Ten Stray Thoughts On A Fried Egg

For many, Friday represents the end of a long work week that was filled with heavy doses of sludging and drudging. It’s my hope that at the end of every week during the baseball season, at that moment that only occurs on a Friday afternoon when it’s too far away from closing time to leave work early, but too late in the day to start anything new, you’ll join us here to check out some random observations and contribute your own opinions to ten stray thoughts on a Friday.

So, without further ado:

Melky Business

While the topic of Melky Cabrera’s suspension for using banned substances feels like it was exhausted about twenty minutes after the Major League Baseball press release announcing it was issued, I wanted to write about something that came up in the comments section of yesterday’s post on the morality issues attached to using supposed performance enhancers. It seems to me that an unfounded assumption exists for many who would suggest that because Cabrera was caught using testosterone, his numbers for the year are inflated.

We have absolutely no idea of either the context of Cabrera’s testosterone use; or how it affected his performance. If accuracy is of interest, it’s not so simple as to look at his career year and match its cause with testing positive for testosterone.

What we have here is the cum hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy, correlation does not prove causation:

  1. A occurs in correlation with B.
  2. Therefore, A causes B.

There is actual evidence to suggest that Cabrera’s success this season was rooted in something else entirely. For instance, you could actually link his success in terms of batting average with an increased number of ground balls put into play this season making it through the infield for hits. You could also talk about his more aggressive approach at the plate over the last two seasons. These are explanations for his career year for which evidence actually exists.

Missing The Point

Last week I wrote about statistics deepening our appreciation of the random and unexplained occurrences in baseball. I suggested that no one is so soulless as to not appreciate when something unlikely and random occurs during baseball.

Thanks to Jesse Sakstrup’s piece for The Hardball Times, in which he attempts to put Felix Hernandez’s perfect game in a context it doesn’t need, I must now stand corrected.

While reading through his post is frustrating in terms of imagining the overwhelming amount of daftness one must embrace to write in this fashion, the comments that other readers have left are well worth it. My favorite being:

Mike Meech said…
This article hurt my soul.

It Happens To The Best

This is from John Lott’s piece on Ricky Romero for the National Post:

The other day, Ricky Romero asked Darren Oliver for advice. After three fine seasons, Romero is having an awful time in his fourth. This is Oliver’s 19th season, and he is 41 years old, so Romero thought he might offer some insights about how to escape a long slump.

Instead, Oliver simply said: “Just go look in your locker.”

There, Romero found a media guide in which Oliver had highlighted two years from his own career as a starting pitcher. In both years, Oliver’s ERA was over 6.00.

“And he’s like, ‘It happens. It happens to the best,’ ” Romero recalled Thursday.

This is also why I’ll be looking to purchase a nice #38 royal blue jersey to remember Oliver’s time in the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen.

I love stories like this that actually give us a glimpse at the value a so-called veteran presence can provide.

Baseball Code Words

Atlanta Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens was hospitalized for dehydration last night following a Triple-A start for Gwinnett. Obviously it’s not the case here, but I was wondering if anyone else raises an eyebrow, most likely unfairly, when they hear about a player being dehydrated, half-assuming that it’s being used in place of hung over.

#YOLO

Pardon me if this comes across as a mere statement of the obvious, which I’ll admit it is to a degree, but sometimes in talking and writing about baseball, we get so involved with the minutiae that we forget about the bigger picture. For instance, it seems almost laughable all the attention that defensive shifts received in the early part of the year considering it’s little more than the novel approach of placing fielders in a position where the batter is most likely to hit the ball.

Anyway, I think teams heading to the playoffs must consider capability and capability alone when crafting its roster and lineup. In fact, everything should be about capability. It’s the reason we have statistics, why we have evaluation. Yes, statistics allow us to tell a story, but the reason that story is being told is to describe the capability of a player, and in turn the capability of a team. Again, I’m aware that might sound pedantic, but I think it’s a consideration that’s being overlooked when talk of prospect promotion arises.

While this most famously applies to the Baltimore Orioles calling up Manny Machado, and it could probably be forced into applying to the Texas Rangers bringing Mike Olt up to the big club or making threats to promote Jurickson Profar, I think the idea of planning for capability in October most reasonably applies to the prospect of the Cincinnati Reds calling up Billy Hamilton.

