Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Examination of the Sillyball Era Theory

Never let it be said that I don't re-examine my stances time to time.  That is what led me to appreciate what Sabean does for the Giants, when I studied how darn hard it is to find a good player via the draft.  That is what led me to change my mind about whether Bochy was the manager to lead us to a World Championship.  I am willing to change my mind if presented with new data that changes my mind.

I got into a "discussion" about my stance that Eric Walker's theory of the Sillyball era is correct.  You can read the full theory here at his website, as well as the studies he has found which examined the composition of the ball.  Seeing the complaints about it, I realized that while Walker's analysis made sense to me - and still do - there are some who don't see what I saw.

Walker's finding that got me believing him is this:  starting roughly in the 1993-94 timespan, baseball suddenly started scoring more runs than it did in the 15 year period before.  And not just a little, in 1994, it went beyond the max of before and stayed there for the next 15 or so years.  Basically, the offense suddenly started scoring, on average, 12% more runs than they did before on average.

Walker also examined a number of angles on how that could happen and came to the conclusion that the only explanation that makes sense is that the baseball changed in the 1993-94 time period, that is, it got juiced, leading to the offensive era that most people call the steroid era.  Hence why Walker calls it the "sillyball" era.

ogc thoughts


That "discussion" I got into took a look at why an offensive era might have popped up, and why it has been dying down, but there was no explanation given for how the offensive era suddenly sprung up, like a giant beanstalk, in roughly a year or two.  Until I find a better explanation of this sudden jump, this "sillyball" is the theory I put my money behind.

Any theory involving the changing composition of player talent, or new player techniques (like new pitches or maple bats) or usage of PEDs forget one fundamental truth about humans and newness:  there is an adoption curve to the increased usage.  It don't happen over a 1-2 year period.  It changes over time until the market is saturated with users.  All the other theories I've seen trying to explain other issues, like the scoring downturn in recent years, appear to make sense at the surface, but until they have a theory that covers the start of that era, as well as the end, and particularly how baseball suddenly, over a 1-2 year period, started scoring a significantly larger number of runs.

Stats to the Rescue

While I was fuming, I realized that the run scoring data could be analyzed statistically to see whether the new era data is proved or not proven by the null hypothesis that the new era data is the same as the old era.  Maybe that will give me an answer of some sort that will convince some more people.  Here is the data for the period 1978-2013:




The population is the years 1977 to 1993, which I will call Regular era.  Unlike Walker, I included 1993 into the pre-offensive period because, if you look at his table of ratio against the average, 1993 was not larger than the high for the period, in 1987.  1994 was the first year in sequence that was above the high for the prior period.

Given this definition, the offensive era therefore starts in 1994, but when does it end?  I decided to do as I did and end it with the first season below the Offensive era starting 1994.  Since 2009 is the first season lower than any in the period starting 1994, I used 2008 as the end point of the Offensive era and 2009 as the start of the return to the Regular era.

I tested four periods against the population mean and standard deviation, two-tailed, with the null hypothesis being that the new period is not different from the population, that they share the same mean.  First, I tested 1994-2000.  1999-2000 was the high point for the Offensive era.  I then tested 2001-2007, since it was noted that scoring was declining during this period.  Then I tested 1994-2007, since that is the offensive era.  Lastly, I tested 2008-2013, since that appears to be the New era, in a return back to the pre-1994 Regular era.

I tested NL, AL, and MLB.  In hypothesis testing, if your z-stat is above +/- 1.96, the hypothesis is rejected at the 5% level, if it is over +/- 2.58 the hypothesis is rejected at the 1% level, and over +/- 3.30, at the 0.1% level.  Basically, the higher the z-stat, the more likely the new sample stats does not belong to the population it was tested against (i.e. 1977-1993).  If your z-stat is 3.30, that means that the probability of the population having the same mean as your sample is 0.1%, in other words, very unlikely.  And in the table for z-value, if your z-stat is 3.90 or higher, it is pretty much 100%

Hypothesis Testing:  1994-2000

Here the z-stat was these:
  • NL:  z=8.189
  • AL:  z=9.026
  • MLB:  z=8.984
The null hypothesis is rejected, the RS data for this period is not like the Regular era, there was something significantly different in this period versus the Regular era

Hypothesis Testing:  2001-2008

Here the z-stat was these:
  • NL:  z=6.689
  • AL:  z=5.616
  • MLB:  z=6.398
The null hypothesis is rejected, the RS data for this period is not like the Regular era, there was something significantly different in this period versus the Regular era

Hypothesis Testing:  1994-2008

Here the z-stat was these:
  • NL:  z=10.492
  • AL:  z=10.266
  • MLB:  z=10.811
The null hypothesis is rejected, the RS data for this period is not like the Regular era, there was something significantly different in this period versus the Regular era

Hypothesis Testing:  2009-2013

Here the z-stat was these:
  • NL:  z=0.722
  • AL:  z=0.510
  • MLB:  z=0.570
The null hypothesis is NOT rejected, the RS data for this period is like the Regular era, one can say that the sample data could have come from the same population of data as the Regular era. 

