Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

Scarred, but smarter.

28 Jan

How Big Is Home Field Advantage? Part 4: Batting Last (by JonathanF)

Note from Alex: The previous piece in this series, Part 3, was pre-empted by rumors about the Upton trade within hours of publication. I’m linking to it here, so that you can go back and read it.

I started this series proposing that baseball should have a higher home field advantage than other sports because it has an inherent batting last advantage, and the home team bats last. JoeyT suggested I try to measure that effect, which I hadn’t thought of when I started this quest. I’m going to propose a method which I think gets at it to some extent and I welcome everyone’s thoughts on the matter.

Think about, say, the field dimension advantage. If short fences or some godforsaken hill in center field favors the home team, then the effect of the field advantage ought to decrease as the game goes on because there are fewer and fewer opportunities as the game goes on for the home team to exploit their advantage. By contrast, the bats-last advantage is probably very very small at the start of the game but ought to grow and grow as the game goes along. The archetypal bats-last advantage is the ability to play for one run, which the home team can do in an extra-inning tied game and the visitor can’t. The ability to make defensive substitutions is improved when the home team can squeeze one extra at-bat out of a good hitter since they get an extra half-inning after the visitors have batted if they need it. This advantage is pretty worthless in the early innings but is worth something late.

So, suppose a game is tied in the early innings. The home field advantage will be mostly field-related and less last-bat related, while later in the game it should be far more last-bat related. Let’s now look at the data and see what they say. I have taken every game which was won by one team or the other (this new criterion caused me to lose 61 games out of the database; my previous results were infected by keeping these games in and improperly counting them against the home team, but 61 games out of 100,000 is rounding error) and look at games which were tied at end of inning x. This table gives the results:

Tied After Home Win % Number of games
start of game .539 100062
1st .534 51881
2nd .532 34220
3rd .526 24407
4th .523 18646
5th .518 15240
6th .520 13119
7th .522 11771
8th .521 10303
9th .524 9155
10th .520 5097
11th .521 2814
12th .521 1549
13th .521 864
14th .503 457
15th .510 261
16th .490 153
17th .489 88
18th .457 46
19th .429 28
20th .400 15
21st .556 9
22nd .667 3
23rd .667 3
24th .500 2
0-5 .533 244456
6-9 .521 44348
Extra innings .518 11389

Look what happens. While home teams win 53.9 percent of all games, that rate drops when tied after the first inning, and continues to drop every inning until the fifth inning, when it starts to rise again. It then bounces around a little, but is around 52 percent from the fifth inning through the 13th inning. Once you get out past the 13th inning, you’re only talking about 457 games and I think it’s fair to say that the winning percentages are meaningless.

(I hear some of you in the back saying that all of these percentages are meaningless. If you think so, just stop reading now.)

It’s even more striking graphically (once you suppress the very long games):

The red line is just the data from the table. The green and blue lines give upper and lower 95 percent confidence intervals.

Given my “analysis” above, I can estimate that about two percent of the home field advantage (roughly half) comes from batting last. There are plenty of reasons to object to this, but this estimate is sufficiently fragile that I have no desire for objections now. Note, by the way, that the restriction of this analysis to tied games is only to sharpen the estimate and to avoid the problem of estimating the effect of a lead which might have come about in the early inning through all the other effects. I started doing some math to make this effect more precise, but too many other variables that you’d have to estimate come into play.

One more issue before putting travel to bed. mravery asked me for a heat map based on homestand versus roadtrip status. That graph follows:

The problem with heatmaps like this one is that they don’t tell you just how few games are in some of these cells. For example, there are only 78 games ever played that are the second game of a homestand and the first game of a roadtrip (those are obviously makeup game situations of some sort). So the fact home teams don’t do well in them doesn’t tell you anything.

I think I do this one better, however, with a linear regression. This post is already too long, so I’m not going to describe linear regression, but the following equation explains over 20 percent of the variance in homefield win rates and captures the effects mravery was asking for better than the heatmap, in my opinion:

Winning Percentage in a Homestand = Season Winning Percentage + 0.0052 x length of homestand
Winning Percentage on a Roadtrip = Season Winning Percentage – 0.0047 x length of trip

Call both of these coefficients half a percent, and you see that winning percentages do vary with travel (and with staying home). A six game road trip costs you about 2 percentage points in your winning percentage on that trip, while a six game homestand raises your expected win rate (on that homestand) by about 2 percent. These effects are both significant, though they only explain about 3 percent of the variance in wins.

So where does that leave us? With Alex’s indulgence, I’ll take one final post in a few days to sum up what I’ve learned from this.

159 Responses to “How Big Is Home Field Advantage? Part 4: Batting Last (by JonathanF)”

  1. 1
    Kevin Lee Says:

    Can I use that heat map as my Desktop background?

  2. 2
    Stu Says:

    Durbin to the Phils. [Joke.]

  3. 3
    PaulV Says:

    The home team does not need to wear out the best of its bull pen when behind late in game. Some pitches do well in low leverage situations.

  4. 4
    Dusty Says:

    Rays signed Kelly Johnson, well of course they did.

