November 29, 2012

Nate Silver in 2009 v. a proto-Mommy Blogger in 1989: Who was more right about baseball steroids?

Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa, 1998
Nate Silver, whose book I review here, is approaching the totemic status of Charles Darwin as a signifier of Science, Honesty, and the Triumph of the Democrats. This isn't his fault, but it's hard to avoid playing to the crowd of worshippers. Here, for example, is Silver's latest work of self-congratulation for Democrats: In Silicon Valley, Technology Talent Gap Threatens G.O.P. Campaigns. So, it's worth documenting this former professional baseball forecaster's strikingly terrible track record at noticing the biggest thing happening to baseball statistics in his lifetime: performance enhancing drugs. 

I've always been interested in the effects of steroids since they are artificial male hormones and thus hugely relevant to the debate over feminism and whether sex differences are biological or cultural. Thus, I wrote a 1997 article for National Review called Track and Battlefield that reviewed track statistics for insights into the debate over Coed Combat. In it, I sketched out the history of steroids' impact on track statistics ... five years before Silver started writing about baseball statistics. I'd been following the impact of steroids on track and on baseball since the 1980s. The main difference between the sports was that track tested and occasionally caught cheaters, while baseball didn't test. My article came out the year before Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa made a travesty of baseball statistics and five years before Silver started publishing on the talent of ballplayers.

For example, here was the cover of the 1998 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year issue. And this is what SI burbled:
"As is our custom late each fall, we at Sports Illustrated sat down to discuss nominations for the Sportsman of the ... No, we didn't discuss. We didn't even sit down. It was automatic. It was unanimous. It was the easiest selection in our history. It couldn't be one Sportsman of the Year. It had to be two. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. All in favor, say aye. All opposed, report back to your coma." 
"McGwire and Sosa gave America a summer that won't be forgotten: a summer of stroke and counterstroke, of packed houses and curtain calls, of rivals embracing and gloves in the bleachers and adults turned into kids -- the Summer of Long Balls and Love. It wasn't just the lengths they went to with bats in their hands. It was also that they went to such lengths to conduct the great home run race with dignity and sportsmanship, with a sense of joy and openness. Never have two men chased legends and each other that hard and that long or invited so much of America onto their backs for the ride."

In October 1998, Stephen Jay Gould had written a similar article in the Wall Street Journal: "A Happy Mystery to Ponder: Why So Many Homers?" I sent the famed science writer and Harvard professor a fax explaining that McGwire had already been caught back in August with a steroid precursor called Androstenedione in his locker, and that McGwire and Sosa were both obvious juicers. But, for some reason, he did not respond.

So, the impact of steroids was a big, big deal in American culture long before Silver got involved professionally writing about baseball statistics. Yet, he didn't seem to have much to say about steroids online until positive test results for performance-enhancing drugs started to leak out after a few years of Silver being in the business of forecasting performance. And, even then, for the next five years Silver kept being creatively but consistently wrong about the impact of steroids.

In May 2009, 21 years after Tom Boswell accused Jose Canseco of using steroids, slugger Manny Ramirez, who had finished the 2008 season by hitting an improbable .396, got caught by a drug test and suspended for 50 games. In response, Silver wrote in Baseball Prospectus about how surprised he and the whole sabermetrics community were:
In fact, Ramirez was frequently taken to be the counter-example, the guy who, come hell or high water, absolutely was not on steroids. He was so much of a freak that we assumed his hitting talents must have been freakish too -- God-given ability, and not the result of any sort of chemical intervention.

The problem for Silver with a superstar like Ramirez getting caught was that it shot a hole in the theory Silver had been promoting ever since positive tests started being leaked to the media in the mid-2000s: that the real juicers were the scrubs, not the superstars putting up all the seemingly ridiculous statistics:
The typical steroid user might not be the prima donna slugger who endorses Budweiser between innings but the "hardworking late bloomer" who is struggling to maintain his spot in the lineup or is trying to leverage a good season into a big free-agent contract. Certainly these players might have more economic incentive to enhance their performance, as compared to their counterparts who have already signed multiyear, guaranteed major league contracts.

Hence, Silver predicted in 2005 after having to respond to positive test results:
There is clearly something going on--but it is not producing the sort of predictable impacts that everyone expects. Nor, because of the complexity of the underlying chemistry, are we likely to see substantial changes in the game's statistics resulting from efforts to curtail use of these substances. 

