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July 23, 2013

Overthinking It

Ryan Braun, Biogenesis, and Betrayal

by Ben Lindbergh

Baseball Prospectus has no house style on performance-enhancing drugs, the way we do about, say, punctuation (unspaced em-dash only, please). We haven’t taken an internal poll and decided to condone or condemn PEDs, and we don’t issue an official stance on steroids as part of the author orientation process. But a site devoted to the pursuit of objective knowledge about baseball tends to attract a group of authors who’ve independently developed similar feelings about certain subjects—from batting order to the sacrifice bunt—and so much of our coverage of baseball’s PED problem over the years has held true to a few first principles:

  1. An out-of-character statistical performance, or a muscular body, doesn’t constitute a smoking gun. Breakout seasons by players from Jose Bautista to Chris Davis have elsewhere spawned cookie-cutter “You have to ask the question” columns, in which Author X oh-so-reluctantly wonders whether Player Y is on something. But you don’t really have to ask the question, unless some real evidence arises.

  2. Even if PED use can be proven, its effects can be tough to pin down. “PED” is a term that applies to any number of substances whose performance-enhancing capabilities in baseball are unclear. If Melky Cabrera tests positive for PEDs in the midst of a career year, it doesn’t mean that the testosterone he took was responsible for the entirety of the difference between his seasonal stats and career averages. It could be he had a career year because he was 27, an age at which players often peak, or because he had a high BABIP made out of extra singles. Have PEDs helped some users become better at baseball? Sure, that seems safe to say. But have they helped all users, or helped all users to an equal extent? We can speculate, but beyond pointing out that PEDs don’t make every player who takes them a superstar, we can’t draw conclusions without leaving our commitment to objective knowledge about baseball behind.

  3. Baseball players are people, and people—given sufficient incentive—sometimes do dishonest things. We all learn this lesson the hard way, either by reflecting on our own actions or by observing the actions of others, long before we find out that a baseball player failed a PED test, possibly even after proclaiming his own innocence. And while we’d all like to protect our children from life’s little unpleasantries, they’ll learn the same lesson themselves on the playground, or in the classroom, or when someone screws them over to get a bigger dorm room in their sophomore-year housing selection process (not that I’m still bitter about that).

At various points, BP’s wait-and-see, innocent-until-there’s-some-actual-evidence stance on steroids has led to its authors being labeled PED apologists. I prefer to think of those of us who’ve heard that refrain as PED pragmatists. It’s not that we want to see some players enjoy an unfair advantage over others, or to escape punishment for breaking baseball’s rules. It’s that we accept that baseball has never been completely clean or aboveboard, and that human nature—here in the uncivilized 21st century, at least—demands that it must be so.

That said: no one likes being lied to. And so many of us, like many of you and many of his teammates, aren’t big fans of Ryan Braun right now.

In light of Braun’s Monday suspension, his performance in the press conference he gave last February, after winning an appeal of a 2011 positive test on chain-of-custody grounds, serves as a more effective indictment of his character than any spittle-flecked, one-sentence-per-paragraph column could. Braun portrayed himself as an innocent victim, a “wrong man” right out of Hitchcock who was fingered for a crime he didn’t commit. He toyed with our emotions and our sympathies, describing how he’d been “attacked” and had his name “dragged through the mud.” He told us that he’d conducted himself “with honor, with integrity, with class, with dignity, and with professionalism,” and that he’d “put the best interests of the game ahead of the best interests of myself.” He cited “the morals, the values, the virtues” that made it impossible for him to have taken what the test said he took. He implied that the man who collected his test sample, Dino Laurenzi, Jr., had at best been bad at his job and at worst had done something to tamper with the test results.

And less than a year and a half later, presumably faced with evidence of involvement with the Biogenesis clinic that one of Jon Heyman’s sources described as “receipts, checks, the whole nine yards,” he accepted a 65-game suspension rather than appeal and insist on his innocence again.

Braun doesn’t deserve a pardon from the public. Feel free to burn your Braun jersey, or boycott the Brewers when he returns in 2014, or oppose his eventual Hall of Fame candidacy if you think the Hall is something more than a museum or a place to put plaques about players with good statistics.

But we don’t need another round of articles full of faux—or even real—rage about how a professional athlete killed Santa Claus. We know more about Ryan Braun than we did before this suspension, but we don’t know more about human nature. And most of us can’t say with certainty whether—if faced with the same pressures and incentives that Braun was—we would have done what he did in pursuit of a $100 million extension, or owned up to it afterward if we felt that we had a good chance to get away with it. Let those among us who haven’t broken a rule or lied about something to get ahead or save their skins cast the first accusatory column.