  5. 5
    Bethany Says:

    Yes, we should all be devastated that he took his .678 OPS to Florida.

  6. 6
    JonathanF Says:

    That’s a good point, PaulV, and won’t be captured in this calculation. I think there are several aspects which aren’t captured at all, like the control of a game for inclement weather before the first pitch (which, while rare, is certainly an early homefield strategic advantage) and ability to play for one run when down a run late. But short of a very complicated analysis which looks at every particular situation, this is about the easiest broad-brush look I could think of.

  7. 7
    Tom Says:

    Yeah, but we have Justin Upton now, whose 2012 road OPS was .670. [/sarcasm]

  8. 8
    Dusty Says:

    Well his career OPS is .767 which would be fine for a 2B/OF bench role, though I admit he’s thrown a few clunkers in there (but also a couple of borderline elite seasons).

  9. 9
    justhank Says:

    JonathonF – I (and I bet I speak for nearly everybody) am humbled by your thoroughness. Thank you.

    If you have any strength left, I’d love to see, oh, an Executive Summary of your work.

    Thanks again!

  10. 10
    JonathanF Says:

    Gosh thanks, justhank. One quick note for those who think i can’t do simple multiplication — I can’t. In the next-to-last paragraph, it ought to be three percent, not two percent, since 6 x .5 = 3. That, of course, is the only calculation I did in my head, and I got it wrong.

  11. 11
    drew Says:

    Re: Durbin, the Phillies have also signed Yuni Betancourt to a minor-league deal, in an ongoing shrewd attempt to corner the market in shitty players.

  12. 12
    PaulV Says:

    Saved $ to spend in latter years?
    Cheap rentals or good AAA team?

  13. 13
    Johnny Says:

    @11 – lol.

    @10 – Awesome stuff. Do you have a job? :)

  14. 14
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    Huh. So I woke up this morning and the Braves still don’t need an outfielder. It’s been so long, that still feels weird.

  15. 15
    Jeff K Says:

    JonathanF, that is a really fantastic analysis and write-up. And very different that my own hypothesis when you said a few days ago that you were writing this series. But, it isn’t clear to me why the batting last advantage would be limited to tie games, or even necessarily most pronounced in tie games. Would it make sense to include games where the home team brings the potential tying run to the plate (e.g., a “late and close” situation? It seams that a home team down a run in the 9th would still have the advantage of pinch hitting. It may be that any batting last advantage becomes even less pronounced when the home team is down a run, but it seems worth considering.

  16. 16
    csg Says:

    LF is our new 3B. MLBTR has us with a projected $83 m payroll this morning. The talking heads think we have a $98m budget for this year. We aren’t sitting on $15m with a platoon of Juan/Chris at 3b if those numbers are accurate

  17. 17
    Parish Says:

    Having money to spend must coincide with something to spend it on.

  18. 18
    csg Says:

    3B would be good target

  19. 19
    Smitty Says:

    There aren’t many 3B options out there right now.

  20. 20
    Jeff K Says:

    Smitty’s barber might know if Wren is saving that $15M for his Super Bowl get-together with Chipper …

  21. 21
    Remy Says:

    If Scott Rolen decides to play this year, is he worth taking a flyer on?

  22. 22
    Jeff K Says:

    Odd coincidence of simultaneous postings …

  23. 23
    JonathanF Says:

    @15: Thanks. As I tried to say @6, I agree with you. The real problem is that that is a much tougher study to do. First, even road teams know what they have to do when there are two outs in the top of the ninth and they are down some number of runs. If your point is that their efforts to tie the game (or take the lead) stand a substantial chance of so weakening their team defensively that they are disadvantaged relative to a home team in the same situation, well sure. But assessing that advantage (and its quantitative significance overall) is going to be really really tough. I don’t necessarily think that most of the strategic advantage is in tie games — it’s that in tie games the only advantage left is the strategic one. That might understate the aggregate strategic advantage somewhat, but I’m guessing that it’s not by too much. But it’s a guess, because I haven’t figured out a simple way to estimate it.

  24. 24
    Jeff K Says:

    @23 – Thanks, I understand your thinking better now. It seems right that the strategic advantage would more likely be confounded by other factors in non-tie games, and I certainly have no useful ideas on how to test if that hunch is right.

  25. 25
    Mark Grogan Says:

    Who knew Jackson Pollock was a baseball fan?

    Great study, Jonathan. Unfortunately, just like in school, I started looking out the window after a brief period of fascination.

    I am so ready for the first rado play-by-play of a Spring Training game. Chip doesn’t do those, does he?

  26. 26
    Dan Says:

    Why would the Braves have gotten Johnson from the Diamondbacks if they planned on getting a third baseman?

    Time to get out of the denial stage about the impending Francisco/Johnson/Pastornicky/Janish third base clusterf*ck.

  27. 27
    td Says:

    My guess is we’ll give Johncisco a shot for the first half of the year. If we’re contending at the all start break, we go for a real third baseman.

  28. 28
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    My guess is we’ll give Johncisco a shot for the first half of the year. If we’re contending at the all start break, we go for a real third baseman.

