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Maybe It's Too Late to Police Steroids in Baseball
It's been pointed out by our partner Ron Shandler that out of 1200 players tested for steroids in 2005, only 12 tested postive and just about all of them were either scrubby minor leaguers or fringe major leaguers, Rafael Palmeiro, a fading former semi-star who does Viagra commericals, being the exception.

I read Buster Olney's Blog on ESPN discussing whether it's reasonable to comment one way or another whether Albert Pujols is on steroids, and his basic (and somewhat obvious) point is that we'll never truly know, either way. But there are two things we do know: (1) that more than those 12 guys must be using because if it was just those 12, and 11 of them suck, then steroids don't work, and they never would have become an issue; and (2) that if a Pujols (or some other huge star) did test positive that MLB would have an enormous incentive to keep that quiet.

Think of it this way - if the mail room guy steals office supplies, you fire him. If your best salesman, who makes you $1,000,000 a year in profit steals office supplies, you look the other way. And consider that Bud Selig looked the other way during the obviously steroid driven home run chase in 1998, so why would he want to destroy baseball's rep even further if the game's biggest stars were all juicing. At what point does it become a business decision to keep it quiet and put in a fake policy to handle the stuff that's already come out.

What would surprise you more - that a guy like Pujols or David Ortiz was juicing, or that baseball would out them if they were? Even though we have no direct evidence of the former (some circumstantial evidence such as the massive size of their physiques, their ability to hit towering home runs, (in Pujols' case, the Bonds'-like plate discipline), etc.) the latter would surprise me more. So that only those scrubs have tested positive is evidence of nothing. At this point, it's the same as if they simply had no policy, and we're just left to speculate freely. There's little doubt that some major star other than Bonds, Giambi, etc. is or was juicing.

Posted by Chris Liss at 5/19/2006 1:16:00 AM

Comments (8)

The rounding of track timing and categorical rotisserie stats
Justin Gatlin's 100-meter world record time of 9.76 was changed to 9.77 after it was determined that it was timed to be 9.766, which officially should have been rounded up to 9.77, the previous world record. Perhaps they do that to eliminate human error, but I'm wondering why, in a sport where hundreths of a second matter tremendously, they can't extend the recorded times to at least thousandths of a second. Perhaps the previous world record holder ran a 9.774 -- it seems that the .008 difference might be noticeable or meaningful.

The same observation goes for a quirk I've noticed in some major fantasy leagues providers. In these categorical rotisserie leagues, batting average, ERA, and WHIP (as well as FG% and FT% in basketball) are all rounded -- ERA and WHIP to the nearest hundredth, batting average (also FG% and FT%) to the nearest thousandth. And why shouldn't they be? That's the metric we see in the newspaper; how awkward would it be to see that Ted Williams batted .4057 in 1941, not .406?

The problem comes when these rounded totals tie. Over the course of a season, a team in a weekly league starting 14 batters might accumulate somewhere around 7000 at-bats. After a while, the marginal base hit doesn't affect the team's cumulative average as much as it did earlier in the season. The law of large numbers implies that the average of a random sample from a large population is likely to be close to the mean of the whole population. Taking the whole population to be all major league baseball players' batting averages, and taking the random samples to be each owner's team (if everyone knows what they're doing, which isn't always the case in your average (pardon the pun) home league or public league), every owner's team batting average will tend to regress to the mean by the end of the season. The basic result of these unnecessary statistical observations is this: in categorical rotisserie leagues, where the very basis of accumulating the stats is to rank each team in relation to each other, why should my team be tied be tied with the next when they've batted 1991-for-7000 (.2844) and the other has batted 1985-for-7000 (.2835)? Do those six hits count for nothing?

In baseball leagues, the same goes for ERA, and especially WHIP (walks+hits per inning pitched, for baseball newcomers). Taking the season-ending stats from the 2005 RotoWire Staff Keeper League, the mean of all team WHIPs was 1.3076 and the standard deviation was .0599. Assuming a normal distribution of baseball batting averages, this means that 95 percent of team WHIPs should fall within two standard deviations from the mean, which in this case is a paltry 0.1198 (Indeed, only one team's WHIP out of 18 fell out of that range, leading to 94.4 percent falling within; my team barely made it in at 1.3967, mostly thanks to the antics of Orlando Cabrera, Bruce Chen, and Brandon Backe). This means (again, pardon the pun) that the team WHIP values are so clustered that there will be plenty of collisions when rounding to the nearest hundredth, as many major fantasy providers do. Thank goodness we used RotoWire MLB Commissioner to host the league, as it either doesn't round or rounds WHIP to the nearest ten-thousandth, which is enough to distinguish almost any two fractions divided by about 1250 (the innings cap for some leagues, and the denominator for the WHIP calculation). Looking at the RotoWire Staff Keeper League, the following pairs of teams (each denoted by the WHIP ranking they actually received using four decimal places) would be tied if WHIP was rounded to the nearest hundredth: {(3,4), (5,6), (7,8), (9,10), (13,14)}. That's a lot of unnecessary ties as when using the pure stats, which are readily available, each of the higher-numbered of those ordered pairs can be objectively judged to have a lower WHIP than the other. With a few more or less hits and walks, three or four teams easily could have been tied if WHIP was rounded to the nearest hundredth in this league.