Well, Silver turned out to be really wrong: offensive statistics have cratered since then due to drug testing.

In contrast, the impact of steroids on superstar Jose Canseco, the "Typhoid Mary of steroids," was obvious back in the 1980s to novelist Anne Lamott. That the Oakland A’s were up to no good during the 1989 World Series was so blatant that it even featured in the bestseller Operation Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by proto-mommy blogger Anne Lamott:
I was explaining to [my baby] Sam that Jose Canseco shouldn't get to play because of the obvious steroid use, that there is something really wrong with the guy ... It was obvious from Sam's expression that he didn't think much of Canseco.

Why could a lady novelist taking care of her first-born notice what Nate Silver wouldn't?

She wasn't being paid to not notice.

50 comments:

Graham J. said...

"Why could a lady novelist taking care of her first-born notice what Nate Silver wouldn't?

She wasn't being paid to not notice."

This is probably the core of journalisitic decline in general for at least the past few decades.

josh said...

To be fair, MLB could easily have rejiggered the baseball to rebuild the sense of legitimacy.

The also probably rejiggered the baseball in the early 90s to increase offensive stats.

http://michaelbein.com/Baseball/slide_frame.html

The new ball was probably tested in 1987 and implemented permanently in 1993. Nothing else explains the sudden and permanent increase in homeruns. It wasn't a steady increase as more people began juicing, it was a one year transition from steadily lower HR/power totals to steadily higher HR/power totals.

Steroids obviously mattered a lot too.

Steve Sailer said...

"The new ball was probably tested in 1987 and implemented permanently in 1993. Nothing else explains the sudden and permanent increase in homeruns."

Not implausible.

One thing that happened was that offense dropped from 1991 to 1992, probably due to the mid-1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines that kicked up a huge dust cloud. At least in Chicago, the summer of 1992 was very cool, which definitely drove down hitting at Wrigley Field and maybe across the country.

So, some of the increase from 1992 to 1993 was just getting back to pre-1992 levels. But, it could also be that the insiders panicked over the low levels of excitement in the game in 1992 and decided to juice the ball in 1993.

For example 1968 was the Year of the Pitcher, so the mound was lowered in 1969 to help offense. In 1972 the American League reverted to near-1968 levels of hitting, so the DH was introduced in 1973.

Perhaps they felt they'd run out of rule changes after 1992, so they changed the ball?

Another idea is that Jose Canseco was traded from the long dominant As to the Rangers in the middle of 1992. Perhaps that uncorked what the A's had more or less kept quiet and spread Canseco's ideas through baseball? That's when I started hearing about Canseco as the "Typhoid Mary of steroids" from a player's agent I'd gone to high school with. That guys got bigger after Jose joined their team seemed to require a second team to demonstrate this.

Anonymous said...

Why could a lady novelist taking care of her first-born notice what Nate Silver wouldn't? She wasn't being paid to not notice.

Neo-mandarinism/neo-caliphism doesn't work unless there is a seething orientalistic cauldron of different peoples whom the elites can set upon one-anothers' throats.

The problem for Silver [and Gould] was that guys like Canseco* and Sosa and Bonds Jr had that very special "Get Out of Jail Free" card which absolved them of any possible wrongdoing.

But since this is iSteve - let's be blunt here - NAMs** CHEAT AT EVERYTHING.

Heck, we still don't have the foggiest idea why Moochelle had to surrender her Illinois State law license [and I'm very very suspicious that she even passed the bar exam in the first place - I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that, as above, she had hired a ringer to take it for her].

Now Silver could have attacked McGuire and Clemens to his heart's content, but, at the time, it was far more important for Silver [and Gould] to play up the "Rainbow Coalition" [i.e. "seething cauldron"] aspect of The Narrative.





*Maybe the reason the ladies felt safe to criticize Canseco was that they hadn't yet gotten the Xochitl Hinojosa/Jorge Ramos memo.

**Sadly [tragically], as iSteve has remarked upon at great length recently, we are quickly coming to realize that the AMs also cheat at everything.

Alpha Dog said...

Nate Silver was called (half-jokingly) "God of the Algorithm" by John Stewart on an episode of the Daily Show recently.