    Here’s a thought:

    2013 – Francisco/Johnson
    2014-16 – Martin Prado

  29. 29
    c. shorter Says:

    Prado leaving for a year was just another example of him putting the team first.

  30. 30
    td Says:

    Not a bad thought for 2014 – 2016. If Johncisco doesn’t cut it, a half year rental could be a good thing – then Prado after that.

  31. 31
    JonathanF Says:

    @26-30. Does that means you guys have discounted my other two possibilities from yesterday — the Clemensization of Chipper Jones and the Renaissance of Terry Pendleton?

  32. 32
    Seat Painter Says:

    I refuse to even mention Kid K Namer in any sentence with Chipper. Ever.

  33. 33
    td Says:

    I’m a little concerned that the Braves’ front office may do financial planning like the govt. If we have $15 mil left over and don’t use it in 2013, our baseline drops by $15 mil for 2014. Of course in the govt, you never end up with anything left over at the end of the year. It would be nice to use that supposed extra $15 mil to help sign Heyward or others to long term deals.

  34. 34
    Dan Says:

    Prado leaving for a year was just another example of him putting the team first.


    Wren to Prado: “We’ll send you on a three-month hiatus to Arizona, and when the Uptonless Diamondbacks fall out of contention, you’ll be back long term this July.”

  35. 35
    JonathanF Says:

    @32: I will admit that the biggest problem with that plan is that those of us who remember Suzyn Waldman’s paean to Clemens as he returned would rather kill ourselves than hear Chip reprise the role. (see paragraph 2 under Criticism.)

  36. 36
    Smitty Says:


    It would be more like Tony Schiavone when Sting would show up.

    In fact, I bet they would keep it on the down low and then all of the sudden, late in a game, Crazy Train would fire up. Chip would scream, “OH MY GOD! THAT’S CHIPPER’S MUSIC”

    Of course, we would all go nuts too…

  37. 37
    JonathanF Says:

    @32: I just realized how funny your comment was. Sorry… I’m slow today.

  38. 38
    Dan Says:

    Bourn still wants five years.

    Good luck with that.

  39. 39
    Seat Painter Says:


    No worries, my genius often is often underappreciated. (As my wife keeps reminfing me…. :/ )

  40. 40
    Seat Painter Says:

    Or reminding – dang edit suite non-starter….

  41. 41
    JoeyT Says:

    I doubt the Mets are willing to go anywhere near the salary he wants either. Does anyone think they’re actually negotiating?

  42. 42
    justhank Says:

    Wow. UT spends like the US Government.

  43. 43
    Putter Says:

    @36 Smitty- that is hilarious and it is easy to imagine that scenario. If only it could really happen

  44. 44
    spike Says:

    When was the last time a Boras client didn’t get 90% or more of their asking price eventually? Tough to bet against the guy. Plenty of time for someone to get hurt or have a crummy spring and one or more teams overreacts, and that’s assuming he can’t talk the Mariners or Mets into it, which is still a possibility.

  45. 45
    spike Says:

    @42, I guess an athletic department can’t run itself like a household budget either.

  46. 46
    c. shorter Says:

    36 – Awesome!

    Sounds like a good theme to cover in an internet cartoon generator.

    Haven’t seen one of those in a while.

  47. 47
    Smitty Says:


    Yeah. Just one more thing.

  48. 48
    spike Says:

    Hey the Sickels’ farm system rankings are out –

    Spoiler alert – he hates us.

    27) Atlanta Braves (8): System thinned out very quickly due to graduations, trades, injuries. Strengths: There is still good depth in pitching, though the highest ceiling arm (Julio Teheran) is enigmatic. Weaknesses: hitting. Tools players like Christian Bethancourt and Edward Salcedo are developing poorly with the bat.

  49. 49
    Rusty S. Says:

    Has anybody posted this? Sorry if I missed it.

  50. 50
    spike Says:

    Now THAT’S funny.

  51. 51
    sansho1 Says:

    I don’t know if anyone is watching The Staircase on Sundance Channel, but it’s amazing. That is all.

  52. 52
    JoeyT Says:

    Rusty, that is awesome.

  53. 53
    kc Says:

    @48 Spike, Sickels actually has a history of liking Braves’ prospects. I do agree with him that our system is very thin…one of the thinner systems in recent years, especially the hitting side. That’s why the trade for Upton is huge because the system lacks premium talent top to bottom. Our drafts in recent years have been average at best. We really need to re-stock our farm within the next two to three years.

  54. 54
    mravery Says:


    Great work! This has been an excellent series, and I think you’ve done a fantastic job with your analysis. One suggestion:

    Rather than a simple linear regression, wouldn’t it make more sense to treat “length of roadtrip”/”length of homestand” as a categorical variable? By restricting these effects to be linear, I think you’re sacrificing too much flexibility. For example, the effect could be constant regardless of days on the home stand. It could be increase for a few games then plateau. Etc. Not like you’d run out of degrees of freedom with a data set this large. :-)

  55. 55
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:

    Sickels actually gave pretty decent ratings to a lot of our prospects — he gave B-grades to 10 of our guys, including Tommy La Stella and Jose Peraza (and Nick Ahmed before he was traded), along with the pitchers whom you might expect him to like. I think that the 27-ranking should be taken with a grain of salt — he probably could have ranked them #20.

