My Take on ARod and Steroids

…just kidding.

Instead, how about a quick look at the effects of yesterday’s suspensions on the 2013 baseball season?  Seven players who were on major league rosters as of Sunday were suspended for 50 games each.  After the jump, we’ll look at those players, their year-to-date WAR (per baseball-reference), and their teams’ positions in the standings as of this morning.  In ascending order of potential playoff race impact:


Jordany Valdespin, Mets, -0.6 WAR, 11.5 games behind 2nd Wild Card

Jesus Montero, Mariners, -0.4 WAR, 10.5 games out

The Mets and Mariners get a little bit better, for what that’s worth.


Francisco Cervelli, Yankees, 0.8 WAR, 5 games out

Antonio Bastardo, Phillies, 1.2 WAR, 10.5 games out

Everth Cabrera, Padres, 2.8 WAR, 9 games out

These teams each lost something, but their absences won’t affect a pennant race.  The Yankees are on the outskirts of the AL Wild Card race, trailing the Rangers, Indians, Orioles, and Royals for the last spot, but it’s hard to imagine the loss of their backup catcher playing any role in a potential comeback.  Cabrera was enjoying a breakout year, leading the Padres in WAR and making his first All-Star Game.


Jhonny Peralta, Tigers, 3.5 WAR, 4 games ahead in AL Central

Nelson Cruz, Rangers, 2.1 WAR, 2 games behind in AL West, in position for 2nd Wild Card

Setting aside the likelihood that replacement shortstop Jose Iglesias plays above replacement level and mitigates Detroit’s most glaring weakness (infield defense), losing Peralta will, in theory, cost the Tigers a win or two over their last 53 games.  It’s possible that the Indians, or even the Royals, make a run for the division, but it seems far more likely that Detroit sails to the division title on the backs of its stellar rotation, rendering this suspension less relevant than that of Cruz.

If there’s one story worth talking about in connection with all of yesterday’s nonsense, it’s the one about Cruz and the Rangers, who are clawing for position in the wide-open AL playoff race.  Nine teams are within ten games of the league’s best record.  Seven are within a game and a half of a playoff spot right now.  Texas is trying to fend off at least the Indians and Orioles, while chasing Oakland at the same time.

Cruz had been the team’s second-best hitter, wielding a wRC+ of 123 through his first 108 games.  The Rangers have three more better-than-replacement-level outfielders in David Murphy, Leonys Martin, and Craig Gentry, though Martin and Gentry are both defense-first outfielders better suited for center than right.  Rookie Engel Beltre seems like the most likely candidate to gain playing time in Cruz’s absence.  Beltre has hit a miserable .273/.294/.303 in his first 14 games, and his minor league walk and home run rates don’t suggest much room to grow in the latter two numbers.  He is a base-stealing threat and batted .302 in AAA this year, but his presence will weaken an already uninspiring lineup.  Utilityman Jeff Baker should see more playing time as well, but shouldn’t be trusted in right field in key situations.

The Rangers may lose a game as a result of Cruz’s suspension.  That game may be critical to their playoff hopes.  And of course, facing a slightly weaker Rangers offense might affect some of the many teams that will play Texas over the remainder of the season, so a small ripple may be felt.  But all in all, the 2013 baseball season looks a lot like it did this weekend.

Now back to ARod…

19 thoughts on “My Take on ARod and Steroids

  1. 1
    Jacob says:

    The A-Rod case is underreported! If he were suspended right now, the Yankees would miss out on ± 1 WAR. They’re 5 games out of the Wild Card, but that is while playing most of the season without Jeter and Granderson, who will contribute another 1 WAR each. Given that the Yanks’ competition for the WC (Cleveland, KC, Baltimore and Texas / TB) are likely playing over their heads (lacking mystique and aura), it is VERY LIKELY that the POSSIBILITY of A-ROD getting suspended will cause the Yankees to miss the postseason in MO’S FINAL SEASON.

    OK, I tried.

  2. 2
    Ed says:

    Cervelli was actually the Yankees’ starting catcher at the beginning of the year. He got hurt in late April and is still on the DL.

    • 6

      Thanks, Ed. I was afraid I might have overlooked something like this. No change to the thesis, of course. Do you know whether Cervelli was due back soon?

      • 8
        Brooklyn Mick says:

        Even before the suspension was announced, Yankee GM Brian Cashman said following the most recent setback with his elbow that it was “looking unrealistic” Cervelli would play again this year.

      • 10
        mosc says:

        Also, it’s very likely JR Murphey will get a real look as a september callup giving even less incentive to rush Cervelli back from injury.

    • 11
      mosc says:

      Yeah, I’ve seen other talk that the Yankees will non-tender him too. Preposterous. Odds are good he’ll again get a shot at the starting catcher job in 2014. He’s a decent defender, has shown potential with the bat (certainly not consistently) though with little pop, and is an excellent pitch framer.

  3. 3
    no statistician but says:

    Is this where WAR moves from a measure of personal performance to a predictor of team success? I am reminded of the euphemistic title of a Marx Brothers movie.

