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February 9, 2010 12:39 PM

How to abuse stats to start a Steroid Rumor

Bruce Chen.jpgThis post is what happens when it's February and I notice something silly on a B-R page. I apologize in advance.

Opponents of advanced stats like to say that you can manipulate the numbers to make any argument sound true, and that watching the sport day in and day out is the only way to see a player's true value. I agree with the first part, sort of.

It is true that any careless browser could latch on to a number and trumpet it as definitive proof of pretty much anything. Without due diligence, it's easy to overlook context and blind yourself with the statistical nugget you choose. I've probably done this.

Today, for example, I will demonstrate how to abuse sabermetrics to "prove" that Bruce Chen has used PEDs to become a better hitter.

Things you'll need:
-too much time on your hands
-the batting section of Chen's Baseball-Reference page
-the OPS+ column
-at least one logical fallacy

Things you'll need to ignore:

-that Chen is a pitcher
-that Chen has never had more than 52 plate appearances
-that in his last 2 major league seasons, Chen has had a total of 3 PAs.
-All other stats that are not the cornerstone of the claim

Other things that might be helpful:

-Exclamation marks
-Random bolding of words that are supposed to be important
-Derisive names to call people who question your claims

OK, got everything? Fantastic! Here we go:

I have proof that Royals pitcher Bruce Chen has been juicing for the last 3 seasons. I dare you to question this!! The stats back me up here, so don't bother to argue because you are a dumb caveman.

Bruce Chen's OPS+ in his career:

Year Age Tm OPS+
1998 21 ATL -24
1999 22 ATL -100
2000 23 TOT -74
2000 23 ATL -100
2000 23 PHI -69
2001 24 TOT -33
2001 24 PHI -44
2001 24 NYM -16
2002 25 TOT 90
2002 25 NYM
2002 25 MON 138
2002 25 CIN -100
2003 26 HOU -100
2005 28 BAL 130
2006 29 BAL 424
2009 32 KCR 435
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2010.

You'll notice that Chen's OPS+ EXPLODED in his age-29 and age-32 seasons. This does not happen, as everybody knows that players hit their peak before they're 28 and the only exceptions are steroid users. The difference is staggering - how else can you explain how a guy goes from NEGATIVE ONE HUNDRED to 424 and 435 OPS+ seasons?

And look, I know people criticize some of these stats, but OPS+ is legit. Guys like Joe Posnanski refer to it all the time. There's no two ways around this one - Bruce Chen is a PED user.

*Note: In case your sarcasm detector is broken, the preceding accusation was only meant as an illustration of how not to use sabermetrics. It's winter, and I'm bored, and Bruce Chen is a saint.   

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