    The main point is, we really don’t have a lot of impact talent. There’s Teheran, who hasn’t put it together in the majors; there’s Salcedo and Bethancourt, who haven’t put it together in the minors; there’s Graham, who has a grand total of 9 games above High-A; and then there are a bunch of guys with lower ceilings, including Sean Gilmartin, who probably has a pretty high floor. We have a reasonable number of guys who will probably make it to the majors, particularly pitchers. But we don’t have a lot of blue chips or even guys whom you might dream of turning into blue chips.

    So while I wish he’d ranked us higher, I think I understand what he’s getting at.

  56. 56
    spike Says:

    Well I didn’t say he was wrong – just not particularly high on the current crop.

  57. 57
    Grst Says:

    I think you also have to consider how much young talent we have in the bigs. With Heyward, Freeman, Medlen, Minor, Kimbrel and Simmons recently removed from the farm, it’s gonna take a bit for more talent to bubble up and fills those holes. He’s got the Nationals down low in a similar situation, too. But what team wouldn’t trade place with either them or us?

  58. 58
    desert Says:

    I think that around a year ago or so, Keith Law had remarked that a few of our recent drafts hadn’t been going so well. It seemed like the 2012 draftees had a high ceiling as a whole (I’m pretty excited about Lucas Sims myself), but it really does seem like the talent from the previous few drafts hasn’t yet made a lasting impact or has been traded away.

    But 57 is absolutely right, and this organization hasn’t really had too much of an issue churning out really, really good players for around 25 years now. It may take some time, but I doubt that it’s really too much a reason for concern.

  59. 59
    justhank Says:

    That Waldman clip remains one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

    I think we’re set for now. Unless Francisco eats his way to Spring Training, I think Wren is content to start the year with the platoon. So am I.

    Of course, if it doesn’t work, Wren is an idiot.

  60. 60
    stupup74 Says:

    Feds meet Gio, Gio meet the Feds

  61. 61
    JonathanF Says:

    @54: Thanks. Actually, I ran the regression with categorical effects and the joint test of equality wasn’t rejected. that’s not nearly the same as saying that they’re actually the same, but I’ll add the results in an mravery appendix to my summing-up post.

  62. 62
    JoeCraigMcMurtry Says:

    @60. This could be interesting. Gio is already a bit of a head case.

  63. 63
    stupup74 Says:

    62 – you are absolutely right it could get interesting. The national baseball media guys are just now getting on the story via twitter.

    (I first found it via Barrett Sallee the college football writher and noted Braves fan.)

    The term the writer used on twitter was “BALCO East”.

  64. 64
    Adam R Says:

    Just think how lucky we are to have landed Jupton before the shit hits the fan on this story and Nelson Cruz possibly gets suspended. We could’ve had to compete against the Rangers’ farm system.

  65. 65
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:

    The Michael Bourn trade was absolutely awesome. In the end, the Upton trade has a chance to be even better. Wren is pretty freaking great.

  66. 66
    Dusty Says:

    Yeah sounds like Gio and Cruz have a 50-game suspension on the horizon as all the other names listed have already been suspended and MLB says they were unaware before this report of some of the info.

  67. 67
    Smitty Says:

    Bye Gio!

    If the Mets sign Bourn, don’t we get the 11th pick in the draft?

  68. 68
    JonathanF Says:

    No. We get a supplemental pick. The Mets lose their 11th pick.

  69. 69
    justhank Says:

    Darn. I like Smitty’s interpretation of the rule better. Let’s go with his.

    UK Football signed a 4-star. I’ve heard of those, but never actually seen one.

  70. 70
    ryan c Says:

    I want to thank all of the bloggers that have kept this site awesome this offseason (the 1st without Mac). The player analyses and the additional entries have been of high quality. Kudos to all!

  71. 71
    JoeCraigMcMurtry Says:

    I think it will be tough for MLB to do much unless the Feds make a case. I would be kind of surprised to see any suspensions this year. It will be interesting to see what stance the MLBPA takes. I think it probably screws up Gio’s season regardless.

  72. 72
    spike Says:

    UK Football signed a 4-star. I’ve heard of those, but never actually seen one.

    Take it from an Auburn guy – it ain’t all that.

  73. 73
    Smitty Says:

    Well, if the Mets lose a top 15 pick because of us, it’s still funny

  74. 74
    PaulV Says:

    Gio’s supplier may be gone. Wonder how many doses he has stored.

  75. 75
    JoeyT Says:

    Yeah, JonathanF’s series is a great idea. I’m kind of surprised an open question like this is being approached on a Braves site, but it kind of makes sense. It’s an opportunity to throw a bunch of ideas up against a wall while being relatively comfortable there won’t be a lot of insults for ideas that don’t work out or other internet garbage. This is one of the more polite forums on the internet, and it’s a nifty idea to leverage that by creating a brainstorming zone.