    On June 5, 1963, Mickey Mantle broke his leg. The Yankees were in second place, a half game behind. Although he pinch hit a few times in August, the Mick was not back in the lineup until Sept. 4. The Yankees were then in 1st place, 12 games up. With Mantle, who had a great September, the team finished 10 up. Yes, I realize that the team might have done even better in June, July, and August with Mantle in the lineup and that they might have faltered more in September without him. All things are possible to those who believe (in WAR).

    • 7

      Isn’t that the point of WAR? Baseball players are on the field to contribute to their teams’ wins. We accumulate their individual accomplishments to try to determine how valuable they are to those teams. WAR will never add up directly to wins because luck and random chance will always play a huge role in baseball, but in theory, losing a 3-WAR player for a third of a season is likely to cost a team about one win. Is there a better way to estimate this?

      • 12
        no statistician but says:

        What do they say in the ads about securities? “Past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future results”?

        Team sports have a tendency to work on synergy. I would posit from long observation that when a good player goes down, his or her team will respond in one of several ways, but I suspect strongly that the gain or loss over the period of absence will correspond to the assumed WAR figure only by accident.

        Let’s agree to disagree.

  4. 4
    Mike L says:

    Excuse my lack of tact on this, because I recognize that Bryan has made a real effort to quantify but I think a basic point is being ignored. Eliminating both suspended players and their teams from the analysis simply because they aren’t contenders ignores the impact those teams (and more specifically, the performance of the suspended players) might have in games against contending teams. For example, starting on the 13th, the Braun-less Brewers play fifteen games against the Rangers, Reds, Pirates and Cardinals. Those games are not irrelevant. The Pods have late season games against the Pirates, Arizona, and LA. Those games are not irrelevant. Contending teams that have more games remaining against diminished opponents have an advantage not reflected in a static “Cruz was worth 2.1 WAR” analysis.” Suspensions this late in the season are likely to have an disparate impact that will be felt across the board. It might be a ripple, or it might be the one game difference between a division title, or a wild card, or go home.

    • 9

      Mike, I alluded to that ripple effect in the second-to-last sentence above. I may be understating this case, but is the difference between these teams with and without the suspended players so great that their opponents are at a measurable advantage?

      I can see the Brewers and Padres being a little weaker down the stretch, but they weren’t contenders anyway. Later in the season, teams out of contention tend to defer playing time to younger players, focusing on development over winning, so the Padres, for example, were likely to be a little weaker in September than in May even with Cabrera.

      Conversely, the schedule is so imbalanced that teams competing for the same playoff spots are rarely competing on common ground. Any team that faced the Rays while Price was on the DL and the rest of the pitching was struggling got a small advantage over the teams who have faced them since. Such is baseball.

      And I didn’t find your comment tactless in any way. This was a bit of a puff piece, but HHS is an interactive forum and we hope to be challenged anytime we write in this space.

  5. 5
    John Autin says:

    Isn’t the Rangers’ season set up for the ultimate irony? Manny’s holding his own at AAA. (I use “holding” in the innocent sense.) They bring him up, and he finds one last late-season burst, a la his 2009 Dodgers run. Then, on the eve of the playoffs, the other shoe drops….

  6. 13
    Ken says:

    You mentioned that the Tigers had 53 games remaining. So does that mean that Peralta (and others in similar situations) can come back for the last 3 games and the playoffs? Or is the term “50 games” just used loosely to mean “for the rest of the season, however many games that comes to”? Even so, could these players still resume play in the playoffs, or does the actual ruling cover regular season and postseason?

    • 14

      That’s a good question, Ken. Since they were careful to suspend Rodriguez for 211 games, rather than “through 2014”, I’m under the assumption that the suspensions are truly 50 games, meaning Peralta will be back for the last 3 and the playoffs.

      Can anyone confirm or deny?

      • 15
        Richard Chester says:

        Bryan: Questions-to be eligible for the playoffs doesn’t a player have to be on the team roster as of Aug.31? If so, is a suspended player considered to be on the roster?

        • 16
          Ed says:

          Everything I’ve read says that the are eligible for the postseason. Whether or not their teams will want them, is an entirely different question.

        • 17
          mosc says:

          Injured players not on the active roster August 31st are eligible (typically why teams have more than 25 eligible guys). You can also fill in another player if one of your August 31st guys is unavailable (injured or released) come the post season. Even if they don’t treat suspensions like an injury in terms of post season availability (which I think they do), all these guys could sneak in taking the roster spot of existing 25 man guys the teams don’t want to keep for the playoffs.

          Typical replacement targets of the 25 active roster guys on the 31st are players with options (send em down one final time), free agents to be that the team won’t get a draft pick for and can simply release, and guys who get injured (includes pitchers “shut down” for innings, no arguments).

      • 19
        bstar says:

        I’ve heard the Rangers ARE planning to bring back Nelson Cruz for the postseason.

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