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Chat: Will Carroll

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday March 08, 2006 6:00 PM ET chat session with Will Carroll.


Will Carroll is an author of Baseball Prospectus and the author of The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball's Drug Problems.

Will Carroll: Hi readers -- I'm starting early because I'm going to have to pause a couple times to do radio across the country. I want to thank everyone for all the emails and questions on radio over the past 24 hours regarding the Bonds situation and apologize for not responding. I try to respond to every email, but this one has been so overwhelming (and repetitive), that it was better to handle it in this chat. Secondly, this allows me to address the situation (and a few other things) directly and interactively. The book, Game of Shadows, isn't out yet and I wasn't lucky enough to get an advance copy, so the information I have is what I know from my work and research and from reading the excerpts. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams appear to have done a phenomenal job of research, laying out a damning case against Bonds. I really have nothing new to add to the discussion, no angle on this that hasn't been addressed, other than my willingness to try and remain open minded. I'm not going to defend anyone and I'm not going to help a lynch mob. Let's look at the facts and see where that takes us. "Follow the evidence," Gil Grissom always says. We have a lot more evidence to work with now, so powered by a cup of Intelligentsia Tres Santos, on to the chat:

Adam J. Morris (Houston, Texas): I hate to ask a P.E.D. related question, but... I'm one of those that believes that if you strike Bonds, McGwire, etc. from the record book, you'd have to do the same for guys like Gaylord Perry, Whitey Ford, and Mike Scott, along with all the folks over the years who popped greenies. However, I've heard some old-timers argue that greenies aren't comparable to steroids, because they aren't "performance enhancing"...they were just used to help guys who were out drinking the night before get more alert, but didn't make a player play any better than he otherwise would, which differentiates them from steroids and other P.E.Ds. What is your take on the "greenie" effect, and how would you compare their effect on players taking (or not taking) them to the effect steroids, HGH, etc. have on players?

Will Carroll: Please, ask. (And check out Adam's work at Lone Star Ball, part of the Sportsblogs Network.)

I'd agree. "Cheating" has been a part of the game as long as hot dogs and we have a very relative moral sense. We simply don't know how much "cheat value" a spitball has in relation to a corked bat or a cycle of sustanon. Cheating, to me, is cheating. You make the choice to do so and then accept the consequences if you're caught. What makes this difficult is that what Bonds allegedly did between 98-03 is not, in the strictest sense, against the rules. It's morally and ethically wrong, but not technically wrong. It's very hard to separate those in an emotional issue.

As for the greenie effect, I think we'll see an increase in injuries, an uptick in the use of benches and relievers, and several positive tests, but no suspensions.

felixthecat41 (chicago): Will, Do you think the powers that be in MLB will ever have the guts to put asterisks next to Bonds and the rest of the steroid freaks (Sammy, Big Mac, Raffy) of this shameful era? By the way, thanks for the podcast.

Will Carroll: Speaking of emotion ...

I don't think these asterisks are necessary. Don't we all judge players in our own ways, attaching mental adjustments, translations, and asterisks? Think of your favorite player growing up. Mine was Ryne Sandberg. I can look at his stat line, compare him across eras, and check his WARPs all day, but the young boy 's voice still deep inside me rates him the best player he ever saw. I don't need an asterisk to tell me that Bonds' numbers need to be questioned.

Andy (Wheaton, IL): Surely lots of Bonds questions, but mine is this: can Commissioner Bud do anything in absence of a positive test, and is there any precedence (include other sports if you like) for doing so?

Will Carroll: The term you're looking for is "non-analytic positive." There's a great precedent for it and it's part of the WADA code that was recently upheld on appeal. The case against both Chryste Gaines and Tim Montgomery, track athletes with BALCO ties, were made this way. (http://www.cansport.com/blog.php?blog_id=38).

