October 24, 2012
With the World Series on, I'm reminded that baseball has some exciting young players like 20-year-old Mike Trout, who might win the A.L. MVP despite one of the various Cabreras winning the Triple Crown, and 19-year-old Bryce Harper. But are they too exciting? I mean, Harper has looked like he's 30 years old since he was 16.
Last year, Ryan Braun won the MVP in the N.L., only to immediately get caught for performance enhancing drugs (although he managed to lawyer his way out of the 50 game suspension). This season, the San Francisco Cabrera was leading the N.L. in batting average when he got caught.
Judging by the depressed overall offensive totals, the game is cleaner than it was a 10-15 years ago. But does that just mean that whoever is racking up standout statistics this year is probably just one of the smaller number of juicers?
A vast amount of analytical talent is devoted to thinking about baseball (statistical talent that might more usefully be deployed upon more significant statistical issues, such as, say, figuring out the long-run impact of immigration policies, but never mind for now). But, the sabermetricians, led by the sainted Bill James, tended to be unenthusiastic in the 1990s and early 2000s about thinking about why exactly all the most famous slugging records were suddenly being broken.
Have they caught up? Are there websites that, say, explore how much confidence you can have that if you invest some loyalty in rooting for Player X based upon his impressive numbers, you won't suddenly find it's all been a fraud?