The basic thesis of this whole rant is this: wouldn't it be too simple for your typical fantasy league provider to throw a few extra decimal places on these stats? In some of these leagues, in which a friendly gentleman's wager may or may not be on the line, the extra half point you may gain or lose in the "average" categories your league uses (AVG, SLG, OPS, ERA, WHIP, XBA, etc.) might make a material difference. So what if your team batting average of .2778 or ERA of 3.8781 looks a little funky. Getting it right is what matters. As for Gatlin's 100-meter dash time, I hope they have mechanisms that allow for the uniform timing of all races across the statistical population of all 100-meter times ever recorded (especially with today's modern technology), but if they don't, I don't see why his 3.766 time can't stand. A couple hundredths of a second less and he would have had his name alone in the record books (at least until it gets broken next year). Pull out your stopwatches and find out how short that actually is.

Posted by Bret Cohen at 5/17/2006 9:16:00 AM

Comments (3)

Visiting Wrigley
A couple pals and I go on baseball trips every so often and this weekend we made an impromptu visit to Wrigley Field.

I had never been to Wrigley, and it was fun to finally experience it. Great park, right up there with Fenway as the top two baseball stadiums. I'd say Fenway 1A, Wrigley 1B.

What struck me was the absolute lack of signage. Save for a billboard behind the plate, there were no advertising signs. Maybe that explains why tickets seemed a little pricey ($30 for bleacher seats). The Cubs also price tickets according to the opponent, meaning certain dates, like Mother's Day, cost more than others. But there were plenty of scalpers outside, and if you wait until just before gametime, they unload their tickets on the cheap.

Beers were reasonable. I paid $5.50 for something called Old Style. Never swilled that beer before. It's your basic cheap, watery, ballpark beer. The good thing was beers were poured right from the can or bottle, which prevents the ballpark from watering down the suds when served through a tap (as was alleged at Dodger Stadium a few years back). The first hot dog I tasted was a $3 dog from a vendor. It was easily filed under you-get-what-you-pay-for. The other dog was a $5.25 grilled hot dog. Definitely worth the price (relatively speaking).

The old-time scoreboard added to the experience, but I didn't realize how much I enjoy those Diamond-vision scoreboards in the modern parks. The Wrigley scoreboard offers only runs, hits, outs and out-of-town scores (and doesn't have enough space for all of the scores). No player stats, no lineups, etc. (although the thin video boards showed players' batting averages). The other thing that disappointed was that you can't see the field from the lower-level concourse. So if you go for a dog, you can't keep track of the game. But the legendary ivy and brick and the overall park feel made up for the few drawbacks. Plus, the park was kept up very nicely. When I visited the old Tiger Stadium about 10 years ago, it looked its age and then some. Wrigley felt as fresh and beautiful as any of the new throwback parks.

Good people, too. Alex the Bouncer, who did more drinking than bouncing at some bar in Wrigleyville, recommended Leona's for classic Chicago-style pizza. He was right, it was delicious.

All in all, a fantastic weekend in Chicago.

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 5/15/2006 11:33:00 AM

Comments (13)

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7/2/2006 - 7/8/2006
6/25/2006 - 7/1/2006
6/18/2006 - 6/24/2006
6/11/2006 - 6/17/2006
6/4/2006 - 6/10/2006
5/28/2006 - 6/3/2006
5/21/2006 - 5/27/2006
5/14/2006 - 5/20/2006
5/7/2006 - 5/13/2006
4/30/2006 - 5/6/2006
4/23/2006 - 4/29/2006
4/16/2006 - 4/22/2006
4/9/2006 - 4/15/2006
4/2/2006 - 4/8/2006
3/26/2006 - 4/1/2006
3/19/2006 - 3/25/2006
3/12/2006 - 3/18/2006
3/5/2006 - 3/11/2006
2/26/2006 - 3/4/2006
2/19/2006 - 2/25/2006
2/12/2006 - 2/18/2006
2/5/2006 - 2/11/2006
1/29/2006 - 2/4/2006
1/22/2006 - 1/28/2006
1/15/2006 - 1/21/2006
1/8/2006 - 1/14/2006
1/1/2006 - 1/7/2006