Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
Frozen Toast
Google Search
Mike's Baseball Rants


10  09  07 
06  05  04  03 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
Links to MBBR
2005-05-03 21:23
by Mike Carminati

Twins reliever Juan Rincon tested positive for steroid use, and while I don't want to caste aspersions on his career, I think that upon reviewing his stats, one has to wonder if steroids were an integral part of his renaissance last season.

Take a look at his career record, and a few things leap out at you. First, he was a pitcher whose strikeouts per nine innings were consistently in the mid-6.00's to mid-7.00's throughout his seven-year minor-league career and in his first few major-league seasons. Then in 2004, he hit almost 12 strikeouts per nine innings and remained close to that this year. He also recorded his first strikeouts to walks ratios over three in his professional career. His Walks plus Hits Per Innings Pitched (WHIP) was significantly lower than his minor-league numbers.

YearTeamLgAgeLvlERA IP K per 9 IP K: BB WHIP
1997GCL TwinsGCL18Rk2.95587.141.921.36
1998Fort WayneMidw19A3.8396.16.911.371.43
1999Quad CityMidw20A2.921638.432.321.3
2000Fort MyersFSL21A2.13766.512.391.18
2000New BritainEast21AA4.65897.992.031.52
2001New BritainEast22AA2.881537.812.331.22
7 yrsMinors3.477557.512.061.35
5 yrsMajors3.622148.692.351.29

But maybe Rincon was just maturing and steroid use had nothing to do with it. How many times has a pitcher had a one-year turnaround in K per 9IP like Rincon had last year? Let's see (min. 50 innings each year):

Ron Davis19804.47198110.232.29
Sandy Koufax19564.60195710.522.29
Jeff Russell19884.2019899.542.27
Dave LaRoche19744.79197510.282.14
John D'Acquisto19764.5019779.292.06
Bobby Ayala19935.97199412.072.02
Rich Gossage19765.42197710.221.88
Bill Caudill19815.70198210.441.83
Tom Hall19695.89197010.661.81
Mark Langston19855.1219869.211.80
Mike Scott19855.56198610.001.80
Jeff Nelson19925.1119939.151.79
Brandon Duckworth20015.2220029.221.77
Juan Rincon20036.62200411.631.76
Jose Mesa19995.5020009.371.70
Brian Williams19945.6319959.381.67
Jay Witasick20007.26200112.081.66
Scott Garrelts19866.48198710.751.66
Norm Charlton19885.7219899.251.62
Eric Gagne20017.71200212.461.62
Mark Davis19846.39198510.311.61
Bryan Harvey19887.93198912.761.61
Mariano Rivera19956.85199610.871.59
Mark Davis19925.7719939.041.57
Ben Sheets20036.40200410.031.57

OK, there are a lot of young pitchers who were just maturing in their big turnaround year. Rincon's up there, but it's not as if he's out of place, right?

Well, Rincon had already pitched a hundred innings in his major-league career before 2004. How many pitchers who have pitched a hundred innings can all of a sudden increase their strikeouts from well under one per inning to well over one per inning?

Let's see…There are 36:

NameYrK per 9 IPK per 9 IP after%Improved
Kyle Farnsworth20004.8510.25 2.11
Jim Duckworth19644.929.47 1.92
Joe Nathan20025.6410.10 1.79
Juan Rincon20046.6011.63 1.76
Sandy Koufax19575.389.45 1.76
Bob Meyer19705.849.82 1.68
Mike Remlinger19975.689.37 1.65
Johan Santana20026.3910.39 1.63
Tom Hall19705.819.06 1.56
Randy Johnson19907.4711.33 1.52
Eric Gagne20017.4711.17 1.50
Jeff Nelson19946.8310.22 1.50
Mark Wohlers19946.559.63 1.47
Johnny Ruffin19956.199.07 1.47
Scot Shields20046.399.31 1.46
Bobby Ayala19946.249.08 1.46
Francisco Cordero20036.889.86 1.43
Duane Ward19897.009.75 1.39
Ugueth Urbina19978.0611.13 1.38
Gary Kroll19667.099.44 1.33
Robb Nen19957.8210.39 1.33
Arthur Rhodes19936.919.12 1.32
Britt Reames20027.7610.00 1.29
Lee Smith19837.289.01 1.24
Jake Peavy20047.579.36 1.24
Juan Cruz20037.619.14 1.20
Tom Henke19868.3710.02 1.20
Jorge Julio20047.699.13 1.19
Paul Shuey19988.569.82 1.15
John Wetteland19908.429.62 1.14
Scott Sauerbeck20018.679.84 1.14
Tom Davey20027.949.00 1.13
Mark Clear19808.099.14 1.13
Jeff Zimmerman20018.079.08 1.13
Scott Service19978.779.01 1.03
Paul Spoljaric19988.929.09 1.02

There's Rincon in fourth place, right ahead of Sandy Koufax. That seems pretty rare to me.

It seems all this time the media has been keying on the one-year, Brady Anderson-like increases in home run totals as the main affects of steroid use. Congress seemed ready to break out asterisks for every home run hit after Jim Bunning retired. However, given Rincon's suspension and Tom House's recent admission, one has to wonder if the should have been scouring the strikeout, not the home run, totals—except Alex Sanchez's.

2005-05-04 08:58:47
1.   Pinski
How much of an effect does being converted from a starter to a reliever make?

From just glancing at your 100 inning k increases, many of them, at an early point in their careers, were starters. Just a quick glance at a Hall of Fame example of a starter being converted to a closer/reliever shows a marked increase: 1986 - 6.13 then 1987 - 8.79 [% improved - 1.43].

Maybe Rincon doesn't necessarily fall into this category because he was a starter in the minor leagues, and only started 3 games in the majors, but it would seem to me to be at least somewhat relevant, that a starter when being converted to a reliever (seems) to majorly increase his k/9.

2005-05-04 09:02:25
2.   Vishal
interestingly, three of the top pitchers on that last list are currently on the pitching staff of the minnesota twins, and are arguably their three best pitchers (nathan, rincon, santana). is it 'roids flowing through the bullpen, a pitching coach adeptly improving their mechanics, or something else? or is it coincidence?

i don't know much about steroids or the MLB drug policy, but is it conclusive that rincon tested positive for steroid use? might there be some other chemical that triggered the positive test? all the news releases don't get more specific than "performance-enhancing drug". and again, repeating that i know next to nothing about the effects of steroid use or pitching for that matter, but it seems to me especially risky for pitchers to take steroids, because isn't pitching less about muscle mass than about ligament and joint strength and the ability to rotate one's arm very quickly? considering that steroid use has a reputation for increasing susceptibility to injury, and that pitchers are quite susceptible anyway, the possible benefit to pitchers seems hardly worth the risk, at least so it seems in my thought exercise.

2005-05-04 10:04:39
3.   rbj
Steroids, from all the conflicting hysteria I hear/read about in the media, are more about recovery time than muscle bulking. You build up more muscles by working out more. Steroids help muscles rebound quicker so you can work out more. I suppose steroids would help a reliever rebound quicker, so he could pitch on more consecutive days. Has Rincon's IP gone up dramatically, especially vs. other Twins' relievers (of course he could also just be entering his prime and be able, naturally, to pitch more.) Perhaps dramatic increases in IP, velocity and consecutive days pitching might be an indicator of steroid use.
You are right Vishal, we don't know what Rincon took, it isn't completely fair to tar him with a steroids brush unless we know what he took.

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.