Other Hypothesis Testing

I also decided to test how the new era compared to the Offensive era and the z-stat ranged from -5.832 to -6.543, which mean we can reject the hypothesis that the new era is from the same population as the Offensive era. 

In addition, I tested the New era against 2000-2008, to see if those two periods are just part of a continuous decline, which was mentioned, and it was even more clearer that they were different data sets.  The z-stats ranged from -7.250 to -9.325, which is even more unlikely than the offensive era.  There may have been a decline (and if you look at it, it was more up and down, but that is how it was described), but the period 2000-2008 is statistically significantly different from the 2009-2013 New era. 

Conclusions

Wow, I did not know what would happen when I did this.  But this data confirms without a doubt that, statistically speaking, major league baseball moved from one era of scoring, the Regular era, as defined as 1977 to 1993, to the Offensive era, as defined as 1994 to 2008, and then returned to the same level of scoring as before in the period after that, the New era, from 2009 to today, 2013.

I didn't know exactly what would happen when I dug into the numbers.  I half panicked at one point and wondered if I would have to eat a big plate of crow because what if people were right that Walker seemingly broke up the data at odd points or that the change in scoring was not that significant.  But once I had the epiphany that my conundrum could be studied via simple Hypothesis Testing, I had to get that done and see what the answer was.

In my wildest thoughts, I would not have thought that the results would be so clear cut.  I thought that maybe there would be a lot of grey area.  That is what happened when I looked at managers' performance versus Pythagorean, while the likelihood that managers could out perform their Pythorean was high, in the 60-80% range, if I remember right, statistical testing, at least in school in elementary stat classes, start with 95% level or go higher, up to 99% level.  As I noted above, anything above 3.90, plus or minus, is pretty much 100% that you reject the Null Hypothesis, as the normal table I consulted basically ended at 3.90, it did not bother to go any higher.  And all the comparisons resulted in very high z-stats, the lowest in magnitude was 5.616.

I played around also with 1993, 2008, and 2009.  1993 statistically probably belonged to the Offensive era.  I'm not going back and updating everything because this was conservative, changing it would make the z-stats even larger by reducing the average and particularly the standard deviation of the population.  But for example, 2000-2008 would have had a z of 7.651 instead of 6.689.  2009, however, was more of a Regular era season than an Offensive era season, while 2008 was definitely an Offensive era season.

SillyBall Era

So what happened to cause scoring in baseball to suddenly flip the switch from Regular era to Offensive era back to New Regular era?  Most of the reasons I've seen don't fit the data.

Steroids usage would have the normal S-curve adoption rate, and there should have been a gradual rise, over time, instead of a jump, as there was in 1993-1996, plus a sharp drop in 1997-1998, before another rise in 1999-2000.  And we know that usage had started at minimum in the late 80's when Canseco and presumably McGwire were using, yet 1988 and 1989 were two of the lowest scoring years in that time period, then 1992 was also that low again. 

Usage resulting in increased offense should not be jumping about like this and one would think that the offensive era would be gradually rising sometime in the late 1980's, yet things were pretty much the same until 1993-4.  And in any case, no matter what anybody with anecdotal evidence says, there is no scientific proof that it works, but if you look in the studies in Eric Walker's steroid website, there are some that show that it does not work like how people think it does. 

Maple bats was another technology that maybe contributed to the offensive era.  However, maple bats were not adopted by every player, just a small but significant subset of players.  And they were boosting usage in the 2000's right when the so-call decline period happened (really, if you look at 2001-2008, it was just random ups and downs, bouncing around the mean).

Now, I can see the logic that the decline period could be credited to the changes to the strike zone, as the data does indicate that there was some sort of decline, but still, that entire Offensive era period, both halves, are not like the Regular period, which is what is the focus of this study.  So while there is an apparent decline in the 2001-2008 period, the data from that period is still significantly different from the Regular era population.