  76. 76
    spike Says:

    It will be very interesting to see how MLB handles this – suspensions are linked to testing in the CBA, but obviously, the Commissioner has power to do things unilaterally to some degree (“best interests of baseball”). So I guess the question(s) is(are), can you be suspended for evidence you have merely purchased rather than used PEDs, will MLB suspend anyone, will it get grieved by the union if so, and who will win?

  77. 77
    JoeyT Says:

    Scanning quickly, I see a couple of things in the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

    7.G.2 A Player may be subjected to disciplinary action for just cause by the Commissioner for any Player violation of Section 2 above not referenced in Section 7.A through 7.F above.

    That’s a pretty broad power.

    Also, it looks like they can require a Treatment Program without a positive test, but that only leads to suspension if the player fails to comply with the program.

  78. 78
    krugerindustrialsmoothing Says:

    From the Washington Times:

    In a statement issued through his representatives, Gonzalez said: “I’ve never used performance-enhancing drugs of any kind, and I never will. I’ve never met or spoken with Tony Bosch or used any substances provided by him. Anything said to the contrary is a lie.”

    Busted – check
    Strongly worded denial – check
    facts to questions denial – pending
    suspension, end of career – pending

    I’d say this is going according to the traditional model first set up by Ben Johnson.

  79. 79
    JoeyT Says:

    Every news article has him as Anthony. The only place I’ve seen his name as Tony is in the margins of some of the leaked information. Using a nickname is not the most convincing way to deny an association.

  80. 80
    jjschiller Says:

    @79 – “And I’ve never met his dog, Tito, or ridden in his Camaro, with that really cool t-top, and I have certainly never grilled out behind his house with that awesome brick smoker he’s got that I’m TOTALLY jealous of.”

  81. 81
    JoeyT Says:

    Actually, to be fair, this quote explains it.

    “My son works very, very hard, and he’s as clean as apple pie,” the elder Gonzalez says. “I went to Tony because I needed to lose weight. A friend recommended him, and he did great work for me. But that’s it. He never met my son. Never. And if I knew he was doing these things with steroids, do you think I’d be dumb enough to go there?”

    It’s plausible that he knows the guy’s name because of his dad, and that there’s some other Gio client that’s being confused by the reporter. It depends on what the evidence actually is.

  82. 82
    Dusty Says:

    Wasn’t f***ing success suspended just based on evidence and not a failed drug test?

    I read somewhere also that the substances listed in the report that went to Gio were not on the banned list.

  83. 83
    desert Says:

    82, I bet that’s a lot easier to pull on a Minor League player making absolutely nothing with no immediate importance to his team’s performance rather than the multi-million earning ace of an upper-division MLB club.

    81, Places don’t keep fake records of individuals that they don’t treat; moreover, they definitely aren’t going to keep an individual under his son’s name. In fact, I’m surprised that these places didn’t use aliases for the players in their record-keeping.

    The next defense you’re going to hear from Gio is that the reason his name was on the records is because he paid for his dad’s weight loss regiment from Bosch (this is, of course, going to contradict what he said earlier about not knowing anything about Bosch). Regardless, he’s never going to incriminate himself for this.

  84. 84
    Smitty Says:

    No matter what happens, anytime he pitches on the road, he is going to hear about it. LOL!

  85. 85
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    I’ve supported Bonds’s HOF case, but clearly Gio Gonzalez should be taken out back and shot dead immediately.

  86. 86
    Slugworth Says:

    83, they did use aliases, but made a couple of mistakes. One being that their aliases were obvious aliases, e.g. “Al Capone.” They should have been using something like “Larry Goldstein,” being in SoFla and all. And the second of course being that the files contained “whois” information tying aliases to real names.


  87. 87
    ububba Says:

    And in other news, the Yankees & A-Rod have run in different directions.

    Now that he doesn’t seem to be able to play anymore—-A-Rod may miss the 2013 season, regardless of these developments—-the Yankees (and their fans) only seem to want to find a way to get out from under the rest of his considerable contract. They’re thinking that this story could actually offer some kind of financial relief.

    After MLB’s investigation, the team thinks it may be able to void the contract or at least shift the remainder of A-Rod’s salary to a non-guaranteed status.

    A-Rod’s currently owed another $114 million thru 2017. That’s not including $30 million of marketing bonuses for HR milestones 660 to 763, which doesn’t look too promising.

    (Of course, there’s still the idea that if he never plays again, there will be a money battle with an insurance company.)

    Meanwhile, A-Roid hires Roy Black, a high-powered criminal attorney. I wonder if he has Lance Armstrong on speed-dial.

  88. 88
    desert Says:


    That makes more sense. It’s still incredibly dumb that such a file ever existed for the really famous players; it really shouldn’t be that hard to memorize 10 or 15 names for your most favorite clients.

    Hall of Fame Voting is a sham. The whole steroid issue, in my mind, is just a method for the BBWAA to act like a bunch of self-righteous idiots. The case against steroids is as follows: it was against the rules. That’s it. To me, it’s akin to giving a toddler some M&Ms and punishing him for eating the brown ones.

