Tag Archives: MLB

Should Major League Baseball allow steroid users into the Hall of Fame? No, Says Sam Smith.

Part 2 of a series.

How can we honor athletes for cheating and then talk to our children about honesty and integrity with a straight face?

Matt Record’s post yesterday arguing that Major League Baseball should admit steroid users to the Hall of Fame gets a lot of things right. For instance: Ty Cobb? Sub-human PoS, no doubt about it. And Matt could have devoted volumes to the abject malpractice of the sports “journalism” industry during Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s pursuit of Roger Maris’s single season homerun record; they chose to ignore what was obviously happening under their noses because the steroid era was good for business, and the less pontificating we her from them now the better.

And what about the ways in which MLB’s apartheid system kept some of the greatest stars of their time out of the league for decades? If anything, Matt doesn’t stomp hard enough here. Babe Ruth was a legendary hitter, but he never had to stand in against Satchel Paige, whom DiMaggio called the best pitcher he ever faced after playing against him in a 1936 exhibition. Continue reading Should Major League Baseball allow steroid users into the Hall of Fame? No, Says Sam Smith.

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Should Yasiel Puig be in the All-Star Game?: here’s the definitive answer

Let’s play trivia.

Q: Who are George Scott, Mitchell Page, Van Kelly, Rocco Baldelli, Mike White, Hector Rodriguez, Warren Newson, Ron Jones, Ken Harvey, Gail Harris, Yasmani Grandal, Brian Giles, Bobby Darwin, Joe Cunningham, Thad Bosley, Oscar Azocar, Gus Zernial, Dan Walters, Taylor Teagarden, Dick Stuart, Shane Spencer, Dwight Smith, Bob Smith, Ryan Shealy, Kevin Roberson, Will Rhymes, Irv Noren, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Kevin Mench, Martin Maldonado, Al Luplow, Joe Keough, Ricky Jordan, Tracy Jones, Dalton Jones, Sam Jethroe, Akinori Iwamura, Jim Hickman, Elian Herrera, Fran Healy, Paul Goldschmidt, Brent Gates, Joe Foy, Tom Donohue, Terry Crowley, Jose Constanza, Doug Camilli, Larry Burright, Barry Bonnell, Kevin Barker, Gabe Alvarez and Glenn Adams?

Answer in a minute.

In the coming days it seems almost certain that Major League Baseball fans will vote Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig into the All-Star Game. The whole idea is rather controversial since Puig has been in the show for barely a month. Some pundits love the idea, saying that the game is for the fans and they should get to choose. Others, expressing a position more sensitive to the game’s history and tradition, are vehemently opposed to a player with so little track record being admitted into the greatest all-star competition in US club sports. Some insider estimates say that 80% of current MLB players are against his inclusion.

There’s no question that Puig has been from hell since he was called up from Chattanooga on June 2. As of this writing, his line looks like this:

 

GP

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

2013 Regular Season

32

127

25

52

8

1

8

19

5

31

5

3

.409

.437

.677

1.114

That’s incredible, especially the average, on-base percentage and OPS, which are just ridiculous. There is absolutely nothing bad you can say about Puig to this point in his career.

But back to that opening question: who are those other guys?

The answer is that they’re all current and former Major League Baseball players who, according to the Win Probability Added (WPA) Sabermetrics stat, were as good as or better than Yasiel Puig over the first month of their careers.

Most sabermetric statistics are context neutral — they do not consider the situation of a particular event or how some plays are more crucial to a win than others. While wOBA rates all home runs as equal, we know intuitively that a home run in the third inning of a blowout is less important to that win than a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a close game. Win Probability Added (WPA) captures this difference by measuring how individual players affect their team’s win expectancy on a per-play basis.

For example, say the Rays have a 45% chance of winning before Ben Zobrist comes to the plate. During his at-bat, Zobrist hits a home run, pushing the Rays’ win expectancy jumps to 75%. That difference in win expectancy (in decimal form, +.30) from the beginning of the play to the end is Ben Zobrist’s WPA for that play. If Zobrist strikes out during his next at bat and lowers his team’s win expectancy by 5%, his overall WPA for the game so far would be +.30 – .05 = +.25, as WPA is a counting statistic and is additive.

Arjun Jaikumar, another of my data-savvy friends, also points this out:

I’ll say this, though; *this* season, in the AL, there is another player who has virtually the same WAR as Puig in more or less the same playing time. He is hitting .403/.455/.517 at the moment, and is a marvelous defender – one of the best at his position even though he’s playing out of position.

Yet no one is promoting Jose Iglesias for the All-Star game (with good reason; I wouldn’t either).

In a perfect world I’d be able to extract from the sport’s massive historical database the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) scores for the first month of the career of everyone that ever played the game, but my data savant guy, Adam Bonin (major props, by the way – this analysis wouldn’t have been possible without him), hasn’t figured out how to do that yet. Still, WPA is a pretty useful stat in that it evaluates how important a player is to his team’s chances of winning.

If you’re looking at that list of names at the top and thinking you never heard of any of them, don’t feel bad. Very few of the fans casting their ballots for Puig this week have, either.

If you’re thinking instead that, hey, it’s unfair to compare an obvious future Hall of Famer like Puig to that pack of pikers because you don’t have enough of a sample size yet, congratulations. That’s. The. Point. A great month doesn’t make you an All-Star.

I admit that Puig looks like the real deal. And he may be a future HoFer. Seems like a great kid and here’s hoping he turns out to be everything his overenthusiastic fans think he is and more.

But we have this tendency in the US, fueled by a barking gongbat 24/7 sports punditry cycle, to begin cranking out the hyperbole as soon as we hear a guy’s name. If Stephen A Smith says something stupid – and he will if there’s a microphone in the room – the only thing you can know for sure is that Skip Bayless is a’fixin’ to say something even stupiderer.

You know what? It’s okay to wait and see. Getting it right is better than getting it first. You’re not cheating anyone if you wait a year to see if it’s sustainable or if it’s just a hot streak. It’s okay to make a guy work his way around the league a second and third time to see if opposing pitchers figure him out. It’s not an insult to say damn, kid, you’re on fire. Keep it up and you’ll be an All-Star next year.

But hey, this is America, and we have to let the fans vote on everything, no matter how dumb they are.

Is it too late to get Tim Tebow on the ballot?

Castro and Miami’s Cuban community and what the hell was Ozzie Guillen thinking?

Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen recently lost his freakin’ mind. He told Time that

I love Fidel Castro…I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [SOB] is still there.

Predictably, the world then stopped spinning on its axis.

#EPICFAIL: the return of the 86ers

For 86 years the Boston sports fan’s image was defined by the Curse of the Bambino and its periodic avatars, like Bucky Fucking Dent. And Aaron Fucking Boone. And Bill Buckner, who later tried to commit suicide by throwing himself in front of a bus, only to have the bus go between his legs (rim shot). The Boston brand was futility, the yearly ritual of hope and its eventual collapse into despair. Continue reading #EPICFAIL: the return of the 86ers

Rogues, scandals and the Church of Baseball: S&R honors Babe Ruth

Walt Whitman once said, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.” You could look it up. – Annie Savoy

I’ll promise to go easier on drinking and to get to bed earlier, but not for you, fifty thousand dollars, or two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars will I give up women. They’re too much fun. – Babe Ruth

Today is Opening Day for America’s Pastime, and to mark the occasion S&R honors our newest Scrogue, George Herman Ruth. The Bambino. The Sultan of Swat.

The Babe. Continue reading Rogues, scandals and the Church of Baseball: S&R honors Babe Ruth