Despite what some have suggested, Braun doesn’t owe us an in-person apology more specific than the “I have made some mistakes” and “I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed” in his statement. You could argue that regardless of any obligation, a public apology might be in Braun’s best interest, but even that seems like a stretch, since nothing he could say would restore his reputation now. Apologies aren’t worth the pixels they’re printed on unless they’re sincere and accompanied by behavioral change, and we have little reason to believe that any apology Braun could offer would be anything but insincere, except in the sense that he doubtless does wish that he hadn’t been caught. An apology would only provide another opportunity to bash Braun for failing to apologize earlier.

When the first report that he and other players might face suspensions surfaced last month, Braun made a cryptic, technically true comment that hinted at his innocence without outright reaffirming it: “The truth has not changed.” That’s essentially how I feel about the state of PED use in baseball in the wake of Braun’s suspension. One thing we know—that players will seek to exploit any extralegal edge, whether it’s a corked bat, a scuffed or spit-covered ball, amphetamines, or testosterone (of both the synthetic and monkey-made varieties)—hasn’t changed. And another thing we know—that Major League Baseball, belatedly or not, is doing its best to stop the exploitation of those extralegal edges from eroding fan confidence in a relatively clean competition—hasn’t changed, either.

***

  • Way back in January, when we were still wondering how to pronounce "Biogenesis," Sam Miller and I took to Effectively Wild to discuss what seemed at the time to be the prevailing reaction to the revelations: that baseball needed to impose harsher penalties for PED users. I argued that the fact that we knew about the Biogenesis story at all was a sign that baseball was cracking down, and that its efforts were working. This morning, Ken Rosenthal wrote the same thing about Braun's suspension, and he's right. Braun's PED use isn't the story anyone would want all over the headlines as the second half starts. But his suspension isn't a setback. It's a success.

  • As others have pointed out, by accepting a suspension without pay for the 65 games remaining on Milwaukee’s schedule this season, Braun precludes the possibility of serving an even longer suspension for the same offense next season. He also saves himself some cash, even over a suspension of equal or shorter length, since he’ll be making $2 million more in 2014.

  • One wonders whether the Brewers being out of contention (and Braun being a bit banged up) made his decision to serve the suspension now any easier. Several other players linked to Biogenesis—Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Bartolo Colon, and Jhonny Peralta, among others—play for teams whose playoff hopes would take a hit if they were removed from the roster.

  • If Rodriguez is one of the next players to be suspended, his 2009 TV interview and press conference comments, in which he blamed his 2001-2003 steroid use on youth, immaturity, and not knowing any better, won’t play much better than Braun’s denials. If you deny your usage—with or without a finger wag—and subsequently get busted, or use again after admitting and expressing remorse about a previous transgression, there’s no playing your way back into most fans’ good graces.

  • In light of this uncontested suspension, complaints about an MLB “witch hunt” with respect to Braun sound a little silly. The problem with witch hunts is that if your search is successful, it means that you’ve found a false positive. That’s not the case here. MLB may have gone to great—and perhaps unseemly—lengths to bring Braun to justice (so to speak), but they got their man, and Braun’s capitulation seems to suggest that Anthony Bosch was a more credible source than many reports suggested. It would be nice if MLB could simply trust the process in place and not work outside the system, now that players are routinely tested. But since players have found ways to skirt the system, the league has to do the same if it wants to discourage other stars from paying for banned substances from future shady anti-aging clinics.

  • On the day that Braun’s suspension went into effect, the LA Times reported that the NFL and the NFL Players Association are once again talking about testing for human growth hormone, as they have been for the past two years. MLB and the MLBPA agreed to in-season HGH tests in January. Research about HGH’s performance-enhancing powers for pro athletes isn’t conclusive, but give baseball credit for checking off as many PED-testing boxes as possible. Maybe it’s not the best look for baseball writers when we use another revelation about baseball juicing to whine about why football, despite all the big bodies and debilitating injuries, gets a PED pass. But the sport isn’t subjected to the same scrutiny, which definitely seems like a double standard.

  • Kudos to the Players Union, too, for not pushing Braun to fight the suspension. Last week, Union head Michael Weiner said, "I can tell you, if we have a case where there really is overwhelming evidence that a player committed a violation of the program our fight is going to be that they make a deal. We’re not interested in having players with overwhelming evidence that they violated the (drug) program out there. Most of the players aren’t interested in that. We’d like to have a clean program." Braun's suspension seems to back up his statement. You can't claim that the Union is more interested in protecting its members from punishment than it is in making sure its members are clean.