And with pitching technology, whether it be medical advances or new pitches or new combination of pitches, it would not make sense that everyone would change that quickly, basically in one season, then bounce around, the decline should be pretty clear over time, if the technology is that good, the information would spread, adoption would increase, and RS should be falling steadily over time.  But RS was 4.700 in the NL in 2001 and 4.706 in 2007, shouldn't the new and improved pitching caused some significant decline, if that is the theory, that the new pitching technology caused a decline in RS.  Same with the change in strike zone noted above, why was offense so similar in 2001 and 2007?  The only clear period of decline has been from 2006 to 2013, with a pause in 2012, though, so maybe there is something to this theory, only later than what I had see postulated, which is that it started in 2001.

So the only thing I can see that makes sense is Walker's theory that the MLB changed the ball in some way in 1994.  How does scoring suddenly surge and stay in that new range? 

Plus, the randomness of both eras were approximately the same.  The standard deviation for the Regular era was 0.187 for the MLB vs. 0.162 in the Offensive era, which is pretty close, that works out to a difference of 4 runs over a 162 game season (out of 674 runs on average for the Regular era).  It would be even closer had I shifted 1993 into the Offensive era. 

This all suggests one level of play during the Regular era, then a higher level of play during the offensive era, but with the same randomness in data.  And the Standard deviation for the New era is 0.165 for the MLB, right in line with before.  So from one regular plateau to a higher plateau, then back to the regular plateau, once more.   You cannot change all of baseball scoring like that except by one common thing:  balls and bats.  If everyone switched to maple bats, I could maybe accept that reasoning, but only a vocal minority did. 

So that leaves the baseball.  And it makes sense.  Baseball went to the live ball in the 1920's (plus rule changes on replacing ratty balls more frequently and outlawing the spitter) and the surge in revenues made it into the national pastime.  The public's cynicism about baseball was at an all time high in that time period, as Bud Selig took over as Commissioner in 1992 and the divisive strike occurred in 1994. 

So, and this is my supposition, I can see why he would not want to announce that the baseball was changed, because there is only one reason to do that, it's to boost up the offense in the game, and there is really only one reason to do that:  to curry the public's favor.  And that would be a very blatant move and cynically received by the fanbase.  The McGwire-Sosa battle to catch Roger Maris's record would not have been so fascinating to and well received and followed by the fans (sucked me back in, I had stopped following baseball as intently after the strike, and only started coming back when Sabean was named GM, and the record chase got me addicted again) had they known it was due to a livelier ball. 

So there you have it.  I've analyzed the scoring in baseball, and in both leagues and thus the majors, scoring was elevated by something significantly during the offensive era, which is as people saw, but now there's statistical evidence instead of just talk about such a change or a discussion of the relative sizing (which had convinced me, but apparently did nothing for others, and thus I took it a step further).  The offensive era was a real break from prior levels of baseball performances, statistically significantly speaking.

I also found that the scoring in the normal regular way the game was played prior to 1993 is basically what we have returned to in recent years, since 2008.  It is almost spot on what it was before, with very similar mean and standard deviation.

What caused baseball to rise suddenly to a new plateau of scoring during the offensive era, in basically 1-2 seasons, 1993-94?  Then returned to the prior level of play over a 1-2 season period again, 2008-2009?  The only explanation I've see that made sense is Eric Walker's theory that the ball was juiced.  Every other explanation I've seen could explain a rise over time, but not a statistically significant jump plus decline in a short 1-2 seasons timeframe.   I'm still waiting to see a better explanation.

17 comments:

  1. Expansion might play a part for starters. Adding young inexperienced pitching to the mix would definitely add to the offensive highlights.

    Let's look at the prime years for some guys here: Miggy Tejada (3 time offender) 2000-2009. Alex Rodriguez (Admitted use, alleged use) 1996-2010. Manny Ramirez (2 time offender) 1996-2007.

    Those very talented individuals took it to the next level. I'd add that the 2000s were the years of the offensive shortstop: Jeter and Nomar might have played "clean" but they were part of a core group of offense that had never been seen before. The positional advantage of 1/8 the lineup over 1/3 of baseball (at least 10 really good shortstops during these years) could alone drive up the run scoring environ.

    If you look at the HR leaders through those years and cross-check with the Mitchell Report, you get a lot of hits. I don't see any real examination of the actual players by Walker, just a lot of crunching the numbers on runs.

    How do you test a juiced baseball? how do you get it out of the game without people noticing? This all sounds very shaky to me. I don't see any good explanation on the actual baseball. And there are PLENTY of baseballs around to test.

    And it all goes back to what I know with my eyes. Bonds was a HOF player who juiced up and became Superman. He had one pitch to hit every 3 games and he rocked it. It was amazing. But the cold fact was pitchers stopped pitching to him, and these other guys. Otherwise the stats would have been even more skewed. That "real life" that doesn't really get shown on the stat sheet or Walker's run charts is my rebuttal to "I'm waiting to see a better explanation". And I find Walker's medical studies pretty light, and the absence of a counter-argument is not proof that PEDs don't have an effect.