Right now, the Cincinnati Reds are six games up on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central, having gained ground on the team behind them during a stage in the season when their best player, first baseman Joey Votto, has been shelved on the Disabled List. Simultaneously, Hamilton has been stealing more and more bases at every level he’s played at in the Minor Leagues, including his newest landing spot with the Reds’ Double-A affiliate in Pensacola.

Today, Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus took a look, in a rather hilarious manner, at the value Hamilton could provide solely as a pinch runner. I think it’s significant enough to justify using his capabilities on the base paths in a playoff environment. The one thing that he is capable of offering is a valuable, if not all together tangible, addition. Surely, it’s more than what Miguel Cairo can offer.

Even if you think there’s an intangible benefit to having a veteran presence around that Hamilton wouldn’t be able to provide. It’s the playoffs. You can still have Cairo around the team, just not on the playoff roster.

Contrary To What Bud Selig Says

Despite Bud Selig’s claims that there is absolutely no support for expanding the role of instant replay in Major League Baseball, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports suggests that “there is a groundswell of support to at least quell the perception that baseball is ignoring the available technologies.”

Such support has pushed MLB to test out two different advanced replay systems during games at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field starting next week. The testing could precede an overhaul of the entire system ahead of next season.

Again, I’ll put out a challenge to people who don’t like the idea of expanded replay influencing certain calls in a baseball game. Please provide a reasonable argument against it. I’ve stated in the past that I don’t want robot umpires calling balls and strikes. I think I can offer a valid argument why we shouldn’t have such things, but what can be said in favor of not being as accurate as possible when it comes to fair/foul calls and safe/out calls?

I’m not being facetious. I really would like to hear a compelling argument.

Popular Players

Yesterday’s five most popular player profiles at Baseball Reference were:

  1. Melky Cabrera
  2. Felix Hernandez
  3. Derek Jeter
  4. Chipper Jones
  5. Albert Pujols

Over at FanGraphs, the last 24 hours have seen these player profiles visited the most:

  1. Joel Guzman (again)
  2. Chipper Jones
  3. Felix Hernandez
  4. Ichiro (!) Suzuki
  5. Franke de la Cruz

The Strasburg Dilemma

Earlier I mentioned discussion on Melky Cabrera being somewhat exhausted, and perhaps the only topic rivaling the amount of keyboard strokes used on it would be the Washington Nationals’ plan to eventually shut down Stephen Strasburg and theoretically not use him in the playoffs.

I firmly believe that such a decision on the part of GM Mike Rizzo is far more nuanced and complicated than most pundits are currently imagining it to be. A recent column from Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post confirms this belief.

Here are some of the factors informing Rizzo’s decision:

  1. Statistics on rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery.
  2. Analytics measuring innings load increases and their influences on re-injuries.
  3. The view of the surgeon, Dr. Lewis Yocum, who’s performed all the operations on Nationals pitchers in recent years.
  4. A promise made to Strasburg’s father to take care of his son.

I know that last one is a bit cheesy, but it’s important. There was a great article from Baseball Prospectus recently that attempted to re-imagine incredibly tough situations and scenarios that a Major League manager would have to face as though they were more common to a regular work place environment that you and I would face.

But all of that is an aside, when commenting on the Strasburg situation, it’s amazing how quickly we’ve forgotten about Jordan Zimmermann’s recovery from Tommy John surgery last season and the hard 160 innings cap placed on his season. I think this year’s results for Zimmermann kind of speak for themselves.

While every pitcher is different in terms of recovery and elbow strength, the results from Zimmermann must give some confidence to Rizzo that he’s doing the right thing.

Shameless Self Promotion

Have you guys subscribed to the Getting Blanked Show on YouTube yet? All the cool kids are doing it because all the cool kids want to watch our daily video show where we talk about each other and the Los Angeles Dodgers in a derogatory manner.

As always, you can also check out the Getting Blanked Facebook page by clicking here, and if you’re into it, try “liking” us to get updates on new videos and funny pictures in your own Facebook news feed, as well as the occasional link back to the blog. Staying on the social media train, you can also follow Getting Blanked on Twitter to get regular links to all of our content and fresh bits of sarcasm.