    Fine, using steroids gives one individual a competitive advantage over another. This league is fraught with competitive advantages (start by looking at payroll, facilities, ownership, minor league/scouting budgets, city appeal). The best argument that I’ve heard is that Bonds/McGwire/Sosa may have hammered a few pitchers or hitters out of the game through juicing their own numbers (and hurting the pitchers or causing competition for the hitters); however, it seems to me that as there are always 750 players on MLB’s active roster, these other pitchers and hitters would be replaced by new generation anyway (was Bonds a job creator? Maybe!).

    In my opinion, steroids saved this game in the late 90’s. These players are paying for their usage with their health.

    Bottom line: even if steroids irreparably destroyed the game of baseball as some of these sportswriters insinuate, keeping steroid users out of the Hall of Fame is going to do absolutely nothing to reverse what’s already happened; and, putting them in is not going to hurt the future of the game.

  89. 89
    desert Says:

    And apparently now Ray Lewis is a steroid user (or has been for at least two years) in addition to being a murderer:

    Love the last line: “Football’s drug problem isn’t a problem because the NFL doesn’t treat it like one. And Ray Lewis, who has twice been implicated in banned PED use? He’s a respected veteran preparing to go out on top.”

  90. 90
    ububba Says:

    PEDs offend lots of baseball fans & lots of former players (including HoF players), not just HoF voters.

  91. 91
    desert Says:

    90, Fair, and I think that calling them idiots may have gone too far. I just don’t agree that anabolic steroids, in principle, should be seen differently than high-dose NSAIDS or glucocorticoids or platelet therapy. Any medication that has the potential for major relief, faster return from injury, or the ability to increase daily performance is going to have ill side effects and a long-term potential for abuse. I’m certainly not going to say that Chipper was ‘cheating’ when he got his corticosteroid injections, even though the act involved using a foreign application of a natural substance to lessen pain and help him return from injury.

    To, in the grand scheme of things, DUI or domestic abuse are far greater crimes than steroid use. But baseball the institution doesn’t seem to care, and it wouldn’t surprise me if most fans or former players don’t either. That kinda puts the steroid argument in perspective for me as lesser concern when it comes to evaluating a player’s character.

  92. 92
    PaulV Says:

    @91 Steroids have serious side effects. There is no valid reason that users should have an advantage over those who do not. More people will use it if they think they can get away with it. Why penalize nonusers?

  93. 93
    JonathanF Says:

    Every sport has the right to use rules to define what is proper and what is not. (Well, not quite. The Supreme Court ruled that the PGA did not have the right to require players with certain disabilties to walk the course. An idiotic ruling, in my opinion — but there you are.) If baseball wanted to ban eyeglasses and/or contacts, I see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to. They ban elbow pads with a doctor’s note. I sincerely doubt that their banning of steroids has anything to do with fairness, and everything to do with the public relations nightmare of allowing players to use manifestly dangerous substances to enhance their abilities. (If they even do anything… see JC Bradbury’s eloquent posts on the noneffect of HGH beyond a placebo effect.) The problem, as many have noted, is that for many years they banned the substances without testing, and even today there is the suspicion that some of the testing is ineffective. I no more care whether Barry Bonds “cheated” than I care whether Gaylord Perry “cheated.” And no one has ever made any case to me why I should.

  94. 94
    JonathanF Says:

    That should be “without” a doctor’s note.

  95. 95
    desert Says:

    92, Glucocorticoids, repeated NSAID use, creatine, and high-dose caffeine, while all being legal in baseball, also have extremely dangerous side effects (that aren’t as publicized as anabolic steroid side effects, but still exist). If a player were to refuse to take any of the above substances because of the danger those substances pose, we would say that it was his choice to not take the substance and move along. Some of the most celebrated players in MLB history used amphetamines on a daily basis. This was clearly hazardous to their health (and this was known back when it was legal in MLB), but they are not villainised as taking advantage of their fellow non-users.

  96. 96
    Parish Says:

    91 – Well DUI is also a worse offense than fixing the 1919 World Series when considering the value of human life.

    Point it, it’s the Baseball Hall of Fame, not the Good Citizen Hall of Fame.

    Crimes against the integrity of the game are taken more seriously than they are in the grand scheme of things.

  97. 97
    desert Says:

    96, Okay, but then you’ve got a double standard. Here’s the text:

    “”Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.”

    It’s exclusion based on which form of ‘integrity, sportsmanship, and character’ that a sportswriter is willing to apply to a certain individual in a certain scenario.

    And, for what’s it worth, Barry Bonds was never suspended for steroid use.

  98. 98
    Bethany Says:

    @87 Funny how they weren’t so eager to part with him when it came out that he had used PEDs and was still one of the best players in baseball.

  99. 99
    ububba Says:

    Bonds never suspended? Gee, I wonder why.

    First, MLB didn’t test for most of his career; second, there are these things called masking agents.

    FWIW, I think the proportional effect of PEDs compared to spitballs should be a bit obvious. If anyone cares is another conversation.

  100. 100
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:

    He was blackballed for steroid use, though, which is sort of the same thing.

  101. 101
    desert Says:

    98, It’s definitely a business. If A-Rod does lose the rest of that contract, I don’t think anyone’s going to feel sorry for him at this point. Get your popcorn, though, it’s going to be a fun couple of years watching this drama unfold.

