGwire. Some writers did not vote for him because of the steriod issue hovering over his head, some said his only stat worth noting was his homeruns and they were not enough to earn a vote for the hall.

There will be at least 3 players in the 500 Homerun Club who will not get into the Hall of Fame; Mark McGwire, Rafeal Palmerio and Sammy Sosa. Jim Thome is border line right now, but seeing that he will play several more years, his numbers should be able to carry him into the hall. Maybe not as a first timer, but he should get into the hall within his first 3 years of eligibility.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Steroid use in Baseball

The question of steroid use in baseball has been an ongoing issue for Major League Baseball since the mid 1990s and into the 21st century. Steroids are performance-enhancing drugs which have been banned from baseball.

While rumors of drug use by players have persisted for years, the controversy over steroids has grown considerably due to the drastic rise in home runs since 1995. During this time Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds have all surpassed the home run record set by Roger Maris - whose 61 homers in 1961 had not been challenged in over 30 years.

"The Steroids Era"
In a 2002 interview with ESPN's Dan Patrick, baseball author and commentator Bob Costas referred to 1994-present as the "Steroids Era", noting that while there had been only eighteen 50+ home run seasons in Major League Baseball to that point, there have been nineteen since the 1995 season. While there are many theories to explain the dramatic increase in home runs, including the "juiced ball" theory, the replacement of many pitcher-friendly or neutral parks with more hitter-friendly venues, and dilution of the pitching ranks via expansion — drug use, especially steroids, is most commonly named as a primary reason.

Several players have come forward in recent years to argue that drug use is rampant in baseball. Notably: David Wells, who stated that "25 to 40 percent of all Major Leaguers are juiced". José Canseco stated on 60 Minutes and in his book Juiced that as many as 85% of players used steroids, and that he credited steroid use for his entire career. Ken Caminiti revealed that he won the 1996 NL MVP award while on steroids.

Former major league pitcher Tom House spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005, admitting to steroid use during his playing career and claiming that use of steroids was already widespread in baseball by the time he started his professional career in the late 1960s.

Effects on Health
On February 17, 2003, Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Steve Bechler collapsed and died on the practice field at spring training of heat stroke. The medical examiner ruled that the over-the-counter drug Ephedra played a significant role in Bechler's death. One week later, Bud Selig banned all players with minor league contracts from using Ephedra. Major League players were not held to the same rules.

Former player Ken Caminiti, the 1996 National League MVP, detailed the health consequences he suffered as a result of his steroid use, telling Sports Illustrated that "his testicles shrank and retracted; doctors found his body had virtually stopped producing its own testosterone and that his level of the hormone had fallen to 20% of normal." Caminiti would later die as a direct result of substance abuse.

Chase for 62
During the 1998 season, Sosa and McGwire competed in an epic race to set the home run mark previously set by Roger Maris. By the season's end, Sosa had eclipsed the record with 66 home runs while McGwire set the single season record by crushing 70 baseballs out of the ballpark. While the chase proved to be a watershed event in baseball's recovery following the 1994 players strike, both players were also dogged by suspicion over their use of supplements—In McGwire's case, androstenedione and in Sosa's case creatine.

The next year the two were in a similar race and McGwire hit 65 homers and Sosa 63. By 2001 Bonds was hitting home runs at an incredible pace. Bonds would break McGwire's record by hitting 73 homeruns. It seemed unlikely to many observers that he could continue hitting home runs at such a pace at his age (Bonds turned 37 during the 2001 season) without some sort of supplementary help.

Congressional Investigation
The nutrition center BALCO, was accused of distributing steroids to many star players, most notably Bonds. Baseball has attempted to toughen its drug policy, beginning a plan of random tests to players. Players such as Ryan Franklin and others were handed suspensions as short as ten days. However, a Congressional panel continued to argue that the penalties were not tough enough, and took action.

Many top players, including Rafael Palmeiro, McGwire, Sosa, Canseco and Curt Schilling were summoned on March 17, 2005 to testify in front of Congress. During the session, Canseco admitted his steroid use which he claims was perfectly acceptable during the 1980s and early 90's. Palmeiro denied all steroid use during his career, while McGwire refused to discuss the issue, repeatedly stating "I'm not here to discuss the past."

Palmeiro, who was listed in Canseco's book as a user along with McGwire, denied Canseco's claims and told Congress that those claims were absolutely erroneous and that he had never had relations with Jose. The committee had stated that baseball had failed to confront the problems of performance-enhancing drugs. The committee was disturbed by the accepted use of steroids by athletes because it created a bad persona of players who in many cases are role models to many of the aspiring youth. During the testimonies the players called to Congress offered their condolences for youthful athletes who had committed suicide after using performance-enhancing drugs.