I think the triumph of Nate Silver does point to a problem for Republicans (and this was explained in the blog post of Sliver's you linked to): There does seem to be a significant talent gap between the quants/strategists on Republican side and quants/strategists the Democratic side, with the Democrats having the decided edge.

Not to mention that the Dem strategist have demographics on their side, so they have that built in advantage as well.

Luke Lea said...

Pretty devastating.

TGGP said...

How was Silver being paid not to notice? Because he writes for fans and fans don't want to hear?

Anonymous said...

http://www.historytoday.com/author/tim-stanley

Anonymous said...

I've come to realize that one of the key advantgages of Sabermetrics was it was a way to id juicers without knowing they were juicers, thus preserving all the denyability necessary.

Anonymous said...

You are not trying to tell us that the Democrats have been cheating, are you?

Hmmm, lets see:

Insider trading on wall street and in congress. Check.

Steroids in Baseball and the Olympics. Check.

What is happening in Silly Valley and the Democratic Party?

Anonymous said...


Of course none of these atrocities would have occurred had the British not colonised Kenya in the first place.


Ahhh, another historian ignorant of HBD and the savagery of native peoples.

Anonymous said...

Another idea is that Jose Canseco was traded from the long dominant As to the Rangers in the middle of 1992. Perhaps that uncorked what the A's had more or less kept quiet and spread Canseco's ideas through baseball? That's when I started hearing about Canseco as the "Typhoid Mary of steroids" from a player's agent I'd gone to high school with. That guys got bigger after Jose joined their team seemed to require a second team to demonstrate this.

Thinking about Oakland got me to thinking about Al Davis and then I remembered - "wait, that was the Raiders, not the Athletics" - and then I thought some more, and I remembered, "hey wasn't that the Mack franchise?"

So I googled the history of the Athletics, it looks like the Macks sold out to the Johnsons circa 1954/55, then the Finleys took over circa 1960, and then Finley got involved in a nasty divorce, and had to sell out to a local Scots-Irish businessman, Walter MacHaas [of the MacLevi-MacStrauss denim jeans empire], in 1981.

[The franchise has since passed through several more pairs of hands, and is now owned by the Scots-Irishman Lewis MacWolff.]

Anyway, it's gonna be just about unthinkable for a pair of neutral observers like Stephen MacGould and Nate MacSilver to speak honestly about the juicing of McGwire and Canseco.

PS: If Komment Kontrol will allow me to continue with this train of thought - doubtful, obviously, but if I might be allowed to push the envelope just a little - it really is absolutely shocking to see the extent to which the Scots-Irish are buying up all the old goyische intellectual property.

Disney, Pixar, Lucas Films, the NBA [MacStern], MLB [MacSelig], and now they seem to be moving hard on the NFL [MacKraft, MacRoss, MacTisch, etc].

The modus operandi seems to be to wait patiently until a shegetz finds himself in a messy legalistic situation [Finley with his divorce, Lucas with the impending tax increases on January 1, the Robbie family with the estate taxes on the Dolphins and the Robbie Stadium, etc etc etc], and then to pounce on the property with a seemingly limitless supply of fiat electrons at their beck and call.

And I gotta tell you - people are getting really furious about this impending explosion in the Death Tax, as they realize that it's simply a vehicle by which the fiat-electron manipulators, like MacSoros [or like honorary Scots-Irishman, Warren MacBuffett] can swoop in and seize a gorgeous old historical 20,000 acre ranch or a wheat farm or a dairy operation for literally pennies on the dollar.

PPS: And to complete the circle, poor Connie Mack's great-grandson can't even win an election in Florida anymore.

countenance said...

I think McGwire wanted to be caught with that bottle of Andro in his locker, (it was conveniently put where clubhouse reporters and cameras would easily see it -- hint hint), because he knew he was juicing on more "naughty" stuff and wanted to create a relatively benign diversion relating to a substance that was still baseball legal.

Anonymous said...

Whatever Silver may or may not have said about steroids, he is very right on this issue--and though I know nothing about forecasting and stats, I've been saying the same thing forever, i.e. the Democratic party--has become the party of excellence whereas GOP has become the party of mediocrity(but since mediocre people strive to be excellent or reach 'excellent' status, they too turn liberal or Democratic since they notice that most successful people are liberal or Democratic, at least socially, and social issues are becoming ever more important. Social issues like guns, abortion, and etc used to draw a lot of people to the GOP but nowadays, social issues like 'gay marriage' draw lots of young people).