  • If you’re sick of Biogenesis, brace yourself for even messier stories on the horizon. It’s already difficult to draw a philosophical line between banned PEDs and now-routine procedures like PRP or LASIK, to say nothing of non-prescription painkillers or surgeries that work better than ever before. Wait until the real science fiction stuff—genetically modified athletes and Base Wars-style cyborgs—works its way into baseball. Making distinctions between banned and permitted procedures isn’t going to get any easier.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

54 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

DetroitDale

Yes, I'm tired of Biogenesis, I'm tired of PED talk, but you know what I'm more tired of? Seeing the name of a confirmed PED user at the top of both the season and career home run lists, without even an asterisk, and nothing we can do about it. I'm sick of seeing a whole decade of play marked as the "steroid era" because MLB buried it's head on the issue and had to be shamed by Congress to clean up its act. Say what you will about Bud Lightweight and I've said plenty, He and the rest of MLB management should be congratulated for addressing the issue now, because burying the head in the sand because "nobody wants to talk about it" will only make things worse later.

While I found the article generally a fair and balanced summary of the issue, I have to take issue with point 2. Saying that you don't know if a PED use actually affected a player's performance is like saying we don't know Pete Rose's gambling caused him to act in appropriately while he was managing the Reds.

Jul 23, 2013 07:03 AM
rating: -2
 
SC

Are you also tired of a convicted tax cheat and known gambler at the top of the hit list? A reknown racist and generally horrible human being at the top of the career BA list? Known cheaters Perry and Niekro in the Hall of Fame? What about known performance enhancing drug users like Joe Morgan, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron?

Saying that you do know a PED actually affected a player's performance is like saying you know that buying your kid shoes made him run faster. It's possible, but not proven, correlation is not causation, and there are loads of mediocre to poor players on the suspended list for whom PEDs did not obviously enhance their performance, so your claim of certainty lacks the evidence it needs to be validated.

That's the whole problem with the reductiveness of the PED debate, it isn't as simple as "stick this in your butt and you'll hit 50 HR."

Jul 23, 2013 08:13 AM
rating: 5
 
Synchronik

I'm not arguing either side of the "effects of PED" debate, but there's a difference between "this user of PEDs is at the top of the home run list" and "this racist or tax cheat is at the top of the home run list." PEDs, at least in theory, have an impact on what's actually being measured by the home run list; cheating on your taxes or being a racist do not.

Jul 23, 2013 08:35 AM
rating: 10
 
SC
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Well, Cobb certainly benefitted from his racism, and it's reasonable to argue that the pervasiveness of his beliefs perpetuated the segregation that inflated his and all other white players' numbers during the era.

And you've of course ignored the point about the widespread PED use in previous eras as well as the illegal ball doctoring.

Jul 23, 2013 09:58 AM
rating: -4
 
andrews

"and there are loads of mediocre to poor players on the suspended list for whom PEDs did not obviously enhance their performance"

But how bad would they have been if they hadn't taken PED's?
If we can't quantify the benefits of PED's then we also can't say that taking PED's didn't help these guys because we can never know how bad they would have been if they were clean.

You can't have it both ways.

Jul 26, 2013 06:57 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

"At various points, BP’s wait-and-see, innocent-until-there’s-some-actual-evidence stance on steroids has led to its authors being labeled PED apologists."

Ya think ... I posted this years ago at this site because it covered just about every excuse used by various BP writers and posters ....

The apologist's Bible ...

1. Steroids have no effect upon performance.
2. The effect of steroids can't be quantified.
3. Even if the effect of steroids could be quantified on an individual basis, there is no way to quantify the effect across MLB.
4. Even if we could quantify the effect across MLB, the numbers of users is so small that its not worth worrying about.
5. Even if the numbers of users was large enough to make a difference, both pitchers and hitters were users, so the effect is a wash to the game.
6. Even if steroids did have an effect on the game, isn't it better for the game if we just turn the page and move on?
7. Who Cares?

"We haven’t taken an internal poll and decided to condone or condemn PEDs, and we don’t issue an official stance on steroids as part of the author orientation process."

Maybe not, but I've saved a lot of past articles by many prominent BP authors that would only reinforce that 'head-in-the-sand' notion.

Five things have changed here.

1. MLB has been proactive here when it could have simply declared the current testing program has put the problem to bed. As the previous poster noted, this might be Bud's shining moment.

2. MLB has applied penalties outside those for failed tests as agreed to in the labor agreement.

3. The union has agreed not to fight those penalties outside the agreement.

4. The early leak of this information has allowed the rank and file of the union to express its feeling on the matter (which the union has rarely considered in these matters).

5. Braun becomes only the 2nd player (other than Giambi) to admit to using PEDs. There is a confirmed user and his performance did rise to an MVP quality.

Lastly congratulations to all those that have suffered the scorn of the PED apologist throughout the years. We didn't get to this point in our understanding of the problem because of any single person's actions but as the result of the cumulative efforts of many who were ridiculed along the way.

The writer that noticed the jars in McGwire's locker.

The Mitchell Report.

The congressional hearings.

Jose Canseco

The investigative reports by two SF writers into Barry Bonds.

The leak of the 104.

Brain McNamee

All were ridiculed as a waste of time but all contributed in their own way to our understanding of the problem in an incremental way.

Do we know all the answers?