    I'd take some time to go read Verducci's piece on the Minor League pitchers getting muscled up for big heat. Its worth it. Its not just the big records that everybody gets all hopped up about. The Mitchell Report may have been a jackass whitewash that was designed to spare embarrassment and move things on, but that doesn't mean that all these guys didn't juice up for the glory.

    Giants fans seem to have a knee-jerk reaction to the juiced up era. For me, it doesn't really take away from Barry's accomplishments, pitchers were juiced up as well. The whole story needs to be told. If I were you I'd go read into the latest biogenesis stuff, and check into Rodriguez a bit more, he's a big part of the offensive stats, in fact the whole run scoring era could be called the A-rod era.

    But a lot of very good hitters played in the 2000s, including a bunch at a position scarcity spot, and not as many great pitchers. For me, that is a pretty reasonable explanation.

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    1. Expansion, as I noted below, could explain a one year change, but it does not explain it holding up for 14 years then changing back overnight, just like the expansion disappeared.

      I could argue the same, that the juiced ball made players that much better at poor offensive positions.

      If you read through the link that I provided regarding the baseball composition, apparently someone had a collection of balls of different eras and contributed it in the name of science to be cut up and examined, I don't recall the exact details now, but that is what I remember.

      Walker is not saying that players didn't juice up with steroids, he's saying that they did it and the drugs did very little for them. I would add that there probably was some placebo effect as well, for some of them. Look at Ishikawa, he was uptight, couldn't hit in AA, but he found religion, left it in God's hands, and started hitting there and then in AAA, and while he wasn't the best hitting firstbaseman, he was doable for a low salary and the great defense he provided.

      As I've noted before, juicing only means guys get muscled up, but if you look at some of the best hitters in baseball, they were not muscle guys, Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, Hank Aaron, so clearly there is much much more to hitting than pure arm strength, which is what people using steroids can do, build up arm strength, Walker's research found that steroids don't do much for leg strength, and that is a key area for pitchers as well as hitters.

      And you are right, that is a reasonable explanation, there are a lot of reasonable explanations, but nobody except for Walker has given me a reasonable explanation for why the offense suddenly muscled up for 14 years then disappeared. My statistical analysis above shows that the 1994-2008 time series is statistically significantly different from the series before and after, and that there was a clear shift in the 1993-1994 time frame, which I've not seen any good explanation for yet.

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    2. Contrary to inexperienced pitching inflating offensive numbers, the evidence shows that their was a tremendous influx of young pitching in the 1960's leading to pitching dominance in the 60's and 70's, and again in the 2000's and 2010's when pitching once again started to become dominant.

      The 1980's and 1990's saw a dearth of new blood in the pitching ranks when hitting gained dominance.

      Just a coincidence? Maybe, or maybe not.

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    3. Expansion on the front end, drug testing on the back end, coupled with strike zones and talent shifting to pitching.

      I don't know why the greatest hitters in history always have to be brought up in this discussion. Ted Williams without serving twice would most likely be the home run king. Mays at a friendly environ (with fences pulled in like Fulton for Aaron) would likely be the home run king. Both players played in an era where stats weren't obsessed about the way they are now. Mays could have stolen bases at will for example.

      This focus on stats while ignoring all else is my problem. Do stats prove what went down? Like I said before, pitchers simply stopped making hittable pitches available. Sammy Sosa's OBP soared. Bonds already amazing OBP went to craaaazy levels. McGuire had gains as well, his were not as steady.

      About SS though, the skinny Dominican stereotype was stood on its ear. And we have to at least consider that A-rod has cheated his entire career. Miggy Tejada sure tried to.

      With 8 guys on the field, 30 teams, you're talking about 240 hitters, if you take away 40 as part timers, you have a core group of around 200 guys. That's the cadre of the best in the world, and that core group doesn't give up the reins easy. If I had the time and interest I would go look at the standard aging curve versus what happened during this period you are talking about. But I really don't have the interest in it to be honest. I have a feeling that there would be a lot of players who stand out like sore thumbs.

      I think that is the weakest part of the argument from Walker, the "what people are doing" with PEDs. And that's also where he gets pretty sneary. I went to Johns Hopkins, I know a lot of doctors. They aren't wasting any time researching PED effects because there isn't any money in it. The lack of legit studies on PEDs doesn't mean there aren't material gains. And those gains don't necessarily show up on a stat sheet.