Sailer has focused on demographics but has mostly ignored the power of the elites. The bulk of the illegal population is in Southern California, but the mostly high-achieving white/Asian community in SF went for Obama by a huge margin--indeed huger than the Hispanic support for Obama.

To understand this, we need to focus on Jewish intelligence and Jewish networking. And Jewish control of elite institutions.
Mexicans have some power every 4 yrs at elections. Jews have power over us 24/7 365 days a year through government, education, media, and etc. And lots of money.
And even most talented whites and Asians are liberal. From my high school and college days, just about everyone who turned out to be a high achiever is a liberal. Most cons I know are okay or well-to-do but nothing special.

GOP has become the dumb brand, especially because it doesn't even know who its main enemy is.

In a world of jocks and geeks, it'd be nice if the GOP at least had the jocks. But even this isn't true as blacks are the toughest dudes in the nation. Dems have Jews and blacks. Jews win with brains, blacks win with muscle.
Republicans have no brains and no muscle. Not even imagination as most artists are Democratic.
The GOP brand is downright pathetic.

Anonymous said...

http://img.izismile.com/img/img2/20091028/celebs_then_now_06.jpg

HAR said...

I don't know how big of an NBA fan Steve is, but pro basketball was only a few years behind pro baseball. Look at pictures of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Karl Malone at the beginning and the end of 1990s. Look at Isaiah Thomas compared to Derrick Rose, or Lebron James compared to anyone else in basketball history.

The financial incentives are the same in every sport. People smoke and drink themselves to death for no economic gain, is it reasonable to believe that they wouldn't do steroids for a payoff of millions of dollars and worldwide fame?

To this, we should add the fact that there is no philosophical reason to oppose steroids. It's not "cheating" if everyone does it. And the argument about steroids being "unnatural" looks more and more laughable in the age of adderall, modern medicine, and soon enough, genetic engineering.

The shock over Lance Armstrong's use was particularly laughable. The guy had both of his testicles removed and without modern medicine would've died of cancer. But his accomplishments are "unnatural" and he is no longer an inspiration because he injected a few drugs?

Lance Armstrong's accomplishments are no less amazing or inspiring because he used drugs. The sooner we get over this completely irrational anti-drug bias the better. They're not going away, and it's a good thing.

alonzo portfolio said...

Jose Canseco was traded from the long dominant As to the Rangers in the middle of 1992.

In '93 I knew a woman whose sister was dating the guy Canseco was traded for, Ruben Sierra. He built a house in Fremont with a creek running through the living room.

Anonymous said...

"Not to mention that the Dem strategist have demographics on their side, so they have that built in advantage as well."

Also the moral-victim gap.

Libs got the holy trinity:

negroes, gays, and Jews.

Anonymous said...

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/11/29/liberal-stealth-groups-paved-obama-win/

Rational manipulation of the irrational by elite Jews.

pat said...

Yes, I understand why you were originally interested in steroids. But now it's time to move on.

Billy Crystal made a movie about the controversy surrounding Roger Maris in 1961 when he was approaching Babe Ruth's single season home run record. I remember it well. I drove all the way from Arlington Virginia to Baltimore to see Mantle and Maris play and maybe set a new record. In the real world of modern California that wouldn't have been much of a journey but a half century ago on the East Coast it felt epic.

The issue then was the asterisk. Now I hear cries that Barry Bonds is not be admitted into the Hall of Fame and that all his records also get an asterisk.

It's funny how no one calls for Ruth's records to be asterisked too. The "house that Ruth built" is the extremely distorted Yankee Stadium with its very close right field fence. That configuration favored a left hander who hit a lot of home runs - at the time that was only Ruth.

If we are going to give Bonds an asterisk maybe it should have been for the new Giants stadium's short right field fence and prevailing winds - not for his steroid use.

If I were a better baseball scholar I'm sure there are dozens of other examples that I could cite. The point is that what is fair and what is foul in baseball is capricious and arbitrary. Probably Maris' efforts to surpass Ruth were opposed, while Aaron's were applauded had something to do with race.

