A Question About The Potential Suspendees

Last night, ESPN reported that Major League Baseball was preparing to suspend 20 players associated with the BioGenesis clinic after convincing Anthony Bosch to cooperate with their investigation. In the report, they included a list of players that are potentially on the to-be-suspended list. That list of names:

Ryan Braun Brewers
Everth Cabrera Padres
Melky Cabrera Blue Jays
Francisco Cervelli Yankees
Bartolo Colon Athletics
Nelson Cruz Rangers
Fautino de los Santos Free agent
Gio Gonzalez* Nationals
Yasmani Grandal Padres
Fernando Martinez Astros
Jesus Montero Mariners
Jordan Norberto Free agent
Jhonny Peralta Tigers
Cesar Puello** Mets
Alex Rodriguez Yankees

* Sources told ESPN that Gonzalez received only legal substances ** minor leaguer, not a member of the MLB Players Association

This is not an exhaustive list, as there are only 15 names there and ESPN lists that sidebar as names that they “have learned” about. However, these 15 players have been linked to the clinic through leaked documents over the winter, and each one has been aware of the fact that they are being investigated by the league.

Now, I don’t know about the psyche and motivations of these individuals, but I do know that when I’m speeding and spot a police car on the highway, I slow down. Knowing that they’re under scrutiny, my guess is that these players are probably less likely to be using PEDs this season, given that MLB is actively looking for evidence that would allow the league to suspend them. This is all just speculation, but I would think that most of us could probably agree that we’d be less likely to speculate that a player was currently using PEDs after it became public knowledge that the league was investigating him for PED usage.

Anyway, just for fun, here’s a custom leaderboard of the 11 active Major League players named in the ESPN report, which allows us to compare their overall season totals from 2012 and 2013. First, the hitters.

Season PA BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2012 3765 8% 19% 0.175 0.320 0.278 0.341 0.453 0.342 116
2013 1429 9% 19% 0.157 0.323 0.277 0.341 0.435 0.336 113

And now the pitching, while noting that this is just Bartolo Colon and Gio Gonzalez, and that Gonzalez has not been linked to the purchase of any PEDs, as all the reports have indicated he just purchased legal supplements from BioGenesis.

Season IP BB% K% HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA- FIP- xFIP- xFIP tERA SIERA FBv
2012 351.2 7% 20% 0.67 0.276 75% 79 82 93 3.72 3.54 3.75 91.8
2013 142 6% 19% 0.82 0.267 73% 89 89 96 3.82 3.77 3.91 91.4

The hitters have dropped from all the way from a 116 wRC+ last year to a 113 wRC+ this year. The pitchers have gone from a 93 xFIP- to a 96 xFIP-. Basically, what they were last year, they’ve been again this year, despite the fact that they were publicly linked to PED usage over the winter and likely know that they’re under heavy scrutiny at the moment.

If PEDs were as effective as we’re told, and these players were using PEDs last year and are not using PEDs this year due to the investigation, wouldn’t it show up in their performance? This doesn’t prove anything, of course, and we don’t actually have any idea whether or not these players used PEDs in the past or are using them now. I just find it kind of interesting, considering all the assumptions about how PEDs are a magical elixir that turns scrubs into stars, that their 2012 and 2013 performances are almost exactly the same.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Graham
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Graham

And the question is…

indyralph
Member
Member
indyralph

“If PEDs were as effective as we’re told, and these players were using PEDs last year and are not using PEDs this year due to the investigation, wouldn’t it show up in their performance?”

Iron
Guest
Iron

If PEDs were as effective as we’re told…

By pitchers who have admitted using and seeing their velocity go up by several mph, by countless clinical, anecdotal, and laboratory studies. The effects and mechanisms of steroid use are pretty well established in increasing muscle.

and these players were using PEDs last year and are not using PEDs this year due to the investigation…

Which is an untestable and suspect assumption.

wouldn’t it show up in their performance?

Small sample size.

Wasted AB
Guest
Wasted AB

Can you name any pitchers that have admitted using before their velocity went up?