      Fun discussion, at times, but also tedious, at times. I really wish the Mitchell Report got into why guys did it, and made better efforts at encouraging discourse from actual players. But I'm not buying "juiced ball" until I see some real evidence. Smoking gun evidence like memo's and such. Is MLB such a well oiled machine they can crank this type of thing out? You'd need at least 200 people in the know. Somebody gets disgruntled at some point. Always.

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    4. The greatest hitters were brought up because the premise is that muscling up is necessary to hit home runs. I don't have the time to research this, but I'll bet that there has been muscle bound guys who didn't hit many homeruns. The steroid theory is that muscling up equals hitting more homers. I brought up the greatest hitters to show that you don't need to be big to hit for power.

      And I don't know why you mention his stolen bases, or that they weren't stats obsessed. I was just focused on their physiques and their ability, in spite of their physiques, to hit a lot of homers, without beefing up.

      I would also add that Mays has been IDed as a PED usage, in a drug trial, he was named as someone passing around amphetamine to help players. And nobody talks about it, but I think that anyone who served in the military in WW II has to be suspect for speed usage, because the military routinely supplied speed to the troop, so soldiers of that era were aware this drug was available and when they got older and needed a pick-me-up, some undoubtedly found a supplier to get it for them. And as the hippie era made drug usage common to the masses, that changed the mind-set even further on the usage of drugs to improve themselves.

      Of course stats don't prove that drugs weren't used or that drugs didn't cause the offensive era.

      But until someone can give me a scenario of how the data set turned out the way it did, all the various explanations falls short. Sure most of the stuff makes sense. That's why a lot of people believe them. But the stats says - and strongly I would add - that the scoring between the eras were significantly different. The only way steroids enable that is if everyone who wanted to use started in 1993-94, and then basically there is statis until 2000-2001, then suddenly there is a jump.

      About Walker, you need to reread the section on PED studies, he listed studies that were legit and available, if I recall correctly. And that is one point out of many points, you need to refute more than that, he has many other points even if you take away that leg of his argument.

      If there are material gains - and that is the whole point of using PEDs - then why won't it show up on a stat sheet, which again, is the whole point of using PEDs, to improve their stats?

      Yes, tedious, but I think too many people just buy into whatever they had read before without really digging deeply into the various arguments that they are making, building their arguments on the soft arguments that writers before them used. I think Walker has tackled all the major arguments that people have used to defend their position that PEDs caused the offensive era and showed in his website that, no, PEDs are not the likely cause of the Offensive era.

      And changing a baseball's internal composition? Don't need to include a heck of a lot of people in that process. Commish, plus some he trusts with his life to handle the supplier. The supplier is not going to leak anything, else the MLB will go with another supplier and there goes their business. Same with the workers who might now, there goes their livelihood.

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    5. Here is some stats: http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/bat.shtml

      Covers per game stats over history of the game. You state that pitchers stopped making hittable pitches available. That should boost up walks while making strikeouts less as well, one would think.

      As you can see in the SO, BB and IBB columns, that don't hold up.

      If you look at IBB, it actually went down during that period. So even though Bonds was getting all those extra walks in the 2000's, managers were actually generally stopping the usage of IBB. In fact, the rate was much higher in the 1977-1992 period, mostly in the low 0.3 rate, then has mostly been in the high 0.2 rate since 1995, until it fell to the low 0.2 the past two seasons.

      Looking then at just unintentional walks, there was a clear jump from 1994 to 2000, but during Bonds juiced era, the UBB fell back roughly to the levels it was from 1977 to 1992.

      And it was actually lower from 1977 to 1984, but from 1985 to 1992, it averaged 2.96 and from 2001 to 2008, 3.01.

      If pitchers were trying to avoid giving hitters hittable pitches, one would think that the walk rate would have risen.

      Likewise, one would think that strikeouts would have declined as well, with less hittable pitches. In fact, the SO per game has been rising for a long time now, in the 70's, no wonder striking out 10 was such a big thing, teams were only averaging maybe 5 K's per game. It rose to the high 5-low 6 range in 1986, then to the mid-6 by 1997, and in the last five years, reached 7 and now mid 7's. The pre-offensive era never once reached 6 K/game, but 1993 was the last season where it was under 6.

      If pitchers were throwing more unhittable pitches, then one would think K's would go down and that BB's would go up. In fact, both went in the opposite direction, particularly during the 2000's which is when one would suppose is the time when pitchers, given Bonds' status both as hitter and rumored user, would be trying to throw more unhittable pitches.