The mistake is to look for perfect justice on the baseball diamond. Sabermetrics doesn't help. Sabermetrics tells us Ricky Henderson in left was a better player than Jose Canseco in right or Dave Henderson in center or Mark McGwire at first. But trust me, I was there, the thing that mattered was who was up. The whole stadium used to go quiet when Canseco came to the plate or a ball was hit to right field. Canseco was magic, partly because of his talents but also because he had something not captured by Sabermetrics - he was goofy and unpredictable. Everyone also payed attention when Ricky was on base, partly because of his talent but also because of his showboating. Sabermetrics is blind to entertainment values and star power.

It's just a game. Efforts to assure the sanctity and inviolability of the record books is silly.

Albertosaurus

eh said...

I sure wish you'd elaborate on how Silver got paid to shut up.

Matt said...

There does seem to be a significant talent gap between the quants/strategists on Republican side and quants/strategists the Democratic side, with the Democrats having the decided edge.

Yep. There's plenty of smart quants of the right (Steve, Derb, etc, and those are just the old guys). But they're not being hired by the GOP machine. Most of this is probably the GOP leadership not caring about quants at all, preferring the gool ol' boy strategist and consultant network.

But the Dems, being the party of the young, cool, hipster types, is more than happy to embrace the Social Network code wizards. And it works.

Anonymous said...

the steroid documentary hosted here on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/user/steroidTRUTH

deleted scenes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kUdKh1jnSQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uODEnW-wsJc

Whiskey said...

Those Idiot GOP turnout guys! Why, they got creamed in 2004. When President Kerry just steam-rollered over Bush. Yes, they're idiots.

OR: Obama and Dems engaged in systematic steroid cheating of their own, ala vote tossing of Republicans and "creative" voting by Blacks and other non-Whites voting multiple times, often with fictitious identities. Hmmm .... which to choose, which to choose.

The GOP did fine with non-cheating opponents: Gore, Kerry, Dukakis. With guys who did cheat, galore, Clinton and Obama, not so much. The GOP is not able to respond to the equivalent of steroids in baseball.

I'm not impressed with the Obama-Silicon Valley braintrust. Silicon Valley's latest stuff seems pretty failure-prone: Groupon, Facebook, seem wealth destructors not creators, for investors. I don't actually see much of turnout and a ground-game, getting real voters motivated, and out to vote. I see a lot of Facebook and blog posts, use of social media, and big money dominance over the mainstream media. But nothing really compelling.

The secret sauce is the cheating. That simple. And that indestructible. It means permanent Democratic dominance because no middle class, "clean" and honest politics can challenge it -- you don't beat the mob with Mormons. You can't.

As for "the Jews control us" that's a pathetic scapegoating fantasy instead of the social reality of nearly a third or more Whites really hating other Whites, for sex/gender, social, status, economic, and other reasons. Last I checked the Wall Street Open Borders Journal was controlled by News Corp, which in turn has a substantial interest by the Saudis. Soros boasts he made his money selling out other Jews to the Nazis (he's proud of it in fact). Carlos Slim, the world's richest man, owns ever bigger slices of the NYT. Time-Warner, Disney-ABC, CBS/Viacom, Comcast-NBCUniversal, are all mega-corps dedicated to crony capitalism at its worst, some with Jews at the top and some without.

Jews as boogeyman is the equivalent of Steve Jobs using "holistic" treatments for cancer instead of the most radical and aggressive Western medical science. He might not have lived anyway if he had chosen the latter, but he would have had a bigger chance.

The US is not alone, even Coastal China according to Derb is undergoing the same phenomena. As is Sweden, Norway, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, everywhere in the West. Even Japan.

astorian said...

If Babe Ruth owed his home run hitting prowess to the short right field at Yankee Stadium, how do you explain that...

1) Babe Ruth hit 54 and 59 homers in different seasons before there WAS a Yankee Stadium?

2) Babe Ruth hit more homers on the road than at home?

3) Other left-handed hitters never put up comparable numbers at Yankee Stadium?

And to those who suggest that the Babe's records are tainted ebcause he didn't have to face black opponents, I point out that....

1) If weaker competition made it so easy to hit homers in Babe Ruth's day, why didn't EVERYBODY do it? When Babe Ruth hit 59 homers in 1921, most TEAMS didn't hit that many. If Babe was just feasting on bad white pitching, why didn't EVERYBODY else do the same?

2) Think how many MORE ribbies the Babe might have had if the Yankees had had a swift black leadoff man like Rickey Henderson?

