#197 ALBERT BELLE LF Indians
Albert Belle's untranslated slugging percentages in the mid 90s:
Dude could rake. He's the first name on the list from the "steroid" era, and he fits the profile. My feelings about steroids, mentioned in other places of this blog are that we can adjust for the offensive inflation of this era the same way we can adjust for the inflation that produced Hack Wilson's 191 rbi or the deflation of the 1960s; era adjustments and ballpark adjustments are not new; it's an easy fix. While the "steroid" era had a spike in offense, it wasn't an unprecedented one; simple research shows that the view that somehow all baseball until 1998 was played on a level field is demonstrably untrue. Offense goes up, offense goes down. Happens. The degree to which a smaller strike zone, smaller ballparks, changes in bat and ball, and other non steroid related factors influenced the most recent offensive spike are hard to quantify, but obviously they play some role. It's reasonable to think that steroids played some role too; all medical science has, be it in training or recovery - be it in radically improved surgical procedures and preventive medcine, be it the incredible monetary increases in the game that allow teams and players to focus 365 days a year in improving their bodies - whether it's Curt Schilling's ability to get his tendon sewed to his sock or Kirk Gibson having gallons of cortisone poured into his body - or player X getting lasik eye surgery, all technology, presumably, plays some role in increasing performance. We do adjustments for era and let the numbers speak. The pre-1947 players on the list are all white - and all Americans; the game not only opened up to African-Americans, but has evolved to mine global talent; the available pool of pitchers against hitters, hitters against pitchers, is exponentially deeper in 2008 than was it in 1988, 1968, 1948 or 1928. To my way of thinking, the reaction that allegations that player Y used some type of performance enhancing drug for some measure of his career invalidates that career is not supportable.
I don't have the slightest idea if Albert Belle took steroids. I don't have the slightest idea if he did take steroids to what extent that increased his performance. I don't have the slightest idea the extent to which we should invalidate any of those performance gains, even if we were able to specifically segregate them. I don't have the slightest idea how we can pretend that a home run hit while a ballplayer was "on the juice" did not happen. Does that mean the pitcher should have it removed from his record? What if the pitcher was "on the juice" - then is it okay? What if the pitcher was - and the batter wasn't? Does Babe Ruth get to keep all the home runs he hit against pitchers who would not have been in the league had African-Americans been allowed to pitch to him? Does Hank Aaron get to keep all the home runs he hit against pitchers who wouldn't have been in the league had all of the Latin American arms which have now been found, been mined, by MLB been available in the 1960s? Does Todd Helton give up home runs because the offensive spike for pre-humidor Coors Field was significantly higher than the leaguewide spike of the "steroid" era? Do we take away home runs hit in small ballparks and add home runs hit in large ballparks?
We make adjustments for era. Good adjustments. Significantly better adjustments to factor in the impact of inflation than does the consumer price index. To single out steroids (and then, just a handful of players suspected of using steroids - as I write this the Yankees just had Jason Giambi moustache day at the Stadium - when does Raffy Palmeiro get his moustache day? Why is it some suspected "users" are pariahs and others are celebrated?) as the one variable which invalidates facts.
Facts are good. They don't disappear because we don't like them.
Albert Belle's WARP3 in 1995 was 14.3. That's better than any year of Lou Gehrig's career.
Facts. Facts are good.