      So sure, it is not all stats, but stats can be tested to see if assertions hold up or not. This one does not appear to hold up, pitchers did seem to give more walks as an initial reaction to the offensive era, increasing UBB from 1994 to 2000, perhaps at the behest of the managers, but from 2001 to 2008, the walk rate reverted back to where it was previously, roughly around 3.0.

      Meanwhile, strikeouts have essentially been rising over the past 35 years. There does seem to be plateaus. 1977 to 1983 was one. Then 1984 to 1993. 1994 seemed to be a transition year. Next, 1995 to 2007. Then 2008-2011. And the current era 2002-2013.

      Clearly, the transition from starters going 9 innings to having closers to pitch the 7th, 8th, and 9th that we have today, is part of that reason. Starters probably start to tire out late in the game, don't go for strikeouts as much as they may have earlier in the game, so if you take that out, that boosts up starters K/9 plus you add in dominant set-up and closers at the end, and that boosts up strikeout rates.

      I will grant that the 1995-2007 plateau lasted far longer than others, so that could be evidence of what you postulated, that pitchers where giving less hittable pitches. But that should have also resulted in more walks as well, and that did not happen, walks actually fell to a lower plateau in the 2000's, once teams realized that you couldn't avoid the hitters with that tactic during the 1990's.

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  2. There were 7 seasons of sub-4 RPG from 1963-1972. That is when the gradual rise started. There was one more sub-4 in 1976, just barely, at 3.99. While there were still ups and downs from year to year, the trend was steadily upward. There was a 4.72 as early as 1987.

    The first year over 5 was 1996 with a peak of 5.14 in 2000, but there was also 4.77 and 4.79 in 1997 and 1998 which are essentially equal to 1987.

    The downward trend started in 2001. Again, there were ups and downs from year-to-year but again, the trend was steadily down up through 2013.

    You can create what look like breaks by chopping up the years, but if you were to draw a graph starting with 1963 to 2013, you would see a slow, steady rise until 2000 and then a slow steady decline over the next 13 years.

    I am not buying that there was a "sillyball" era.

    There is likely no single explanation for this curve but rather a combination of multiple factors including inflows and outflows of pitching talent, expansion, changes in the strike zone, advances in pitching techniques, PED's and yes, possibly variations in the elasticity of baseballs.

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    1. I knew someone would bring up earlier years, I should have added this to the post. This is what Walker noted in his study regarding the starting period:

      " The year 1977 was chosen as the startpoint for these data because that's the last year that the ball was officially modified (a new ball vendor was selected by MLB). And we know that the putative "explosion" supposedly began in the early '90s."

      So for all we know, it was the change of the ball that caused any changes between the era before 1977 and after 1977. And, hey, what do you know, you listed 1976 as the last sub-4 year, thanks for that datapoint and research. And we all know that they changed the ball to set off the "Live Ball" era in the 1920's, so ball changes have happened in the past, with changes to the way the ball comes off the bat, etc.

      I guess you missed all the text I did in the middle of my post but I did a statistical hypothesis test to see if the data in the years from 2001 to 2013 were from the same population, and as I noted, the 2001 to 2008 series was statistically different, by a very large margin (according to the stat table I consulted, pretty much 100%), from the 2009 to 2013 series.

      Basically, there was a downturn as you state, but a reverse hockey stick where the RS slope went down greatly in the later years. Unless there is someone with a better statistics background who can show me where I went wrong with my usage of elementary statistics, you still need an explanation for that change in data series from 2001-2008 to 2009-2013.

      I'm sure there is no single explanation for the curve, that is what you have been fixated on, but as I pointed out numerous times in my post, give me a logical explanation for why the series of run scoring went up substantially in a 1-2 period, 1993-1994 then stayed pretty steady in terms of standard deviation, about as steady as it was before, then suddenly, over a 1-2 year period again, 2008-2009, and again, same standard deviation. Basically same deviation across the whole 1997-2013 time period, but substantially higher (statistically significantly higher) during the offensive era.

      And I made that pretty clear in my post too, I can buy all the explanations that has been proffered as possible explanations for the decline during that period, but until I see an explanation that can explain both the 1-2 year change in run scoring environment (and really, I've been nice, it was really one year) up in 1993 then down in 2009.

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    2. Anything that changes the MLB scoring environment has to be pervasive across all of baseball.

      Umpires rule changes can affect scoring, sure, but not every umpire implement the change, plus there was no known umpire change in 1993, only in the early 2000's when Sandy Alderson clamped down on them.

      Bats can change scoring, but not everyone uses the same bat manufacturer, and you can bet every MLB contract signed in history of baseball that if a player even notices that a bat is giving another player the ability to hit more homers, that every player in baseball would have switched to that bat. No such thing happened, all the bat manufacturers are still around, there is no monopoly.