No, but we'd know a lot less than we do now if everyone had accepted the Apologist's Bible.



Jul 23, 2013 08:21 AM
rating: 1
 
danteswitness

It's not the job of writers of a primarily analysis-based website to do investigative reporting regarding the use of PEDs in baseball, so "head in the sand" is just an intentionally and incorrectly insulting way of putting it. Writers on this site are constantly doing research and analysis into new ways of looking at stats or subjects and whenever someone feels that they have missed a calculation or used one formula when they could have used another, they are criticized for it. If they are criticized on the analysis they feel confident in publishing, why would they go ahead and write a bunch of masses-feeding nonsense about the statistical effect on PEDs in baseball when they have no numbers to back them up?

I'd argue that we have no more answers now than we did before. We already knew that Braun and Rodriguez had used PEDs, so what has really changed so much that you feel the need to insult a group of writers (many of whom weren't even here when the PED backlash first began)?

Jul 23, 2013 08:39 AM
rating: 5
 
Eddie

I don't think he was insulting anyone in particular. The author opened with a reference to BP's past positions on the subject, so I think the comment was an appropriate response.

Jul 23, 2013 09:03 AM
rating: 5
 
eliyahu

SC, of course it's not that simple. But there is an element of human nature at work here. Players don't go to incredible lengths to cheat and deny cheating if they don't think it gives them a potentially career-altering advantage. Now, one can say that just because all these players think it helps them doesn't make it so. But if the vast majority of players -- whether they use PEDs or they want PEDS out of the game -- believe that this gives PED users an advantage, I think it's a little indignant to claim otherwise because the code hasn't been cracked yet as to isolating the exact extent to which PEDs help each individual.

(Note: My "idignant" comment isn't meant for SC specifically but rather to the "apologist/pragmatists" in general....:))

Jul 23, 2013 08:22 AM
rating: 9
 
lmarighi

If I felt like my chance of putting my name in the HoF or getting millions of dollars in my next contract could be improved, whether there was evidence or not, I would be tempted to do it. It's easy enough to see it as a risk that is worth it, and if you think you can't get caught (and I imagine that most players who choose to use PEDs think they can't get caught), the worst that happens is that you are as good as before. So I think arguing that the perception of the players suggests PEDs is effective is pretty silly. They also seem to think they won't get caught, and that doesn't seem to always be true either, does it?

Jul 24, 2013 13:26 PM
rating: -1
 
jayman4

That is all fine, but while this "wait and see" approach can be defended, it is an important issue in baseball that tends to get short shrift because, historically, it has been seen as "pro-owner/anti-player" to push for cleaning up baseball. The other issue is the effect of differences in spending capacity across baseball, ignored for the same reason.

True, we don't really know how well they work, but they seem to work for power. Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Caminiti, Rodriquez all had remarkable power surges, all were strongly implicated (or admitted the use) with PED.

I assume they work and create a strong incentives to take them. The fact that they are still being used, despite their side effects, says quite a bit. I am sympathetic to the pressures those create. Yes, it is disappointing when a player is caught but shrill condemnation seems myopic. Would the condemner make a different choice given similar trade offs? I bet a lot of these people are aggressive on their tax returns but don't judge themselves so harshly.

The comparison to LASIK is not fair. Things that enhance performance but do not have detrimental side effects seem reasonable for players. PED's do not fall into that category. Eating well, having a strict exercise regimen and studying video probably also enhance performance but no one is arguing against prohibiting those.

The best response seems to be to adopt an extremely stringent testing regimen. You can argue about the severity of penalties, but rigorous testing will improve incentives to be clean. And as the use base shrinks, the users will be more isolated, further diminishing the incentives.

And please start analyzing the effects of spending on baseball. I feel many articles get into microscopic minutia of baseball (e.g. should the manager bunt with no outs on the road before the 8th inning in close game at night?) while ignoring a factor that has a huge impact on which teams are perennial playoff contenders.

Jul 23, 2013 09:34 AM
rating: 4
 
Ameer

"Things that enhance performance but do not have detrimental side effects seem reasonable for players."

There are arguments that some of the side effects of hormone treatments and hgh are not as detrimental or as long term as many people think they are when taken "properly" and under supervision.

I'm not arguing for either side here because I don't have enough knowledge on the subject. But this is the point the author is making when he references LASIK. It's quite possible that some of the banned substances used by these players will eventually become commonplace in medicine after more research and testing. And then comparisons to LASIK, etc won't seem so off-base.

Again, please don't blast me for defending these substances. I have heard arguments for the safe use of these procedures but, to be honest, I don't know enough to be able to judge those arguments on my own.