LOL said...

You'd think Silver of all people would be the first one to notice which guys have bigger muscles and smaller stones.

Art Deco said...


Yep. There's plenty of smart quants of the right (Steve, Derb, etc, and those are just the old guys). But they're not being hired by the GOP machine. Most of this is probably the GOP leadership not caring about quants at all, preferring the gool ol' boy strategist and consultant network.

Mr. Sailer here does not do regression analysis and John Derbyshire is a lapsed computer programmer with a mathematics degree earned nearly fifty years ago. Neither one has any experience to which they admit in electoral politics, social research, or applied statistics. I suspect Mr. Romney had better quants on his staff.

Norville Rogers said...

Yes, Derbyshire should have run Romney's campaign; after all, he's an established figure in HK action cinema

ben tillman said...

The issue then was the asterisk. Now I hear cries that Barry Bonds is not be admitted into the Hall of Fame and that all his records also get an asterisk.

I'm all for it if it means that Dykstra finally gets the 1993 MVP award that he so richly deserved.

modernguy said...

What's the point about Nate Silver? It seems like a cheap shot, he was very accurate in the election predictions, no need to go back to 1989 to slam him.

As for steroids in baseball, it does seem on the surface like they would obviously explain the anomalies of that era, except that when you think about it, how are steroids going to improve your batting? Sure they might improve power, but good batting depends mostly on accuracy and timing, not power. More on this in an episode on econtalk:

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2010/03/de_vany_on_ster.html

Steve Sailer said...

"How was Silver being paid not to notice? Because he writes for fans and fans don't want to hear?"

Right.

Although there is something about sabermetricians that made them exceptionally gullible and corrupt. There were establishment sportswriters like Tom Boswell and Rick Telander who called out steroid users, but the top sabermetricians were pretty much all useless on the subject.

I'd like to make a baseball statistics movie, except that instead of Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, I'd have Philip Seymour Hoffman as, uh, Jim Williams, former canned bean factory boiler room attendant who has revolutionized baseball statistics, but slowly starts to notice that something horrible is happening to his beloved game. Should he undermine his career by using his skills to call it out?

Nah ...

Anonymous said...

Albertosaurus, Ruth spent a fairly substantial part of his career playing in the Polo Grounds, with a center field fence 500 feet away; it was a far larger field than any currently home to major league teams. The rules then also dictated that a ball hit off the foul pole was a ground rule double, not a home run like today. Also, balls that passed the foul pole fair but hooked foul were judge foul then, as opposed to being homers today. Too, he spent his first five years pitching (he was 94-46 with a 2.28 ERA as a pitcher) more than playing in the field; he would have finished his career with 800+ homers if he were a full-time outfielder from the start.

The best way to measure athletic performance is to measure it against what the athletes peers were doing. In 1920, Ruth hit 54 homers, which was more than any other TEAM but the Phillies!

ben tillman said...

As for steroids in baseball, it does seem on the surface like they would obviously explain the anomalies of that era, except that when you think about it, how are steroids going to improve your batting? Sure they might improve power, but good batting depends mostly on accuracy and timing, not power.

Not "power" -- strength. Strength helps you move the barrel of the bat when the ball "breaks" after you've started your swing. Strength can help you make solid contact.

Strength can increase bat-head speed, which means (theoretically) that you can start your swing later, when you have more information regarding where the ball will be when it crosses the plate.

Etc.

pat said...

Astorian misses my point largely by attacking something I didn't say or mean. He (or she) says that Ruth was a great player even without the short right field fence in Yankee Stadium. Agreed.

Ruth was special in a way that has hardly ever been seen before or since. But they did build the fence to aid him.

Similarly Barry Bonds, everyone agrees, was a great player before he ever used steroids. Didn't he win the MVP twice early on in his career? I think also that someone has demeonstrated that he didn't benefit that much from the right field fence at the new stadium.

Both Ruth and Bonds were great players who were made even better by special advantages. Yet Ruth is never threatened with an asterisk and Bonds is. May I suggest that the underlying reason might be that Ruth was publicly popular while Bonds, everyone agrees, was something of a sphincter.

Baseball is a game not a science. Science can be fruitfully employed to win more games, but baseball is still just a game. Games are supposed to engage our emotions - baseball certainly does that. Games are supposed to divert us from all the serious problems in life. If you treat baseball itself as serious, how will you get relief from the problems of the world?