      Sure, lots of things happened with pitchers, but that still don't explain the trigger for the offensive era, particularly a day and night scenario as was present in 1993-94, then the end of the offensive era, again, day and night.

      And as you state in your comment, there was a "gradual rise started" and "the trend was steadily upward", but then you left out any explanation for the statistically significantly different run scoring environment that happened from 1993 on, that was no gradual jump there.

      I don't expect you to buy in, in fact, I don't expect a lot of people to buy in. But just like I saw the Giants coming into an era of potentially finally winning the World Championship we all desired, and I stuck to my guns because the data (and my guts) told me so, the data and my guts tell me so on this too, at least until someone gives me a more logical explanation than changing the ball in 1993.

      I've tried to think of something pervasive that could change scoring across all of baseball. The baseball and the bat are the only thing I could think that is pervasive. One park could change, but then all parks would need to change. You could add a high scoring park, but there would have to be a great disparity between that park and the overall league by a very large margin in order to jump scoring so much.

      There was basically a 0.5 run increase. That by itself seems small. But there are 30 teams. And each team plays 162 games. That works out to an extra 2,430 runs in a season. For a home park to account for all those extra runs, they play 81 home games, and that works out to 30 runs extra for each home game, 15 runs per team. So scoring in that park should average roughly 19 runs per team in that park. So a park aint it.

      An influx of expansion players, sure, could affect things, but for 14 years? Then suddenly disappear? No, that don't make sense either.

      A drug would make sense, but only on a gradual time scale, not one where you are literally jumping from one scoring environment to another.

      Improvements in medical care, again, a long term gradual change, not one that happens overnight or even over a 1-2 season period.

      Until someone can explain this to me, I'm not buying any other reasons.

      Delete
    3. It didn't all happen overnight. That is what you are missing.

      Delete
    4. Then explain the statistically significant change, which I have said over and over again, but you seem to keep missing.

      Delete
    5. Look, ogc. Nobody is disputing that the offensive output in 2000 was significantly greater than in 1976 or 2013, so you spent a whole lot of time and effort proving something that nobody is disputing!

      If you chop up a curve into segments, of course you are going to find significant differences. That does not tell you anything about how you arrived at the different places in the curve!

      The run production curve is simply not consistent with a sudden introduction and later withdrawl of a "juiced" baseball!

      Yes, there have been significant changes in run production over time. Nobody is disputing that! These changes are most likely not due to any one single factor, but rather the cumulative effect of multiple factors.

      That is all.

      Delete
    6. 1976 was the last year of RPG less than 4, but it was 3.99 and the rise in production continued to be very gradual into the 80's. If the "juiced" the ball in 1977, then it sure was a bust because there was no spike in run production!

      The instructions to umpires to enforce the regulation strike zone did indeed occur after the 2002 season which correlates quite nicely with the beginning of the decline in run production which appears to be continuing through 2013. This change in the strike zone had the effect of causing a bunch of soft tossers who were making a living by horizontally expanding the low strike zone to exit the game and be replaced by young guns like Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw and many others who threw heat up in the zone. That effect accelerated with the introduction of Pitchfx which has led more and more umps to call the high strike except for a few holdouts like Joe West who thumb their nose at the regulation strike zone.

      One thing I have been really impressed by in this postseason is how closely the umps are agreeing with Pitchfx. They are calling strikes at the very top of the zone and it is leading to a whole lot of low scoring games.

      Delete
    7. If you don't believe the statistics, just say so. Sure, I "chopped" up the data. Sure offense is increased so no argument there.

      I also used statistical methods that has been in use for hundreds of years to examine the data. There is virtually no chance (so close that it's basically 100%) that the data for the years 1994-2008 comes from the same population as 1977-1993, even with me including 1993 into the population when it probably should be part of the offensive era.

      Which I have written multiple times now but you never address.

      Like I've been saying, most of what's been said are reasonable explanations of other effects and changes.

      The change in ball in 1977 was just happenstance and I shouldn't have jumped on it without looking at the data before 1977, so I admit my mistake there. Who knows what ball change happened then due to the changed ball?

      What I do know is that, and again, for the umpteenth time, the offensive era scoring is statistically significantly different from the 1977-1993 scoring population. Sometime happened to the MLB game in the 1993-1994 timeframe to change scoring, increasing it roughly 0.5 runs scoring per game, and that change continued for 15 years.

      If you don't believe the statistics, say so. Stop talking about the decline, to paraphrase you, "nobody is disputing that there was a decline".

