Thursday, January 14, 2021

Curt Schilling and PEDs

 I have linked this post on the SABR List.  It was part of the ongoing discussion about Curt Schilling's stats and his Hall of Fame candidacy,  The moderators have refused to post it.  The reason, evidently, is one that I mentioned below--that in the post I cite my book, Baseball Greatness.  To repeat: I didn't cite it to "promote it," I cited it because it's the source of the data that I'm drawing on in this discussion.  The data had been questioned precisely because I was obeying the moderators' previous injunction not to mention my book anymore.  Citing your sources is what is called standard scholarly practice.  If you agree that the moderators are imposing an absurd rule, please let them know. Thanks. 

Kerry Keane  initially tried to refute what I said by misquoting me.  He claimed that I said Schilling was the only pitcher in MLB history who have never reached 4 WAA until he was 30. What I actually said was:

"Schilling is the only pitcher in MLB history who never reached 4 WAA until he was 30, and then did so in four more seasons."

The only one of the pitchers he mentioned who did reach 4 WAA 5 times (actually, more) beginning at age 30 was Phil Niekro, who, since his pitching relied on a particular skill, not strength, is not really germane to this discussion.  

Dazzy Vance exceeded 4 WAA four times.  I agree that he looks like a late bloomer, except for one thing: he didn't even have anywhere near a full season in the majors until he was 31. I'm trying to open up his minor league record on baseball-reference but none opens. If anyone can tell us where he was pitching all that time I'd appreciate it.

Then in a later post, Kerry wrote that he checked, and Schlling had 4 WAA when he was 25, making the issue moot.  Addressing this point also allows me to bring something to raise a closely related issue.

That may be what baseball-reference shows, but it isn't what my calculations for my book, Baseball Greatness,  (And no, I didn't jiggle those calculations to hurt  Curt Schilling, or to help or hurt anyone else.) All the numbers I quoted in the post are from that book, which explains, in great detail, how and why my calculations of WAA differ in key respects from those on baseball-reference.  The reason I didn't say that in the post is that the moderators have in the past automatically blocked any post of mine in which I mentioned that book, on the grounds that members are only allowed to "promote"--that is, mention--books they have written once.

I think this is, to put it mildly, a very questionable "rule." I spent several years writing that book, which developed new, very accessible measurements of player performance shedding new and different light on dozens of questions that have been debated, and will continue to be debated,. on this list.  I didn't do it for the money, of which there was very little, but for fun, and to contribute to the broader enterprise of sabermetrics.  I don't think Bill James would be forbidden from quoting from books of his if he were still posting on this list, and I don't see why anyone else should be either if the book contains data directly related to an ongoing discussion.

A last point: the issues I am raising about certain players' performance aren't, for me, issues of "character."  I am trying to identify players whose numbers suggest that they did not have the ability to put up the numbers they put up in their thirties without performance enhancements.  I have said many times that I'm glad I don't have to vote on the case of Barry Bonds, whose record suggests that he was an overqualified Hall of Famer before he got into PEDs, but who then used them to rewrite the record books. That's a different kind of case.

David Kaiser

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