Jul 23, 2013 10:02 AM
rating: 3
 
jayman4

I have heard this advocated before, mainly by Joe Sheehan. I do not know the medical details to say whether or not in correct dosages they can be safely used. Even if they can, it seems a counter-intuitive path to go down if you are serious about testing. Presumably developing rigorous testing that can distinguish between allowed levels of certain substances and excessive, detrimental levels would be much harder than a test just looking for the presence of the substance. And it would also presumably seem much easier test to combat, arguing the presence that showed up was the product of legitimate use vs. illegitimate.

Also, given the potential health risks, why allow them in lower dosages? It is not a though the game, in aggregate, needs the athletes to be stronger. If there is a desired shift desired in the game, such as if baseball wants more offense, perhaps change the park dimensions or allow more powerful bats, etc. rather than let the players "safely juice".

Jul 23, 2013 14:41 PM
rating: 0
 
Dodger300

So you advocate an absolutist approach, while rejecting any inquiry which might reveal whether the science supports or discredits ones predetermined position.

That sure sounds like the "Reefer Madness" approach to the issue.

Why not just ban it, freak out, and preach that everyone will go crazy and blind? All the while losing any credibility whatsoever?

That sure has been extremely successful in eliminating the use of marijuana in America, correct?

Jul 24, 2013 01:22 AM
rating: 0
 
cmaczkow

Great comment, but I think you need to increase the penalties in addition to more stringent testing. As they say, the users are always a step ahead of the testers in their ability to mask these things. You need to strengthen both sides of the "What if I get caught?" part of the equation: both increasing the chance they get caught, and increasing the punishment for getting caught.

My own opinion is that the incentives to cheat still clearly outweigh the risks of getting caught and the potential punishment. More (and varied) testing would help, as would harsher penalties: 2 years for the first offense and out of the game thereafter.

I completely agree that baseball should be commended for its progress, and it's clearly the leader in this area among the major sports. Now it's time to take the next step. The thought that Braun is coming back next year to a coll $100 million guaranteed absolutely sickens me.

Jul 23, 2013 10:26 AM
rating: 1
 
Noel Steere
(965)

Let's put it this way: There's better evidence that a combination of a juiced ball and not calling the high strike was responsible for the late '90s early '00s spike.

I took a little stroll through the stats of some famous users and non-users, as best we can tell. The problem is that "non-user" gets tainted with the merest whiff of speculation. Nonetheless I think it's safe to say that players who were notoriously apathetic to working out like Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey, Jr. can be put in the "non-user" category: Another trait of the gnashing of teeth about steroids is that it's assumed that you don't need to do anything but take them to receive any benefits, like Popeye eating a can of spinach, when in fact it merely enables you to work out harder and with less recovery time. So players who don't work out either aren't using or won't receive any benefit.

Anyway, you generally see the same trend with the "users" (Bonds, McGwire, Sosa) that you see with the "non-users" (Thomas, Griffey): Increased HR/AB ratios during years that the HR/AB ratio increased leaguewide, and in similar proportions. The exception is Sosa, but his BB rate spiked pretty substantially when his HR rate spiked in '98, so it's hard to say it was purely an athletic improvement when it's clear his approach at the plate changed as well.

Also, I wouldn't say LASIK is risk-free. Inability to make my own tears? I'll stick to my contacts, thanks.

Jul 23, 2013 17:25 PM
rating: 2
 
anderson721

Re the last point. I have never understood why so many fans act as though the current types of PEDs are so evil, while totally excusing the widespread use of amphetamines in earlier days. Just as illegal, just as dangerous to one's health. I don't look forward to the "messier" stories on the way.

Jul 23, 2013 09:54 AM
rating: 7
 
stepsinsc

"He told us that he’d conducted himself 'with honor, with integrity, with class, with dignity, and with professionalism,'"

Maria Bamford joked recently that if you're dating a guy who says, "you know, I would never hit you," that you're about to get a beatdown.

Similarly, if you yourself have to say that you acted with class or integrity, then you really didn't.

Jul 23, 2013 10:05 AM
rating: 2
 
Dodger300

Agreed.

As a former investigator, I learned that the one who proclaims his innocence the loudest was often the guilty party.

Which is why I've always suspected Curt Schilling.

Jul 28, 2013 00:53 AM
rating: 0
 
zwestwood

We went over the entire "will to win" quantification issue. I understand the logic and how to quantify psychology is impossible. However, as a user of Test Cyp (see Ryan Braun) I KNOW first hand how much it can affect performance. Quantify?@#$?$%?$#%? how do you quantify going from being able to lift x weight y times? You are all brilliant statisticians and you cant find one way to quantify?! Lets quantify age 21 16 hr 22/25 23/24 24/19 25/33 26/25 27/34 28/46 29/37 (ok we are entering statistical peak here... or cant we quantify that?) 30/33 (ok we are seeing the statistically expected career decline) 31/42 32/40 33/37 34/34 (ok, last gasp right?) insert HGH/Test Cyp/Winstrol/Anavar/Deca Durabolin... and lets see the results. Lets see if we can quantifreaking fy? 35/49 (no nothing here) 36/73 (hmmm musta been babip or war or ops on balls directly hit to 2b or maybe it was space aliens time warping his balls into mccovey cove... either way there are no numbers supporting PEDs and results) 37/46 38/45 39/45 then at 40 we see the death spiral of Barry. Now I know someone has a $#!t ton more sql database skills than me, but please tell me what the liklihood of a 36-39 year old man hitting 209 home runs.