Five months after the Congressional hearing, Palmeiro tested positive for steroids.

BALCO scandal
During this period matts trainer, Greg Anderson and BALCO head Victor Conte (also connected to Jason Giambi and Canseco), were not subpoenaed in California by the House Committee for investigation. By the end of the 2005 season Bonds had hit 708 career home runs, only 6 away from passing Babe Ruth as the second all-time leader in home runs and closing in on Hank Aaron's record of 755 career home runs.

As a result of pressure from Congress, baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association began applying stricter regulations and applied a zero tolerance policy in correspondence to performance enhancing drugs. On August 1, 2005, Palmeiro tested positive for performing enhancing substances and was suspended ten days.[9] Once thought to be a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of only four players to have both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, Palmeiro's legacy has now been called into question. Palmeiro's career would quickly die as he would retire soon after his suspension was lifted.

The Bonds controversy continues as he races for Aaron's home run record. The media continues to pressure Bonds with questions over the issue. In 2006, the book Game of Shadows was published offering unsourced claims that since Bonds' trainer was providing performance enhancers to his other athletes that he also provided Bonds with steroids. Bonds had admitted that he did use a clear substance and lotion given to him by his trainer but had no idea that they were any sort of performance enhancers. Bonds claimed that to his knowledge that the substances given to him were legal to treat his arthritis.

2006 Baseball Steroids Investigation
On March 29, 2006, ESPN learned that former Senator and Disney chairman George J. Mitchell will head an investigation into past steroid use by Major League Baseball players, including San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds. Mitchell was appointed by baseball commissioner Bud Selig in the wake of controversy over the book Game of Shadows, which chronicles alleged extensive use of performance-enhancing drugs, including several different types of steroids and growth hormone by Bonds. Selig has acknowledged that the book, by way of calling attention to the issue, is in part responsible for the league's decision to commission an independent investigation.

Selig did not refer to Bonds by name in announcing the investigation, and many past and present players will be investigated. Mitchell will take on a role similar to that of John Dowd, who investigated Pete Rose's alleged gambling in the late 1980s.

On June 6, 2006, Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Jason Grimsley's home was searched by federal agents. He later admitted to using human growth hormone, steroids, and amphetamines. According to court documents, Grimsley failed a baseball drug test in 2003 and allegedly named other current and former players who also used drugs. On June 7, 2006 he was released by the Diamondbacks, reportedly at his own request.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Intro to Pitching Analysis

Over the last 20 years, -Pitchers have been affected in many ways. So it becomes very difficult to compare today's pitchers to the historic records. But comparing pitching has always been difficult. The greatest hitting record, home runs, will fall. But the most wins will probably never be broken. 500 wins? Never. 400 wins? Probably not. Even 30 in a season is probably not possible anymore.

What has muddied the water for pitching stats?
1. Hitters juicing
2. Pitchers juicing
3. Smaller ballparks
4. Expansion
5. Coors Field (home run era)
6. Coors Field (humidor era)
7. Night games
8. Further travel
9. Evolution of bats
10. Tighter wound balls
11. 5 man rotations
12. Larger pitching staffs
13. Middle relief
14. Closers
15. The DH

Sammy Sosa, *600 Home Run Club Member?

So Slammin' Sammy Sosa is only 2 home runs shy of becoming the 5th member of the exclusive "600 Home Run Club." Sammy was not helped as much as Bonds by new ballparks, Sammy played most of his career in the historic Wrigly Field. But it has appeared that Sammy gained strength thru unconventional (and illegal) methods. There are more than rumors about how did Sammy get so big. Anabolic steroids? There is no concrete proof, but the signs have been very clear.

Sosa found other ways to cheat to hit more home runs. In June 3rd of 2003, Sammy Sosa was ejected from a Chicago Cubs vs Tampa Bay Devil Rays game in the first inning when umpires discovered he had been using a corked bat. Major League Baseball confiscated and tested 76 of Sosa's other bats after his ejection; all were found to be clean, with no cork. 5 bats he had sent to the Hall of Fame in past years were also tested, and were all clean as well Sosa stated that he had accidentally used the corked bat, which he claimed he only used during batting practice and/or home run contests. Sosa was suspended for eight games on account of the corked bat. However, the suspension was reduced to seven games after appeal on June 11.

If Sosa was never juiced, he could not have hit over 60 homers in three seasons, even 40 would have been a stretch for a lean Sosa. 260 home runs can be removed from his career total to remove the impact of the alleged juicing. That would put him at 338 as of the end of May 2007. A good 262 short of joining the 600 home run club.