  102. 102
    desert Says:

    99, 100: Yeah, the point was more directed as a criticism of how bad the steroid testing/suspension/knowledge system was even 5 years ago (his last season was in 2005).

  103. 103
    desert Says:

    Whoops, 2007.

  104. 104
    c. shorter Says:

    Did Upton have a number on the back of his jersey at the presser today? Just curious.

  105. 105
    desert Says:

    I think he’s number 8.

  106. 106
    spike Says:

    I find the whole discussion a bit disingenuous. Everybody and their brother wanted 1998 to happen, and nobody, not the fans, owners, or journalists were terribly interested in looking under the hood. Performance was valued at a premium by the stakeholders, policy was foggy, infractions were tolerated, and a class of workers provided it. It may not be any way to run an airline, but I really don’t see much distinction between the factions involved.

  107. 107
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    People who are offended that professional athletes with millions of dollars and the drive to compete that is beyond anything anyone here has ever known might have – gasp! – taken some chemical help are naive fools.

    Hank Aaron was strung out on greenies for a reason, people.

    JUpton switched to #8.

  108. 108
    c. shorter Says:

    thanks. Jus8Up8… I guess.

  109. 109
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:

    Well, one distinction is that the owners weren’t jamming anything into their veins, but they were still getting rich anyway. It seems to me that players were encouraged to take drugs and then blamed for having done so.

  110. 110
    Jeff K Says:

    @106 – I most decidedly did not want 1998 to happen. Not because I was convinced Bonds, Sosa, et al. were cheaters — I didn’t become convinced of that until later — but because I am not a “big offense” baseball fan. I think it kind of sucks when really long-standing records (especially counting stats) get blown out of the water every season or so.

  111. 111
    spike Says:

    Kudos to you, and I mean that. I would think that you would agree your opinion is the exception rather than the rule.

  112. 112
    Bethany Says:

    I watched a bit of the press conference for baby Upton today. He’s not very charismatic, is he?

  113. 113
    JonathanF Says:

    Hank Aaron wasn’t either.

  114. 114
    Jeff K Says:

    @111 – Maybe, even probably, in 1998. I’d guess I’m a lot more mainstream in this view today.

  115. 115
    PaulV Says:

    @112 You still have Beachy

  116. 116
    Bethany Says:

    Not dissing, but it was almost comical how dry he was.

  117. 117
    mravery Says:

    Yeah… The NFL is just in control of its message way better than any other sport. Consider everything from PEDs to how startling little Ray Lewis’s whole, “I may not have killed anyone but I did help two of my friends who killed some folks get away with it” thing is mentioned in all of the media fawning over his retirement…. I don’t think I’ve EVER heard it mentioned on either a broadcast of the one of his playoff games or ESPN’s playoff/pre-Superbowl coverage. It’s frankly absurd.

    People talk about the NBA being full of bad character guys…. From everything I can tell, the NFL has a lot more felons by proportion than the NBA, and it’s not even close.

  118. 118
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:

    @112, speak softly and carry a big stick, amirite?

  119. 119
    spike Says:

    @117, perhaps its’s superior messsage control , but IMHO, the NFL is really more violent cosplay than sport at this juncture. There is toleration of violence, off-field criminality, gambling, drugs and utter lack of concern for the participants (in most cases) not seen elsewhere, not even the NBA. It’s disproportionate place in American pop culture seems to have earned it a perpetual free pass.

  120. 120
    JonathanF Says:

    @119 — Amen, brother. What other sport wouldn’t be ridiculed for failure to put a franchise in the second largest metro area in the country for 7 years? Why do college football game announcer prattle on endlessly about how this player will soon be seen on Sunday, as if what he’s doing in front of your eyes is tainted? What other sport tinkers with the rules every year with one goal only in mind: to increase passing which then engenders QB-worship? What other sport would tolerate Jerry Jones? What other sport gets its farm system for free? (Admittedly, basketball is somewhat close here.)

  121. 121
    Bethany Says:

    @118 Apparently a bigger stick than his brother.

  122. 122
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    Bonds wasn’t part of “1998.” He only hit 37 HRs that year. He was completely ignored despite being the best player in the game. Again.

  123. 123
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    Justin Upton is welcome to speak quietly and play Angry Birds by himself in the locker room so long as he crushes baseballs.

  124. 124
    Jeff K Says:

    I read “1998” as just summary for the explosion in offense generally, and HRs in particular, in the late 1990s and early ’00s.

  125. 125
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    @124 – The problem with that theory is that offense exploded in 1993, leveled off a bit, then exploded again in 1998-2002.

  126. 126
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    And interestingly enough, the primary power/offense spikes (1993, 1998) line up with expansion years.

  127. 127
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:

    Did anyone ever figure out why the hell everyone spiked in 1987?

  128. 128
    Adam R Says:

    I believe it’s because ballplayers everywhere were pumped up about Alan Greenspan taking the helm of the Federal Reserve Board.

    Well, that’s my theory, anyway.

  129. 129
    sansho1 Says:

    Isn’t the prevailing theory about 1987 that the balls were somehow different? It’s the one explanation that could easily create such a one-off season.