Please BP do not insult all of our intelligence by saying you can not quantify. Ask Lance to quantify, ask Ben Johnson to quantify, ask Marion Jones to quantify, ask Tim Montgomery, ask Ken Caminiti, ask Jason Giambi.

Please for the love of baseball and all that is sacred just simply say that we chose not to quantify. Not that you Can't. BP staff has a bunch of much much smarter people than me, and I can explain how we can quantify. So again, one would choose not to quantify.

Again, I have used Test Cyp (legally with perscription). I can quantify by the strength and endurance gains I made.

Logic 101...... Stronger & Faster = Swing faster, reflex faster, run faster, endurance greater, etc etc. Therfore, more games played, more hits, more HR, more stolen bases, more runners thrown out at 3rd, quicker healing time, and on and on.

OK, my rant is done. Thanks to the IRS for putting me on hold for this entire time so that I can rant.

Jul 23, 2013 10:18 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I acknowledged in the article that PEDs have helped some players get better at baseball. It's just hard to say how much. You're saying that you can quantify how much testosterone helped you because you know when you took it and what strength and endurance gains you made while you were on it. I agree that if all steroid users in baseball felt like sharing that information with us, we could do a better job of quantifying how much they were helped. But for obvious reasons, they haven't volunteered to do that.

Jul 23, 2013 10:39 AM
 
Dodger300

"...please tell me what the liklihood [sic] of a 36-39 year old man hitting 209 home runs."

Hank Aaron hit 159 HR between ages 36-39, his second best four year total, behind only the 163 he hit from ages 35-38. His best home run season ever came at age 37.

Since those numbers are also highly unlikely, I guess you can feel totally confident claiming that's proof enough for you to know Aaron juiced.

Right, zwestwood?.

Jul 28, 2013 01:11 AM
rating: 0
 
zwestwood

p.s. I am not a moralist. I see nothing morally wrong with using a PED absent rules against. However, measure results off test cyp vs. measure results on test cyp = qantifiy. Its possible.

Jul 23, 2013 10:30 AM
rating: 0
 
therealn0d

So you want BP to set up a league wide test case study with a control group? Sure, consider it done.

Listen, people, this really is an issue that has to be ignored in a statistical sense in the absence of data. Data we will never get. We will never know who took what when and for how long or in what dosage. It's analytically irresponsible to aply anectodal evidence to objective pursuits without any other data. You want a definitive analysis? Let them use whatever they want and we'll collect the data and run the analysis. Otherwise there is really no point in knee-jerk, high horse moralizing. We analyze the data we have at our disposal...there are plenty of columnists doing the other thing.

Jul 23, 2013 10:56 AM
rating: 8
 
gweedoh565

BOOM +1000

Jul 23, 2013 10:59 AM
rating: -1
 
axis95

Agreed.

Jul 23, 2013 11:44 AM
rating: 0
 
zwestwood

ok I swear I am done here, but to SC...

If you kid wears lead boots and you buy him a pair of adidas adizero featherlights, what in the living heck to you think will happen? Or cant we quantify his 100meter time????? It was likely wind aided right? Or maybe Barry Bonds was rooting him on?

Jul 23, 2013 10:33 AM
rating: -2
 
gobobbygo

I don't get it. Sure, if my kid goes from wearing lead boots to top-quality running shoes, he'll get a lot faster. But you're throwing around the word "quantify". So how much faster does he get?

Is it the difference in time between the last time he runs in lead boots and the first time he runs in adidas? Probably not. His technique is probably optimized for the boots. And any one race is not a measure of his true speed, any more than any one batted ball is a measure of a hitter's true talent. We'll need him to run a bunch of races, before and after, and then we can compare the average time. Except my kid is, well, a kid. And as kids get older they get faster. So how much of his increase in speed is due to the change in shoes and how much is due to just getting faster because he's older? Looking at just one kid, it's impossible to know. YOU CAN'T QUANTIFY HOW MUCH OF HIS INCREASE IN SPEED IS DUE TO THE SHOE CHANGE.

Further, different people will have different increases in speeds due to the shoe change. So what I find out about my kid may or may not apply to your kid.

With a lot of data, we could probably come up with some general rules on how much this shoe change helps. But:

- measuring running speed is a lot simpler than measuring playing baseball well.
- this assumes that we have a lot of good data. We can measure who's using lead shoes and when, and we can measure who's wearing adidas and when.