      What you are missing is that the statistics says that the scoring in 2001-2008 is statistically significantly different from the data in 2009-2013. And not just 5% or 1% or even 0.1% level, we are talking basically 0% because it is so low. The table was at 0.01% for z=3.9, and all the z's I calculated were much higher magnitudes, for the MLB, from 6.4 to 10.8.

      Please give me an explanation for the extreme jump in the game's scoring, so much that the scoring in over 2,000 games was significantly different, meaning it is not the same scoring environment anymore, something changed in MLB baseball to cause scoring to change substantially for 15 years.

      I can buy your reasoning for the decline in the 2000's. It still doesn't change the fact that scoring suddenly increased in 1993-1994 so much that the game was changed. Yes, anyone can see that the scoring went up. My testing shows that it changed significantly. That is what is not being addressed by your comments.

      Until someone address this increase in a way that makes sense to me, I'm keeping my stance. A changed ball is the only thing that makes sense to change baseball significantly in a short period of time.

      Delete
    8. And since you played the chopped data card, while looking at the data, I realized that you actually did chop up the data to fit your scenario: if you take out 1999-2000, the scoring between 2001 and 2007 is not declining: 4.77, 4.62, 4.73, 4.81, 4.59, 4.86, 4.80. It was pretty steady during that period. The true decline started in 2008 and then continued stepping down year by year to this season.

      The difference: I didn't chop up the data willy-nilly to fit my scenario. I used statistics to guide me as to when data belonged to one period or another. If there was no difference in the eras, then statistics would have told me that, and I would not have a leg to stand on, that was one possibility I knew was possible when I took on this study here. In that case, I would have wrote that Eric was wrong, that there was no statistical difference. But there was, and even with a relatively small sample too, the statistics emphatically said that the scoring was substantively different.

      So I reject your hypothesis that the strike zone had anything to do with a decline.

      However, your young gun hypothesis could make sense in this scenario: Pitchf/x started in 2006. That is when scoring has basically fallen on a year by year basis, almost consistently, with 2006 as the peak. Older pitchers were able to game umpires into calling strikes for them previously, but now that they can't get the corners extended for them, they are having problems, being older, in controlling and commanding the pitch to get in the strikezone. And I know you covered this on your blog.

      Younger pitchers don't have as much of this problem, as they are young. Their problem before was that umpires would not call strikes for them when it is close, hazing them as their introduction into the majors. But now that Pitchf/x shows when umpires are doing that, younger pitchers are not being squeezed by the umpires as much, and the umpires are forced to call strikes that they previously were calling balls, giving younger pitchers a better chance to show off what they can do at a younger age.

      I'm glad that baseball is giving their best umps the spotlight in the playoffs (since you noted how well they match pitchf/x). Personally, however, listening to games, I don't know how many times I've heard the Giants broadcasting crew stating emphatically that the umpire was wrong, and see, look at Pitchf/x, he was off. Though I do recall Joe West being ump often, maybe that was part of it. Still, he couldn't be in that many of them, so the quality of strike calling, relative to Pitchf/x, is still a huge work in progress, I actually thought that this year was a regression in calling strikes correctly, it seemed like I heard it more this season, so I was glad to see you note that the playoffs is better.

      With all the tech available, I don't see why baseball don't do more to incorporate it and get the right calls made. I was happy to see replays being used more, it does not add that much time to most games, there are not that many situations where replay is necessary.

      I like having human umps call strikes, but there needs to be standards and penalties when a guy like Joe West insists on not following the rules. And if they can't do it, then I'm OK with having a machine call it. Heck, with all the animatronic robots available nowadays, we could just set one up behind the catcher and do a show when there is a strike or a strikeout.

      Delete
  3. I'm glad, OGC, that you didn't accept the snide dismissiveness with which a blog admin, on another site, recently scorned your ball-alteration thesis as an expression of paranoid fascination; and that instead you produced this rigorous analysis. I hope Eric Walker himself is following the discussion here.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, apparently players have been using steroids since the 70's: http://www.sfgate.com/sports/kroichick/article/House-a-failed-experiment-with-steroids-2637503.php

    Yet, the steroids era supposedly came to bloom in the 1990's and 2000's? If it was so good to "create" the offensive era, then why did it take MLB players 20 or so years to finally use it in enough numbers across the league that begat the offensive era?

    The idea is that steroids is so good that offense is now so great. Yet the boom in offense would have had to have been the greatest secret in baseball for players if the success of these players using didn't pass on quickly to other players, yet as House attested to, players were handing out illegal PED drugs to each other openly and exchanging information regularly, to imitate those who are successful.

    ReplyDelete

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