I’m no sabermetrician, but I understand a couple things. You hang out with enough of these guys, listen to them explain things, and read everything Joe Sheehan has ever written, and some of it sinks in.
As Barry Bonds hits a milestone home run, people keep throwing punches at him. Most are spiteful, most are speculative at best, and some are downright libelous. Patrick Hruby was at least entertaining in his recent Page 2 story, attempting to find some formula that would quantify the tainted home runs and keep Bonds down on the list of slugging greats. Hruby’s piece wasn’t informed by the work of Nate Silver in Baseball Between The Numbers or Jay Jaffe in The Juice. Hruby stayed with the mainstream Cartesian syllogism of “j’emploie, donc je corromps.” It’s a perfect example of confirmation bias, and one that is as specious as it is speculative. I won’t deny that the preponderance of evidence shows that Bonds used performance enhancers or that there was likely some effect. I also understand why some people want to keep the legends of the game above someone who they have an active dislike for. It’s much easier to do so with fact than with fiction, however.
That ballparks influence player performance is agreed upon by both statheads and scouts. Even the most casual fan understands the concept, even if he or she can’t necessarily do the math. That’s why we’re here: we do the math so you don’t have to. Park effects on home runs are well established, and their calculations go hand-in-hand with Clay Davenport’s translations to make speculation worthless. So my question is this: why make a case for taint in a player’s performance when the influence of his home parks cancels it out? For every home run that Hruby takes away with his formula, adjusting for Bonds’ home parks adds them back on. While Hruby is pulling the number 616 from out of his creative license, Clay Davenport is proving that Bonds should have hit 850 in a neutral park. If you want to accept both sides of the argument, Bonds falls back to the center, right about where he is at 714.
Where performance analysis really helps is that it is not just Bonds that gets to take the effect, positive or negative, from translations for park and era. Giving Bonds his full due at 850 still leaves him farther back on the all-time list than where he is now, making his accomplishments more acceptable to some. There are those who won’t like that he’s in fifth on the translated list, ahead of Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams, but fifth is better than passing the Babe or Hammerin’ Hank and, in the end, isn’t feeling good about what the list says about player greatness what this is all really about?
Just in case you’re wondering, here’s the list for translated career home run totals:
1. Babe Ruth 1071 2. Hank Aaron 958 3. Mel Ott 844 4. Willie Mays 828 5. Barry Bonds 826
Thanks to Clay Davenport for providing the list, and for his groundbreaking work on the Davenport Translation system. (Clay also points out that in this translated world, Craig Biggio is closing in on 3000 hits.)
Powered by one heck of a live show from INXS, on to the injuries…
- Shannon Stewart has been playing with a sore foot for the whole of the 2006 season. Give him some credit because the injury isn’t just a bruise, it’s a partial thickness tear of the plantar fascia. Twins fans will remember how devastating this injury can be, since it essentially ended the career of Marty Cordova. This isn’t quite as bad, but it’s still a painful and lingering injury. Playing on it didn’t do Stewart any favors, so expect the rehab to be slow unless they bring him back well before the injury is fully healed, allowing him to play through it some more. Stewart may be limited to DH once he does return.
- Rocco Baldelli isn’t just a legend you read about in a Peter Gammons column a while ago. Baldelli is a real-life talented player–it’s just been a long time since he’s been healthy enough to show it. I always worry when a player who relies on his physical gifts gets injured. So many of them never learned how to work, and got by with poor fundamentals that the mere mortals couldn’t make a living with. Baldelli is starting his rehab assignment, and the Rays won’t rush him. Once Baldelli is ready, he’ll make a slow slide back to the outfield from DH, though he may go to right rather than center, with Jonny Gomes going to DH. All Baldelli has to do is prove that he can still play to belong on an increasingly talented Rays depth chart that includes Gomes, Carl Crawford, Delmon Young, and Elijah Dukes.
- One Coco to go–Coco Crisp, that is. Crisp is back in the batter’s box and looks very close to heading out for a rehab assignment. He’s due to hit again on Tuesday to see if his finger can handle the everyday play the Sox need him to be able to handle. There’s still no official timeframe or public plan for his rehab, but expect things to accelerate from here on out.
David Wells will beat Crisp back. The media-savvy lefty will start on Friday. Sources tell me that Wells’ knee is nowhere near 100%, but he’s going to try and push through it for a few weeks to see if it gets better and if he can contribute. He’s hoping to make a decision on how far he goes around the All-Star Game.
- A scout recently told me that Carlos Guillen is starting to look like the guy he used to be, rather than the injury-hobbled version. “He’s moving well, lots of lateral motion and spring.” Guillen will occasionally have episodes where his back acts up, like the one he’s going through now. Keeping those minor and allowing him to rest the back and knees is one of the keys for the Tigers to keep pace with the White Sox. Keeping the rest of the team healthy is the key to staying in front of them.
- Tuesday will be a big day for simulated games. I don’t mean Strat or Scoresheet, I mean the sim games that injured pitchers use as a milestone in their rehabilitation efforts. The AL West will be watching as both Rich Harden and Bartolo Colon throw separately on Tuesday. If all goes well, both should head out for short rehab assignments, possibly as little as one game each. Harden has had little in the way of problems once his back cooled down, while Colon has had more of a struggle with his lat issue. Both teams need these guys to come back and stay back if they hope to win the division.
- Kerry Wood is on track for his Tuesday start. As noted yesterday, it was simple soreness that was reported. Wood lashed out at the media, a new Cub trait these days, for overplaying the reports. He should look internally, since the leak came from inside the Cubs clubhouse. It’s important to remember that “return to activity” is not the same as “fully healed,” and that soreness is a far different thing than pain. If Korzybski were alive today, he would be in media relations.
- There are conflicting reports on the Mets’ Brian Bannister. The Mets insist that the setback their rookie pitcher had during his rehab start was only just that, a setback. Another source, one who was admittedly not at Bannister’s start in Norfolk, told me that Bannister aggravated the hamstring. It remains to be seen which it is, though early indications give my source, normally a very good one, some further credibility. Bannister is going to be held back for a couple weeks to allow the hamstring to heal. At best, Bannister is now looking at coming back sometime in early June, with a mid-June return more likely.
- Rough night for Hayden Penn. Instead of making his debut on Tuesday, he’ll be recovering from an emergency appendectomy. It wasn’t nervousness that was making Penn queasy, and luckily the appendix was removed without complications. The surgery was laproscopic, one with a history of quick returns. Assuming Penn is still needed in Baltimore, he could be back in less than a month.
- Quick Cuts: Expect Gary Sheffield back in the lineup Tuesday. Only pain will keep him on the DL after his Monday appearance in Trenton … Have to love it when a player admits he was winded after fielding two bunts back to the box. Duaner Sanchez is always entertaining … Chris Duffy has not only refused to report to Triple-A, he’s now discussing retiring from the game rather than returning to the Pirates organization … Hanley Ramirez was back in the lineup for the Marlins as they blasted the Cubs. His 3-for-3 return bodes well for his shoulder … MLB.tv was made for the John Smoltz/Jake Peavy matchup on Monday. That’s one I’m downloading and burning for the collection … We recorded a great interview with Leigh Montville today for next week’s BP Radio.