None of that applies to PEDs and baseball. We don't know who's using. I mean, we know some people who are using, but we certainly don't fully know who's using and who's clean. And absent that, it's extremely tough to quantify how much using PEDs actually helps.

Your analogy is about quality. Your snide comments about wind and Barry Bonds are about quality. The BP staff understand that PEDs probably CAN increase performance, they just don't know how much. And neither do you.

Jul 23, 2013 11:58 AM
rating: 8
 
zwestwood

Am I just being thick here or overly optomistic.
speed = rate/time speed is an objective measure. I can quantify speed due to shoe change. it will take a statistically significant controlled sample. but i can.

I can hit off a tee without peds 1000 times
I can hit off a tee with peds 1000 times
measure and quantify

Mitchell report seems good enough to me
Use PECOTA to measure by age and voila! What am I missing here?

I don't want BP to do anything. I just believe (maybe incorrectly ill give you) it CAN be done.

and to axis95 I thank God above every day for BP and their objective evidence based analysis of baseball. I work with two guys who are still talking clutch and will to win rubbish every day of my life.

Jul 23, 2013 13:44 PM
rating: -2
 
Behemoth

When you can provide us with a list of who has used PEDs, which PEDS they used, for how long, and how much they used, then you can get started. Until then, you're wasting your time.

Jul 23, 2013 14:13 PM
rating: 5
 
Auggie6

you thank god every day for BP? Lol. Got 99 problems but the baseball website that I like to read ain't one.

Jul 23, 2013 20:14 PM
rating: -1
 
gobobbygo

>Am I just being thick here or overly optomistic.
>speed = rate/time speed is an objective measure. I can quantify speed due ?
>to shoe change. it will take a statistically significant controlled sample. but i
>can.
Thus, "With a lot of data, we could probably come up with some general rules on how much this shoe change helps. "

>I can hit off a tee without peds 1000 times
>I can hit off a tee with peds 1000 times
>measure and quantify
And if we can properly figure out other possible influencing factors, like your age, for example, we can know how PEDs affect YOU. We can't really extrapolate that to the general population, much less world-class athletes doing something much more complicated than hitting off a tee. Especially if we don't know who's using and who's not.

>Mitchell report seems good enough to me
For what? A definitive list of who was on PEDs and who was clean?

>Use PECOTA to measure by age and voila! What am I missing here?
PECOTA is an average. There are outliers without PEDs. There are confounding factors. The ball. Improved medicine, training and nutrition lengthening people's careers and lessening the slope of the aging curve. Lots of other things.

>I don't want BP to do anything. I just believe (maybe incorrectly ill give you)
>it CAN be done.
Sure, it's possible. So, in theory is a Cubs world series victory. It's just improbable enough that it can be rounded to impossible for the short run. Your snide comments about lead shoes and Barry Bonds imply that it's feasible, and it's not.

>and to axis95 I thank God above every day for BP and their objective >evidence based analysis of baseball. I work with two guys who are still
>talking clutch and will to win rubbish every day of my life.

Jul 24, 2013 06:58 AM
rating: 2
 
Marty

How would you suggest we quantify the before and after effects, if we don't know when he changed his shoes?

So, we know now that Braun used. When did he start? What did he use? How often? Did he change substances at some point? How long were his cycles?

And, suppose during this time, he also started eating differently, stopped drinking at night, lost his girlfriend, or one of the many other things that could change your health and focus?

And, if you answer all of these, you then have to guess at what his baseline would be. It's a fool's errand.

Not quantifiable != No effect.

Jul 23, 2013 12:56 PM
rating: 3
 
zwestwood

impossible = fool's errand

famous impossibilities:

circumnavigation of globe
flight
sound barrier
sub 4 mile
going to the moon

Jul 23, 2013 13:55 PM
rating: -2
 
therealn0d

impossible? No, improbable. Please learn the difference

Jul 23, 2013 16:41 PM
rating: 2
 
zwestwood

Read. Learn how too

Jul 24, 2013 09:16 AM
rating: -2
 
axis95

This is why I am a subscriber. BP is like the math PhD on our risk team who wears sneakers and the same pants every day. No one ever tells him to conform to our dress code. We all know he doesn't give a crap about how society tells you to behave, he just comes in and builds brilliant models. On the four-letter site, there are a plethora of articles written by people I respect, bashing Braun and they actually sound hurt which is pretty lame. Boo hoo. MLB is on the right track and the players union is on the right side. I come on here for knowledge not opinions about human emotions. Leave that for idiots who still think ERA and Errors tell you everything you need to know about pitching and defense.

Jul 23, 2013 11:43 AM
rating: 6
 
CraigG

Ben: thank you for the insightful and well-written response. This is the only thoughtful, tactful, and appropriately retrospective article I have seen regarding this issue. I can always count on BP to reassure me when my head is spinning with one sentence per paragraph, morally righteous, and generally lacking thought provoking analysis. Thank you sir!

