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Moneyball and PEDs, a Successful Combination

Well first I'd like to thank Manny for putting steroids and performance enhancing drugs back in the news today.  I had originally planned to do more analysis on the franchise's ability to develop young players, but I was really too lazy to try and find the right mix of players, collect the data, and then get it in the right format.  Plus, I don't have access to forecasting metrics like PECOTA, and didn't feel like spending hours on end doing all this work only to be refuted for the same reasons as in the first post. 

 

Like everyone around here, I read Moneyball back in 2003, and was thoroughly impressed by the results Beane and DePo had in regards to competing against competition with payrolls doubling Oakland's.  The only reason I mention the book is because it seems to have given Beane a free pass in regards to fans objectively evaluating trade results, draft picks, and team performance.  As a disclaimer I don't remember a lot of specific details in the book anymore, but I do know it touched on much more than the aforementioned stuff.  Anyhow, as time has passed Oakland's success has started to significantly dwindle.  The decreasing performance doesn't just apply to the A's in general, but it has also followed the stars of those early decade A's teams to the point where any valid contributors from Oakland and the early 2000's have become essentially unknowns.  Aside from losing a few stars to free agency there really wasn't much I could come up with that caused the downturn in performance within the organization.

One thing my friends always like to give me hard a time about is teasing me that Oakland was the organization that introduced steroids into baseball.  From Canseco and McGwire, to Giambi and Tejada, the biggest stars in Oakland always seem to somehow be linked to PED use.  It also doesn't help that BA in BALCO refers to Bay Area.  Citing mlb.com's Drug Policy Timeline I saw that the MLB began random drug testing in 2001, and then in 2003 every player on the 40 man roster was required to be tested at least once.  Coincidentally enough, the A's offensive struggles began right around that time.  Therefore, I decided to plot the A's overall team performance in runs scored, home runs, and slugging vs. that of the rest of the league to see if there were any noticeable results or trends since the start of drug testing.  Originally I performed the tests against all of the MLB, but I realized it would be much more fair to do it only against the AL so the data wouldn't be skewed by the poor hitting NL teams.  The results were pretty astonishing.

Runs_mediumHrs_mediumSlg_medium

As you can see before the steroid testing, through 2000, the A's were outperforming everyone by a pretty significant margin in every statistical category shown.  You can see the steady increase within the league and in Oakland up until 2000, and then the sudden drop off after the start of testing in 2001.  From there, the league begins a slight downward trend that could be expected from such a change.  The A's on the other hand drop absolutely off the map.  The results speak for themselves, but I wanted to be sure that the mean values before and after PED testing were significantly different.  Since the runs scored data was normally distributed I was able to perform a Two Sample T-Test at an alpha level of 95% on the runs scored data to verify that the hypothesis of runs scored from 1995-2001, and 2002-2008 were statistically equal.  That provided these results:

Two-sample T for 02-08 vs 95-01

       N   Mean  StDev  Mean

02-08  7  755.9   52.0    20

95-01  7  840.4   77.3    29

95% CI for difference:  (-161.2810, -7.8618)

T-Test of difference = 0 (vs not =): T-Value = -2.40  P-Value = 0.033  DF = 12

Both use Pooled StDev = 65.8664

Because zero is not within the range of the "95% CI for difference" and the P-Value is less than .05, statistically speaking we can reject the hypothesis that the two data sets are equal.  This means that from the data there is in fact a difference between the runs scored prior to testing and after. 

So what do we take from this?  Well getting back to Moneyball I'm not so sure that Billy Beane was ever the expert we made him out to be.  I think we unfairly built him up to be an infallible genius, remember "In Billy We Trust?"  I'm of the opinion that Beane's success in finding undervalued players, and having them instantly turning into All-Stars upon landing in Oakland was because these guys were on PEDs.  Now that steroid testing is in full force, successful teams have become more reliant on efficiently developing their young talent.  PED testing has also weeded out the younger players that are instantly able to come into the league and mash 20 home runs, and then five years later be completely out of baseball.  I'm staring at you Ben Grieve, and Terrance Long.  I won't even touch Matt Stair's and John Jaha's 35 home runs years.  Heck, even Eric Chavez was healthy enough to have back to back 30HR years and even made the cover a video game at one point in his career!

It should also be noted, of players on those teams, Adam Piatt, Jeremy Giambi, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, and Randy Velarde have all been mentioned in the Mitchell Report as being known PED users.  I won't do it, but you could even go as far as making the case that Beane intentionally sought out known steroid users with the idea they were more likely to have huge years. David Justice, Mike Piazza, and Jack Cust all come to mind and fit the bill.  Alternatively, you could also make the argument the A's reduced offensive performance is based on Beane seeking to eliminate any potential PED users within the organization leaving the franchise with the complete lack of power we see today. 

Don't get me wrong with this, I'm not trying to question Beane's ethics, but I do think it's time to seriously question his aura of infallibility.  The A's old station-to-station approach of taking a walk and just waiting for your big power hitters to knock you in is obviously a thing of the past.  As I alluded to in the player development post I don't know for sure if the organization is still preaching that philosophy, but if they are, I feel like the A's are now the organization that is lagging the trend.  I do realize the Big Three is no longer around, but I'm not so sure even they could win with the offense of recent years.  That goes without saying Hudson is out after TJ surgery, Zito has been throwing BP for two years up until the past week, and Mulder... well I'm not even sure where he is these days.

I hope this post opens up a few eyes.  I've got a feeling questioning Beane will bring me some trouble, but as long as I don't have to hear any correlation doesn't equal causation nonsense in regards to steroids not affecting power numbers I'll be alright.

 

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