Why Ryan Braun's suspension isn't bad news, and other reflections on the latest in the Biogenesis saga.
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:
Now almost back to full health, the Dodgers look like the winners we thought they were.
Almost six weeks ago, Sam Miller and I spent some time talking about the four most disappointing teams of 2013: the Blue Jays, the Angels, the Dodgers, and the Nationals. Were we to have that discussion again today, at least three of those teams would still be in the discussion. The Jays got hot, then went cold again; they’re in last place, seven games under .500 and 13.5 out, and their playoff hopes are in hospice care. “Maybe we were overrated,” Mark Buehrleadmitted this weekend. “Maybe we’re not as good as we thought we were.”
The Angels have been a winning team since the start of June, but were bad enough in April that they’re still four games under, with a double-digit deficit in the AL West. And the Nationals were swept at home over the weekend, running their record to 48-50 and putting them half a game behind the Phillies. Publicly, at least, their self-esteem is still stronger than Toronto’s—“We’re a good team,” Jayson Werthsaid after the sweep—but they haven’t played much like overwhelming first-place favorites. The Nats’ Playoff Odds are down to 12.5 percent, which makes them look like a lock compared to both the Angels and the Blue Jays, whose chances have sunk to the low single digits.
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Picking the Junior Circuit players whose best or worst work is behind them.
Baseball is back, and while there’s less of it remaining than there usually is when the so-called second half starts, there’s still plenty of time for good seasons to go bad and bad seasons to get better. Mike Gianella went position-by-position in search of second-half risers and fallers from a fantasy perspective earlier this week; I’m going to go team-by team, picking an opposing pair from each roster. We’ll start with the American League, since the DH is not as clumsy or a random as a pitcher who hits; an elegant position for a more civilized age. (NL picks are here.)
What happens, statistically, when major leaguers are forced to play in the minors?
The first inspiration for this article was watching the Futures Game. We know that the Futures Game is great because it gives us a chance to see top prospects face off against top prospects. But an underrated aspect of its appeal is that it sometimes pits top prospects against much less advanced top prospects, letting us see, say, 19-year-old Dilson Herrera, who’s in A-ball, hit against 23-year-old C.J. Riefenhauser, who’s in Triple-A (Herrera flied out). Riefenhauser may not have a super high ceiling, but he’s by far the most mature pitcher Herrera has ever had to hit against. The four years and three levels of development between those two players makes a massive difference—much more than the months and the lone level that separate the Futures Game rosters’ more advanced members from the majors. (Actually, World Team member Henry Urrutia has already been called up by Baltimore.)
The second inspiration for this article was podcast questions. A few weeks ago, a Fringe Average fan asked what Miguel Cabrera would hit in the minors. Effectively Wild listeners often ask the same sort of thing. (“What would my ERA be in the majors?” wondered one formerly league-average little leaguer.) Judging by my own curiosity and the kind of questions we get, we’re all intrigued by showdowns between players of dramatically different ability.
Pairing ads with players to provide sponsors with the best bang for their buck.
As Business Insider noted earlier this week, Sportsnet’s Blue Jays broadcasts have begun to feature a few more digitally inserted advertisements. The concept isn’t new—we’re used to seeing ads like these projected on the backstop behind home plate—but Sportsnet has taken things a bit further, superimposing images on the field in foul territory
Checking in on two practically perfect pitching prospects, several seasons on.
On the night that Homer Bailey pitched his second career no-hitter, fanning nine Giants against only one walk, Phil Hughes was also in action. Hughes had a good outing, but hardly a historic one: he threw seven innings of one-run ball against the Twins, striking out three and walking two. Bailey’s start was the one that led SporsCenter, but it’s appropriate that the pair’s spots in their respective rotations were synched.
Bailey and Hughes have been linked for a long time. Both were hard-throwing, right-handed high schoolers selected in the first round of the 2004 draft. Hughes stands 6’5”; Bailey stands 6’4.” Hughes is less than two months younger. On our list of the top 100 prospects of 2007, Hughes placed second and Bailey ranked fourth, which made comparisons between them inevitable. Just breathe in the August, 2006-ness of this excerpt from Future Shock:
Ten relievers who've racked up the strikeouts in the majors for the first time this season.
Here’s a stat about strikeouts: The percentage of 50-plus-inning relievers who struck out a batter per inning in 1990 was lower than the percentage who struck out 12 per nine innings in 2012. Remember the Reds’ “Nasty Boys” bullpen of Rob Dibble, Randy Myers, and Norm Charlton? They were three of only eight relievers with a K/9 of at least 9.0 in 1990. Relative to average, Dibble’s 12.5 K/9 that season was more impressive than, say, Aroldis Chapman’s league-leading 15.1 in 2013. But 15.1 is such an astounding number that it commands the attention anyway. Strikeout rates are rising too fast for the baselines in our brains to keep up.
Every season, a new crop of relievers arrives and astonishes us with their strikeout prowess. Some are promising rookie relief prospects who throw a million miles per hour and were expected to miss many bats. Others are rookies who’ve exceeded expectations, and still others are veterans whose latent strikeout powers were never suspected before they surfaced this season.
Has the Yankees' sole healthy slugger suffered because of the players batting behind him?
The more I learn about baseball, the more I think that much of the perceived divide between traditional baseball types and statheads—which is itself overstated—stems from some subset of each side overstating its case. Take clubhouse chemistry, the subject of frequent battles between people on opposite sides of the analytical aisle. A player (or former player) might insist that team chemistry is more important than talent, or that chemistry might be worth 20 wins. And a stathead, frustrated by an inability to measure it and without having experienced it himself, might say (or at least be saidto say) that chemistry doesn’t matter.
It seems likely that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: chemistry can help, but probably not so much that it could make a last-place team into a first-place team. If either side said that, the other wouldn’t argue. Instead, extreme and polarizing claims from the pro-chemistry camp prompt equally extreme and polarizing claims from the anti-chemistry camp, and vice versa.
Did the Orioles make a mistake by exhausting all the other options before sending Dylan Bundy to surgery?
When the news broke yesterday that Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy would have to have Tommy John surgery, most of you probably wondered why he hadn’t had it sooner.
It’s been almost three months since we became aware of an issue with Bundy’s elbow. The first reported red flag, “mild tightness,” was followed by an MRI that showed no structural damage, a few weeks of rest, a visit to Dr. James Andrews—who prescribed more rest and a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection—and several more weeks out of action. Bundy recently resumed a throwing program, but he suffered a setback that sent him back to Dr. Andrews and, ultimately, the operating room.