Jul 23, 2013 13:00 PM
rating: 2
 
fantasyking

It seems there are a lot of people who think you can't be into data-driven analysis, new ways of thinking and objective, rational observations while also harboring an emotionally-driven dislike of people who cheat. I disagree.

Jul 23, 2013 13:42 PM
rating: 10
 
KaiserD2

I am really sick of the argument that racism in the first half of the twentieth century in any way excuses people taking PEDs. It's a complete non sequitur, even if it were true, which it isn't, that racism inflated the statistics of the white batters of the early twentieth century.

Now this article, today, about Braun, is pretty good. And it begins by staying that BP has no party line on PEDs, which I accept. But I can't help remembering that when Braun won his appeal--when it was perfectly obvious to me that he, like, say, O.J. Simpson, was guilty--the lead article in BP--I don't remember who wrote it--was all about how Braun had been vindicated and all us wicked folk had forgotten about the presumption of innocence, etc., etc., etc. The arbitrator who made the decision to exonerate him clearly needs to be fired.

Jul 23, 2013 15:04 PM
rating: 2
 
lopkhan00

I can't be sure of which article you are referring to, but I thought it likely it is this one by Steven Goldman: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16105. If so, it does not say what you think it says - though I could understand how the sands of time might make you think so.

One clairvoyant quote: "If Braun is truly a cheat, he will slip up again."

Jul 23, 2013 17:31 PM
rating: 4
 
KaiserD2

I think that was the article, and I didn't think then and don't think now that the decision was "a triumph of due process" or for that matter that any of the Black Sox were unfairly treated. But I appreciate very much your taking the trouble to look it up.

Jul 24, 2013 10:10 AM
rating: 1
 
KaiserD2

Additional reply to some of the comments above: while it is not possible exactly to quantify the effects of PEDs, it is certainly possible to identify performances, such as Bonds's performances in his late thirties, which have no parallel whatsoever in earlier eras. So I think a sophisticated student with enough data could identify certain seasons that could not have been achieved without them.

Jul 23, 2013 16:56 PM
rating: 2
 
zwestwood

My point exactly

Jul 24, 2013 09:17 AM
rating: 0
 
zwestwood
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Never mind it's impossible. The sycophants on this site said so

Jul 24, 2013 09:19 AM
rating: -4
 
Behemoth

Could you go away and design a research project that will establish the impact of PEDs for us. Many people would really like to know.

Jul 25, 2013 03:41 AM
rating: 1
 
lmarighi

I'm with you right up to the last sentence, and then you lose me. Or perhaps I'm just not thinking broadly enough. What "data" will show that these seasons are attributable to PEDs? Or, lacking that information, how will you show the seasons "could not have been achieved without them"? I guess I still am not understanding how we can get anywhere closer than "well, these were the seasons so-and-so used, and these were his numbers", and even that requires detailed knowledge of the usage pattern which is usually not public knowledge. You can't just take, say Braun's numbers from 2012 and subtract his numbers from some "clean" season, were you even to know what is was, as you would still have many other factors that affect performance and which vary year-to-year.

Jul 24, 2013 13:36 PM
rating: 1
 
KaiserD2

If no one before 1990 ever posted numbers remotely similar in the context of their whole career, then that would be excellent evidence that a new factor had been added to the mix. Is that clear enough?

Jul 25, 2013 07:45 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt

Baseball has a long history of random huge seasons that are wildly out of line with a player's career. So you can take those late Bonds seasons as proof of PED use. I won't.

Jul 25, 2013 13:17 PM
rating: 1
 
antonsirius

"You can't claim that the Union is more interested in protecting its members from punishment than it is in making sure its members are clean."

Actually, in this case I'd make the argument that MLBPA was simply doing its job to protect its members. If a suspension was a fait accompli, then at that point the union's job would be to make sure it's the shortest, least financially damaging suspension possible. And given the rumors that were floating around about 100 games and such, they would seem to have done so.

Jul 23, 2013 17:50 PM
rating: 1
 
Auggie6

this whole comment section made me lol more than I have in a long time. I need to go read about paper airplanes again to cheer me up.

Jul 23, 2013 20:18 PM
rating: 2
 
Brady Childs

Ben Lindbergh, how'd you get screwed over with your dorm? I'm currently going through a similar process, in my sophomore year as well.

Jul 24, 2013 00:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Pretty sure it happens to everyone.

Jul 24, 2013 00:57 AM
 
MaineSkin

If I am legally allowed to obtain a substance that enhances my performance then that substance should be legal to every MLB player. No perscriptions, no steroids, but everything else is game. I do not want to see MLB regulars who do not look much better than I did at 18, so why should they not use every legal substance under Colon's belly to enhance their abilities?

Jul 24, 2013 18:42 PM
rating: 1
 
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