  130. 130
    JonathanF Says:

    Something new to worry about:

  131. 131
    JonathanF Says:


  132. 132
    JonathanF Says:

    Ach!! that’s @129. it’s an article about the baseball and 1987 home run rates.

  133. 133
    sansho1 Says:


    Sounds like he’ll be error-prone, but the move to LF will negate the negative value (if that makes sense) of his throwing arm, as he won’t be compared with the howitzer arms anymore. Upton’s range when newly compared to the other LF lummoxes will probably send his defensive “value” through the roof.

  134. 134
    JoeyT Says:


    It’s a good theory. It looks like 1987 was a training year for a new plant.

  135. 135
    JoeyT Says:


    It looks like 1987, 1988, and 1989 were transitional years for baseball manufacturing, so it’s not unreasonable to think that one of those years had an unintentionally juiced ball.

  136. 136
    ububba Says:

    FWIW, I was saying the exact same thing in 1998 & afterward. And yes, blame for this mess is well-distributed.

    I think it’s entirely reasonable that every single club ceased to believe Bonds was a good acquisition risk, possibly as a result of the cumulative effects of PEDs.

    I know I didn’t want him on the Braves, mainly because he was obviously breaking down. It had gotten to the point where he could barely walk anymore.

    Bonds started juicing before the 1999 season. If you believe his girlfriend, she testified in court that he admitted to her that the steroids caused his elbow injury, which curtailed his ’99 season to about 100 games.

  137. 137
    spike Says:

    @130, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the guy making the most out of zone plays in baseball would see his other metrics suffer as a result? And wouldn’t moving him to LF decrease the former, which should improve the latter, as by inspection they are generally going to be easier plays?

  138. 138
    JoeCraigMcMurtry Says:

    #136 — In 2007 Barry Bonds had an OPS of 1.045(!!). It wouldn’t have mattered if he couldn’t even crawl to first base, in 2008 he still would have been the best DH in the American League. He was pretty obviously blackballed.

  139. 139
    Dan Says:

    Is there any doubt there was collusion to get Bonds out of the game after 2007? How else can one explain the MLB home run champ, who had a .480 OBP in 2007 and who was offering to play for the league minimum, not being able to get a job anywhere?

  140. 140
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    Screw the DH league. The Atlanta Braves played Gregor Blanco, Matt Diaz and Omar Infante in LF in 2008. Barry Bonds could have outproduced that trio with one hand tied behind his back.

  141. 141
    spike Says:

    @139, and for league minimum, at one point.

  142. 142
    ububba Says:

    “Not worth the trouble or the risk” was a common thought at the time. And, sorry, I don’t believe anything from Barry Bonds’ camp, certainly not the notion that he’d take MLB minimum.

  143. 143
    desert Says:

    Looks like Barry might have been visiting Tony for some weight loss help himself:

  144. 144
    jjschiller Says:

    Melky Cabrera has a job, for chrissakes. He’s a jerk, he has a reputation for poor work ethic, he ACTUALLY FAILED A TEST, and then made a mockery of the process with his silly website hoax.

    And HE has a job. He got a RAISE.

    Bonds was pretty clearly colluded against.

  145. 145
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:


    Don’t thank me. Thank Hap, who actually created a WordPress blog, installed the plugin, and verified that it worked.

  146. 146
    Stu Says:

    Thjankl yoi si mycj, Hwp!!!

  147. 147
    mark grogan Says:


  148. 148
    c. shorter Says:

    The edit button probably merits its own write up as a new acquisition.

  149. 149
    mark grogan Says:

    Ferrol Sams, Jr. passed away, and the world is a poorer place. My daughter Alyson went to Mercer, and I’m quite pleased about that.

  150. 150
    mravery Says:

    Hap is now the Braves Journal MVP for January. Sorry, JonathanF.

  151. 151
    fm Says:

    Heck yes.

  152. 152
    JoeCraigMcMurtry Says:

    Yes! Hell yes! (edited!)

  153. 153
    justhank Says:

    Hap Rules!!

    When Barry Bonds played LF, the Giants did not win the Series.

    When Gregor Blanco played LF, the Giants won the Series.

    Just sayin’ …

    So Gio’s Dad and Melky went to these guys and became svelte. What’s their name again?

  154. 154
    Grst Says:

    @148 Seconded.

  155. 155
    ububba Says:

    What does Melky Cabrera have to do with Barry Bonds?

    After the 2007 season, Bonds was a polarizing figure/toxic clubhouse presence who was physically breaking down and also facing two criminal indictments-—one for perjury & another for obstruction of justice–that were handed down that November.

    There were plenty of reasons not to want him on your team.

  156. 156
    Smitty Says:


    January? Try 2013

  157. 157
    Dan Says:

    Hap is now the Braves Journal MVP for January. Sorry, JonathanF.

    Hap surged right at the end [of the month], too. JonathanF is the 2011 Atlanta Braves.

  158. 158
    Bethany Says:

    That Hap, you don’t hear from him for months then he comes through with the biggest play of the year.

  159. 159
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:

    New thread.

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