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

How was Silver being paid not to notice? Because he writes for fans and fans don't want to hear?

The fans would be fine with hearing anything that makes sense to them. The point being made is that if Silver started writing things that offended the sensibilities of the elite Powers that Be, he wouldn't get paid any more.

That said, it's an interesting question how much leeway someone like Silver actually has. It's easy enough to say he lose his gig if he started saying the wrong things, but I suspect he could actually get away with quite a lot, but doesn't care to, because he shares the sensitivities of the elites.

Anonymous said...

"Sure they might improve power, but good batting depends mostly on accuracy and timing, not power. "

they also better the other two, and not simply for the reason that the increase in power.

Anonymous said...

how are steroids going to improve your batting

If greater strength doesn't improve batting, then the teams and players are wasting a lot of time in the weight room.

We have numerous controlled experiments to look at. Barry Bonds started using roids after the 1998 season. He averaged 31.6 homers per season through 1998 and 48.6 homers per season in the six years after that, despite being about 34 at the time he started doping.

modernguy said...



If greater strength doesn't improve batting, then the teams and players are wasting a lot of time in the weight room.

We have numerous controlled experiments to look at. Barry Bonds started using roids after the 1998 season. He averaged 31.6 homers per season through 1998 and 48.6 homers per season in the six years after that, despite being about 34 at the time he started doping.


Look at that link I put up. It's a good interview about exactly this topic. It's not clear how much working out improves your batting percentage and certainly not clear what the impact of steroids is on it, if any. Apparently there are statistical studies to back that up.

JHB said...

"Why could a lady novelist taking care of her first-born notice what Nate Silver wouldn't?

She wasn't being paid to not notice."

Notably, Nate Silver is now ignoring voter fraud, including the case in the State of Maine where final pre-election polls missed the outcome by nine sigma and where dozens of African-Americans were spotted claiming residence and voting in towns with no African-American residents.

Nate Silver switched to political forecasting just as PECOTA was coming undone. PECOTA's "most similar" players were often PED users, and after 2007 the MLB drug testing acquired real teeth. His system never adapted by excluding steroid-influenced comparables, and PECOTA was no longer worth the money to subscribe.

Nate Silver's predictions of result were correct, but the turnout was far from what he'd forecast. He got lucky in 2012 by biasing his results to polls predicting insane turnout. Maybe he knew something...he was a JournoList member. In 2014, though, when GOP proxy groups start doing what the Democrats did in 2012, Mr. Silver will have greater challenges.

JHB said...

"...there is something about sabermetricians that made them exceptionally gullible and corrupt. There were establishment sportswriters like Tom Boswell and Rick Telander who called out steroid users, but the top sabermetricians were pretty much all useless on the subject."

As a reminder, Bill James called out Kirby Puckett for obvious steroid abuse and was vilified in his community for doing so. As you write, Steve, the audience for sabermetric authors didn't want to hear the truth.

Anonymous said...

From De Vany's paper, which argues that it was just statistical happenstance and not roids that caused the streak of home run hitting:

But it was broken 37 yr later in 1998 by two players: Mark Mc- Gwire (70 home runs) and Sammy Sosa (66 home runs); and twice again in 1999 by McG- wire (66 home runs) and Sosa (63 home runs); and then by Barry Bonds in 2001 (73 home runs) and Sammy Sosa (64 home runs).

All of whom were using steroids. But we shouldn't notice that.

sideways said...

Wow, Steve, you're really going to block that comment from me? No insults, no expletives, facts, stats, and eaten by the mod?

sideways said...

Oops, forgot where my own comment was. Sorry, Steve.

modernguy said...

From De Vany's paper, which argues that it was just statistical happenstance and not roids that caused the streak of home run hitting:

But it was broken 37 yr later in 1998 by two players: Mark Mc- Gwire (70 home runs) and Sammy Sosa (66 home runs); and twice again in 1999 by McG- wire (66 home runs) and Sosa (63 home runs); and then by Barry Bonds in 2001 (73 home runs) and Sammy Sosa (64 home runs).

All of whom were using steroids. But we shouldn't notice that.


So which is it? Is he arguing that it was statistical happenstance and not roids, or is he telling you to ignore that they were using roids?

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