While we’re on the subject, feel free to subscribe to our iTunes feed as well, which will bring all the audio goodness of our podcasts and live streams and other things featuring our ugly mugs to your computer free of charge, including our daily show.

Further Proof

Today, I wrote about fan bases, and the similarities that exist across all of them. Putting it as generally and simplisticly as possible, both good and bad people count themselves among baseball fans. As if to further illustrate my point for me, I received some interesting responses via Twitter.

First, the good:



And then, the bad:

Comments (32)

  1. If I were you, I’d have those last 3 tweets blown up, printed and framed for above your desk.

  2. For a second I thought valentino might be a performance artist dedicating his life to self-referrential satire to draw our focus to the vacuity encapsulated by the nexus of sports, modern life and social media.

    Then I realized: Nope, just an asshole.

  3. I don’t use twitter but those last three have shown me that I am making the correct choice.

    I know there are plenty of stupid people on this world, I just don’t need to read their opinions.

    I wish people on the internet knew what the words irony and hypocrite meant.

    I don’t think you’re an asshole. Solid work.

  4. You’re*/YOUR…come on!

  5. Cox, is that you? Oh, you lil’ rascal!

  6. Wow, Parkes. I’m surprised you didn’t ask Sakstrup if he lived in his mother’s basement, “Actually Enjoyed Baseball™” or inserted an obligatory Fangraphs dig.

    The article was a valid, if effectively troll-y. Not everyone has to enjoy baseball in the same way as you.

    Oh, and 4 HR games and high strikeout performances (i.e. Morrow) are more impressive than ANY perfect game (especially if you don’t worship luck).

    • Uh, if you referring to Humber’s, then sure, maybe that’s a valid point, but Felix’s was anything but luck. He dominated that ass.

  7. Oh, wait, did I just get counter-trolled by Parkes, as per use? Probably

  8. lol. “loves horse cock” might be the insult of the week

  9. Awesome read as usual. Totally agree on Strasburg.

  10. But Christ man, I was gonna post after reading that stupid Jonah Keri article about PEDs how that seems exactly like the kind of condescending pseudo-logic you would write but I didn’t after reading your article and hoping you’d avoided that obvious trope about PEDs. Turns out you were just keeping your powder dry for today.

    There is ample evidence, scientific evidence, that testosterone enhancements make you able to train longer, get stronger and have springier muscles – all of which are significant benefits for a baseball player. Beyond that, using circumstancial evidence is not always a logical fallacy, despite the compelling use of Latin to defend your point. The use of circumstancial evidence is even more appropriate when there is more data to prove the correlation – and there’s plenty of data that shows that baseball players who use PEDs have better stats.

    I honestly don’t understand why you and Keri have some reactionary resistence to accepting that PEDs tend to, you know, enhance performance. Here is the step missing from your logic chain:

    1. PEDs improve overall athletic ability
    2. Athletic ability is the most significant factor in statistical success in sports
    3. Drastically improved statistics occur in correlation with players who take PEDs
    4. Therefore drastically improved statistics posted by players who take PEDs are probably caused by the improved performance caused by the PEDs.

    Jeez, I don’t know how or why I even got so worked up about that. You should write about politics man, you’re good…

    • Great post Ray. I don’t know how they can talk about the subject for 20 minutes on a podcast, write dozens of posts on it and yet never seem to address the issues you’ve raised.

      It seems to be a pressing desire to be a contrarian above all else.

    • Not exactly, the final word of what “PED” ACTUALLY does to an athlete is far from being written. Please make sure you go ahead and actually review medical literature about what each type of “PED” specifically do to a human being’s body and how much of it is of actual improvement to an athlete’s performance.

      In your 4 point argument, all the rest will fall if your premise is made of swiss cheese, hopefully you can actually see that point before accusing Keri, Parkes et al. of purely contrarian views.

    • You know what’s another example of the cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy? “Smoking causes cancer.” From a logical standpoint, “Smoking greatly increases a human’s chance of getting cancer” is the best we can conclude at this point, due to a lack of pure, empirical studies addressing the issue. But just because we can’t conduct such a study (purely due to ethical restrictions, and rightly so) doesn’t mean we ignore the huge mountain of correlational evidence to support the premise. More importantly, good luck getting a doctor to claim that smoking DOESN’T cause cancer – or a doctor to claim that PEDs DON’T improve performance.

