The All-Star game was played out last night, and among other things, this happened:
Yea Altuve was hitting 5 or 7 HRs a year, now he has 14 in 89 games? So No PEDs and No Juiced Balls...Please— Rob Dibble (@robdibble49) July 13, 2016
In case he deletes it, the link is to a Rob Dibble @robdibble49 Tweet saying (and I quote) "Yea Altuve was hitting 5 or 7 HRs a year, now he has 14 in 89 games? So No PEDs and No Juiced Balls...Please" on July 12, 2016.
The Astros' Jose Altuve was the American League's starting second baseman, his fourth All-Star appearance at just the tender age of twenty six.
But this post isn't about him. Or rather, it is, but tangentally.
It's annoying that we're at the point where Rob Dibble is worth writing a post over, but he has put himself in this position with a history of ill-advised comments, ill-conceived undertakings, losing his temper (this link is only representative of several famous instances), and being relieved from his post-MLB positions unceremoniously through nobody's fault but his own, and sometimes in embarrassing fashion.
Now, I readily admit that Altuve and literally every other player in baseball has a non-zero chance of being caught using performance enhancing drugs, because, well, when golden boys like Ryan Braun and Andy Pettitte and David Ortiz can get caught, then I guess it's possible for anybody. [ed note: Joe Buck/John Smoltz last night: "Big Papi is going to walk into the hall of fame." But Bonds or Clemens? Nah, because the media doesn't like them. And let's not mention Jeff Bagwell.]
But it's pretty danged irresponsible to throw something like this out without more credible evidence than "OMG HOME RUNS, DERP."
So, Rob (can I call you Rob?), despite spending several years as an off-field analyst of the sport following several years actually playing it at the highest level, I am going to educate you on why Altuve's home run rate has spiked.
- Jose Altuve is taking pitches outside the zone, which he has never done before. I won't bore you with the details of O-Swing% and so forth, because you'll call me a basement-dwelling saber nerd or something, despite that info like this has been available for decades. Instead, I'll ask you: When you, as a pitcher, recognize that a batter is being more selective, what do you do about it? Answer: you throw him more strikes, because you don't want to give up a walk, and you trust your "stuff" to challenge him.
- Please note that Altuve has taken more walks this season (41) as he did during the entirety of 2015, and he is on pace to walk more than twice as much as he did in the previous two seasons combined. Shockingly, the result of this is that Altuve is getting better pitches to hit.
- Even more shockingly, when a batter (particularly one has elite contact ability and has always been a gap power hitter) swings at better pitches, he is able to drive a larger number of balls harder and farther than he did in the past.
- Setting that aside, what happens when batters in their early twenties start reaching their mid-twenties? They gain muscle mass. It happened to you too, Rob. Your teammate Barry Larkin never topped 12 home runs for the first five years of his career, then he hit 20, and eventually 33 in 1996. Where were your unfounded innuendos then, Rob? Did you take Barry aside and let him know that you were concerned about his drug problem?
- If you cared to look, Altuve had one hot home run month in April, during which he hit six home runs. After that he has cooled off in the power department, never hitting more than 4 (averaging 1 a week that month, and is that so unreasonable?), and only hitting one home run thus far in July. Altuve didn't suddenly add a sustained power surge a-la a steroid user. He had a hot month because pitchers had not yet adjusted to him waiting for better pitches. They have adjusted. He is hitting fewer home runs.
Honestly Rob. A baseball analyst (and pitcher) should understand the concept of plate discipline, and how improving at discipline can improve a player's stats. Rob Dibble: please stop being a doofus. You're ruining my childhood baseball memories.
Perhaps my favorite response, even if it is a tit-for-tat logical fallacy:
What PEDs did you take to go from a 4.72 ERA in Triple-A in '87 to a 1.82 ERA in the majors in '88? https://t.co/N6peSDHa6e— Tyler Stafford (@tylercstafford) July 13, 2016