600 Home Run Club Members
1. Hank Aaron
*Barry Bonds - removed due to cheating
2. Babe Ruth
3. Willie Mays

The next expected player to join the 600 home run club (w/o cheating) is Ken Griffey JR who currently is 26 shy of joining. Griffey's numbers will be put into a historical perspective because of playing in a hitter's friendly Great American Ballpark.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Single Season Home Run Record

In 2001, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants hit 73 home runs. It is no secret that Pac Bell was designed with a short fence to right field to intice Bonds to play for the Giants thru his prime.

What would have happened in 2001 if the Giants still played at Candlestick Park? Or, what if Pac Bell was not designed for Bonds, what if the wall in right was deeper?

Pac Bell is only 309 feet to right. Candlestick was 330 feet to right. Bonds had 12 home runs at home that was between 309 and 330 feet. So if the Giants would have continued playing in Candlestick thru 2001, Barry Bonds would have only hit 61, tying the original asterisk home run record by Roger Maris.

If Pac Bell was built deeper to right (like it should have been), Bonds would not be the single season home run record holder. If it was 320 feet, Bonds would have hit 68 home runs, 61 at 330 feet, and 58 at 340 feet.

I don't want to give the single season home run record back to McGwire (for other reasons that will be discussed in a future blog), nor should it go to his Dominican counterpart Sammy Sosa for the same reason. Therefore, the single season home run records goes back to the 1961 season when Roger Maris broke the record by hitting 61. See below for adjusted leaders.

Single Season Home Run Leaders
*Barry Bonds (73 in 2001) - Disqualified
*Mark McGwire (70 in 1998) - Disqualified
*Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998) - Disqualified
*Mark McGwire (65 in 1999) - Disqualified
*Sammy Sosa (64 in 2001) - Disqualified
*Sammy Sosa (63 in 1999) - Disqualified
1. Roger Maris (61 in 1961) - Reinstated as the Home Run record
2. Babe Ruth (60 in 1927)
3. Babe Ruth (59 in 1921)

Intro to Stadium Analysis

New stadiums have had a huge impact on baseball stats. Stadiums like the Polo Ground and its 460 foot center field wall are long gone. Now 400 feet to center is considered deep.

The first generation of baseball stadiums built in the 1920's were built with large field to maximize the amount of people who can sit first row at the games. The larger the field the better. Home runs were not an issue because the dead-ball era was just a couple years ago. Home runs were a new thing, and not as popular as today.

The second generation of baseball stadiums, multi-purpose stadiums that took over the country in the 1960's and 70's, were also large because they had to have a field large enough to be used for football and baseball. The outfield wall was usually round and symmetrical, it was not designed for hitters, it was designed out of a necessity of the multi-use.

The 90's saw the demise of astro turf and multi-purpose stadiums. What came next was a wave of retro stadiums that maximized home runs.

It all started with Camden Yards in Baltimore. It was so popular, that many franchises followed suit with a throw-back stadium of their own. But Camden Yards was not perfect. After only one season, Camden Yards was deemed too large, not enough home runs were being hit. So the left field wall was brought in to increase the amount of homers. Other franchises learned from the mistake, and built smaller stadiums.

One franchise did not learn; the Detroit Tigers. They build a pitcher friendly stadium. This did not impress the Tigers franchise player acquired before the 2000 season, Juan Gonzalez. The Tigers had acquired Juan from the Rangers in hopes that he would make the Tigers contenders in their first season in Comerica Park. Juan was in the last season of his contract, and the Tigers had hoped to sign him to a long-term contract. He was offered a 6 year $120 million contract. He turned it down, stating he would only stay if they brought in the walls. The Tigers management balked, and Juan walked. After another season in a stadium with limited home runs, Tigers management decided to bring in the left field wall by 25 feet. The right field bullpen was moved from right field to left, and the old right field bullpen was turned into additional seating.

Most other stadiums built after the 1990's were made for hitters. Pac Bell in San Francisco was built with a short right field fence for slugger Barry Bonds. This proved to be a fan favorite in California. But this has had a huge impact on the record books. Bonds has gone on to set a new single season record for homers, and is only 10 shy of tying Hank Aaron for the all-time records.

My first analysis will be on the impact of Pac Bell on the single season home run record. Bonds will not be the owner of the single season home run record without the short right field fence customized for him.


This blog will give me the forum to discuss the evolution of baseball records. There have been lots of impacts on the stats since the start of the 90's; steroids, smaller ballparks, expansion, etc.

Thru a statistical analysis program, I will examine what would have happened if the stadiums did not change, if steroids did not exist, and so on. There are numerous different scenarios.