It's a dangerous, slippery slope. Saying someone is guilty isn't the same as proving someone is guilty. Even in the Bonds case, with the GoS evidence, he has never tested positive in the three years MLB has been testing (to the best of my knowledge.) Knowing what we know about Bonds, especially the characterizations that Bonds would force Anderson to speed up his cycles, it's unlikely that he would have stopped in 2003, when THG was still undetectable.

I do not like non-analytic positives at all and am glad that they are not part of the new MLB drug testing policy. I would like to see an independent arbiter or panel in charge of such decisions, both now and if this power were granted in the future.

Jordan (Des Plaines IL): Bonds is going to get served..... A fellow friend and long time BP subsriber sums it up..... Baseball's numbers that we have learned, and are learning now, don't mean much. BONDS CHEATED and it does taint what he did. He is one of many and it is hard to know who is pure. How can the baseball establishment paint over dirt? -irritated and confused.

Will Carroll: This sums up a lot of the angrier "questions" here. It's extremely hard to step back and take emotions out of this, especially when someone feels personally affronted by this situation.

I am curious to see how MLB and the Commissioner respond. Given recent kudos, Selig's likely weak or even non-response is not going to look good in a PR sense, even if it is the best response available.

stopthehysteria (socal): Sick of the clamoring about Bonds. I didnt hear this whining about Mcgwire during his chase, meanwhile everyone knew he was on something. Are we gonna discount Babe Ruth's records cuz he didnt play against nonwhite people? No, no clamoring to go after him. Here's two absolute facts, steroids dont make you hit homers, and steroids cannot account for the domination by Barry within his own era when steroids were regularly taken.

Will Carroll: And here's the other side. Again, it's an emotional reaction mostly. What we have here is failure to communicate, a holy war with no middle ground. I'll posit that the truth lies somewhere in between.

Scartore (Cincinnati, not "the Nati"): Hi Will. How about another Pizza Feed here in the Queen City? Any thoughts on the risk to Homer Bailey if we rush him up here too soon? Being the only pitching prospect at all in a system must carry a huge pressure rating.

Will Carroll: It's something I'd like to do, the Reds recent treatment of a project I was working on notwithstanding. Tell you what, Scar - email me and we'll plan it.

I'll say this again -- if you want a Pizza Feed, help me make it happen. I'll do one anytime, any place if I can do it without losing money.

jsukroo (atlanta): Will Scott Rolen come back with something near his 2004 numbers after his shoulder surgery?

Will Carroll: Would you settle for 2003?

People have a tendency to look for people to come back to their highest levels after injuries, especially if they're in recent memory. Injuries alter career paths so significantly that it's difficult to tell where someone "should be." I like the PECOTA on Rolen, now and forward.

2White (Washington): One thing that always intrigues me about the steroid scandal is how pain killers rarely, if ever, draw attention from the public and the media (The Juice being one exception). If one of the arguments against steroid usage is that it is unfair to Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron because steroids weren't available in their playing days, then shouldn't the same argument be made against pain killers (certainly in the case of Ruth)?

Will Carroll: Dan LeBatard made this point as well, looking at the use of painkillers and cortisone in relation to Kirk Gibson's 88 homer. Is Tommy John or LASIK performance enhancing?

We lay down a moral/ethical line in the sand on things and, for better or worse, we accept those if we choose to play within the system. If you cheat, there are consequences. If you get away with it, there are not. If there are no rules or a loophole is found, you fix it, but you can't look back.

I think it's far more important to look forward, to educate and inform, to make sure that the next Barry Bonds doesn't have the questions and problems of the current one.

Jim Adams (Napa, CA): I found watching ESPN yesterday to be a surreal experience: talk show hosts who hadn't read the Bonds book interviewing reporters who hadn't read the Bonds book, all of whom expressed opinions that Bonds should retire, or be suspended from MLB, or excluded from the HoF -- based on a book that no one has yet had the opportunity to read! Do you have a problem with this?