Iron
Guest
Iron

Obviously it is a tiny sample size since it is very rare for a player to come clean. But to answer your request for a pitcher’s name who admitted just that: Dan Naulty.

pitnick
Guest
pitnick

“The effects and mechanisms of steroid use are pretty well established in increasing muscle” =/= better at baseballing

Steve Holt
Guest
Steve Holt

Actually, the main benefit of steroid use for baseball is not in muscle bulk. It is in recovery. What this means is that a player can play a game, work out afterward, and feel as fresh as a daisy in the morning. I remember some quotes from Matt Lawton, shortly after he got traded from the Mariners to the Yankees, when he got busted for steroid use saying words to this effect. Because of the recovery effect, I would think that the steroid effect would work best for sustaining the players’ elite performance late in their careers (think Bonds, Clemens etc). It is not a coincidence that that rosters are getting younger…

Phew. Long post.

Balthazar
Guest
Balthazar

So Iron, agreed. The fact that PEDs manifestly affect performance is amply demonstrated in multiple sports over the last 40 years. Those who continue to argue against the evidence of that have an agenda, but not a case.

The ‘methodology’ of the comparison in this post is thoroughly spurious. There is no basis to determine that 2013 is a season in which any of the individuals listed is _not_ using. Sure, that would be an interesting hypothesis, but there’s no way to confirm it. I for one, don’t believe that Braun is clean. Even ONE guy still on stuff would be enough to skew the assumption of ‘2013 as a control.’
Lumping all eleven hitters into an aggregate line is a completely bogus approach. It hides large dropoffs for several guys—Melky, Montero—from the year before, for instance. Normal variation? How do I know?? Which is the point: there’s no way to draw a valid conclusion from this method, but the approach papers over some apparent declines which counter the hypothesis.

Using 2012 as the *sole year* to compare to is absurd. The ‘odd looking seasons’ for Nellie Cruz and Jhonny Peralta were prior to that, so obviously using 2012 alone ‘disappears’ their drop off seasons from the comparison.

Another major aspect of PEDs, especially testosterone analogs: when a guy uses, his own hormone synthesis attenuates so that when he quits the sauce his performance *crashes through the floor*. There is a way go get around this, though, by moderate usage of the stuff post peaks, together with other replacement substances. These are all illegal, and performance distorting, but do NOT produced big numbers, only allowing the person to simulate ‘normal’ functioning. It can be several years before a player’s own hormone functioning returns to a natural, long-term baseline. It is entirely prossible, indeed probable, that in either or both of 2012 or 2013 several guys getting illegal assistance from Biogenesis were using not ‘boosters’ but ‘coasters.’ But their numbers would be nearer their performance baseline. This potential is in now ways accounted for in the methodology of this crapulous study in the post.

The largest single problem for the owners with PED use, the real reason they are now looking to crack down hard, is that guys boost to get a contract, then go off and their performance crashes, taking the team into the crapper. I can’t prove that Mo Vaughn, Greg Vaughn, Jeff Cirillo, Chone Figgins, Alex Rodriguez, an Albert Pujols all went that way, amongst many others—only that their ‘sudden [otherwise] inexplicable declines’ exactly fit the performance profile of guys coming off the stuff cold. If I write a bad check for $100, I’m a felon, but if guys like that sign a contract they got by juice and go off, they walk away with $100 million guaranteed. Anyone see a problem with THAT? The owners seem to have figured out that the fraud is on them whereas they used to be only to happy to have a big booster or two on their squad to get the wins thereby.

Dave, the whole study is bogus as monopoly money, and you have to know that. You’ve done this before, using aggregate numbers which mask glaring bulges in performance. I’d like to think this stuff is beneath you, but the evidence doesn’t fit that assertion . . . .

VB
Guest
VB

IIRC, I remember reading that the benefits from steroids or PED’s don’t just leave the body after stopping ingestion. The benefits will slowly erode, but the body can still retain some of the gains from the PEDs.

Can anybody else verify this?

Shlum
Guest
Shlum

There’s only one question in the entire article. Everyone here is smarter than you LOL

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