13 January 2010

Discounted Macs

For all the blather about PEDs and the Hall of Fame, there are really two major camps. People who feel admitted or probable drug use bars players from consideration, and people who dont. Those in the latter group often argue that PEDs "dont matter", and should be ignored for a variety of moral or practical reasons.

Fortunately, the gap between these entrenched extremes has finally been bridged by an independent voice of reason, our good friend from azsnakepit.com, who asks if we can dispassionately quantify McGwire's "clean" career stats for HOF consideration.

This was an intrepid question - three years ago, when I asked it - but it's fun to see Jim take credit for the idea now, as well as plug in some numbers to test "his" hypothesis. Mr McLennan reasons that andro etc inflated McGwire's tater tally by about 125, and that Mark's "clean", park adjusted OPS is roughly 20-25 points lower than his "dirty" 163.

I havent really thought about Jim's methodology, but am fine with his adjustments as a point of discussion. They actually sound pretty reasonable. Anyway, Jim researches and crunches this lengthy piece, and closes as follows:

Having seen the apparent scope of the benefit gained, I'm forced to conclude he shouldn't be allowed within a hundred miles of Cooperstown

Let's think about this, in light of Jim's numbers. He's estimated "clean" Mark would hit 458 homers (583-125) and have a career OPS+ near 140. Is it reasonable to conclude that a clean player with those credentials "shouldn't be allowed within a hundred miles of Cooperstown".

I would think not, considering of the fifteen eligible hitters in history who've met both thresholds, every single one has a plaque. That doesnt prove our theoretically clean Mac is a lock however. Fred McGriff met those thresholds, in spirit if not in fact, and didnt garner much support first time around, despite a notable absence of PED whispers attached directly to his candidacy.

The point is, McLennan's abrupt conclusion contradicts the tone and particulars of his quantatative analysis. A clean 458/140 guy is, by definition, an extremely serious HOF candidate, and clearly a better hitter than either Jim Rice or Andre Dawson, to name two recent "immortals".

One can only wonder why McLennan's about face concludes his otherwise logical essay. Maybe it's because, deep down, he feels PED users should be be automatically barred from HOF consideration. Fine. If so, it would be nice if he expressed that up front, instead of propping up statistical research to awkwardly reinforce his own predetermined beliefs.


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