      Along the same lines, the overwhelming majority of the evidence – albiet correlational – suggests that PEDs greatly increase your chances of improving your performance in professional sports. It may not be 100% effective for everyone who takes it, but if you take 500 major leaguers and give half of them PEDs and give the other half a placebo, there’s a very high likelihood that the experimental group will outperform the control group – and the large sample size will mitigate any individual differences between subjects. It takes a special set of blinders to ignore incredibly strong correlations (probably in the range of 0.85-0.90) in favour of pure logic. That’s the job of the tobacco lobby, and they use similarly sneaky language to support their highly contested position.

      Personally, I don’t give a damn if a player uses PEDs or not – I figure that professional adults should have the right to choose what they put in their bodies, and frankly, the risks of playing professional sports are much higher than any additional risk from PED use. But I don’t like when people lean on logical loopholes to deny overwhelming probabilities – a strong enough correlation carries the same weight as causal proof in our day-to-day lives.

      • My apologies Ray, that wasn’t meant as a refutation of your post, I meant it in support of your position. Sorry if it came off that way.

        • I don’t think it came across that way at all Nikki. It was a very good example of why it is unreasonable to demand the level of evidence that the ‘PEDs do nothing’ crowd demand.

          Despite not having definitive evidence, we do have plenty of evidence to suggest causality.

          DC: I have read a great deal of the published research on PEDs. For the same reason Nikki outlined above, there haven’t been too many medical studies that are applicable to athletes and it isn’t a stretch to say that there haven’t been any medical studies which provide better evidence than the statistical and anecdotal evidence that we have. (The statistical evidence is also of a very low standard due to the inherent weakness of the data.)

          • We’ve been here before. And Parkes is still wrong.

            Obviously correlation doesn’t equal causation. But there is more than a reasonable basis for belief that this particular correlation is in fact causal.

            And who is to say that Melky wasn’t cheating last year too. His ISO has remained well above his career norm both last year and this year for what it’s worth…

    • You forgot to mention that Testosterone also increases a person’s aggressiveness which could account for ” his more aggressive approach at the plate over the last two seasons”, another link to his improved performance?

  11. I’ve always been interested in the truth behind some of the official party lines we’re given on player absences (i.e. “dehydration” = hangover).

    It came up on MLB Radio at some point last seaon. One of the Jims (Bowden, Memolo, or Duqette, take your pick) was talking about how “flu-like symptoms” often meant the player was actually being benched for the day as a disciplinary measure for whatever reason, as true flu-like symptoms (as in, those caused by an actual flu) would tend to bench half the team as the bug made the rounds through the clubhouse.

    It’s as dubious as a lot of the other insights you hear on MLB Radio, but just the same, it’s something that’s stuck with me any time I hear about a player benched for “flu-like symptoms.”

    • I remember when Eric Thames was pulled late in a game for ‘dehydration’ – in that case it probably was, he was suffering from cramping which is a classic symptom. It was also very hot on the field and dehydration through the course of a game can occur very quickly.
      Sometimes the ‘flu-like’ symptoms can be because of performance anxiety as well.

      Just saying.

  12. The best part was when he told on you to Brett Lawrie.

  13. RE; Instant Replay

    My compelling counterargument is my love for Lou-Pinella-stealing-the-base caliber manager/umpire confrontations over blown calls. And I’m only half-joking.

  14. You can tell everything you need to know about a person when they spell ‘fucking’ like ‘fucken’

  15. 1. Swinging at more first pitch strikes than ever before occurs in correlation with career best success at the plate
    2. Therefore, swinging at more first pitch strikes causes career best success at the plate

    I wish I knew what this type of argument was called.

  16. How…How did the author actually get through writing a piece like that? Sakstrup devours baseball in that article like Hannibal devours people. It’s unpleasant at that point.

  17. Resorting to logical fallacies to prove point is like something a second-year philosophy student would do when they realize they can fill in large gaps in their knowledge with pedantic tautologies.

  18. I listen to the podcast everyday and I think you guys are hilarious ! If its the horse cock that enables you…then keep it up! Literally

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