Will Carroll: As someone who self-identifies as a rumormonger, I understand it. We have a style over substance culture obsessed with quick results and chemicals. We have an attention span that rivals a three-year old who got a case of Pixie Stix for Christmas and a case of ADD drugs to fix the problems. I work in the media - print and radio - and the mediums are what they are because of response. If it didn't sell, it wouldn't stay.

I don't have to like it, but I can vote with my eyeballs.

2White (Washington): Here's a hypothetical question: this afternoon, a scientist develops a steroid that has no harmful side effects. Would you advocate that baseball players be allowed to use it?

Will Carroll: No. I'll quote myself: There is no place in baseball for any substance that gives one player a significant advantage over any other player, once that substance has been banned in accordance with the in-force policy. Safe or not, legal or not, I don't want steroids in the game of baseball.

Let's go one better: Modafinil is a drug given out by BALCO and one Bonds may have used. It's amazingly effective, has no known side effects, and is readily available. Heck, I have a prescription for it (unfilled) because I have sleep apnea. Unless someone medically requires it, it has no place in the game.

GBSimons (An Hour South of UTK Headquarters): Will, is there going to be an Indianapolis-area BP event this spring?

Will Carroll: And where were you at the Pizza Feed we had two weeks ago? I know, we did a poor job of marketing it but we had great fun with the people that came -- both football and baseball fans.

I'm sure we'll have more soon. I'm looking for help organizing a St Louis feed for early April. Inquire within.

(Pause for radio. Keep the questions coming, tho we have hundreds in queue.)

Josh (West Palm): Any speculation on what the repurcussions will (and should) be for Bonds? Does he deserve to be Banned For Life? If so, will Selig have the fortitude to do it?

Will Carroll: Back - sorry for that.

I just came up with the answer to this while speaking on the radio. Selig should condemn the actions of Barry Bonds. He should take a strong moral and ethical stand against this and any other doping offenses and call on Bonds to issue an apology.

I spoke earlier about mental asterisks. Selig would be placing a strong and public mental asterisk with the equivalent of a censure. I don't believe that he has a legal right to ban him or invoke the Best Interests clause. But he can put an unholy moral smackdown on Bonds.

bctowns (Chicago, IL): Will, Let this be the first of several hundred Prior questions in the queue, and hopefully the first to be answered. What are your predictions on the season for him, numbers wise? Feel free to relate it to his injury potential for the season. Thanks for chatting.

Will Carroll: Surprisingly few, Towns.

I like PECOTA. The 50% projection looks about right to me, tho he could certainly hit anywhere in the range. I hope he has a great season but the Cubs are sure treating him like there's something more going on.

ithistle (Brookline, MA): Hi Will, Latest word on Keith Foulke? Can he pitch with no cartilege in his knee? Is this the kind of injury he'll never completely recover from?

Will Carroll: Foulke is having Synvisc injections. He can pitch and we have evidence with several other pitchers and players that this can be a multi-year solution with good results.

I still want to see him pitch in some game action to be sure that it was all his knees before speculating on what he can or cant do.

Kary Singh (Rockford, Illinois): I have recently heard the claim (on a talk radio show) that steroids improves eyesight. Is there any scientific evidence to back this up?

Will Carroll: There's no medical evidence that I'm aware of, but lots of anecdotes. If a player feels like he's seeing the ball better, does it really matter if he is? There's no medical evidence -- or statistical evidence yet -- that those Nike Maxsight contacts help, but everyone raves about them.

Remember we can't just go test steroids on a representative population. We have to look at proxies, at populations and tests that approximate and make educated guesses. That alone makes it extremely hard to give a black and white answer on any of this.

rudd48 (lexington, ky): # of plate appearances and homers for Thome this year?

Will Carroll: 400 plate appearances, 30 home runs.

I type that and immediately think I'm going to regret saying that by the All Star Break.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): So, behind Bonds, is Albert Pujols the second most ticked off guy in North America this week?

Will Carroll: Um. I don't know. Why?

Sean Hannity always seems really ticked off and I know he's playing a character, but Kavanaugh on "The Shield" has really got a mad-on going.

DrManhattan (NYC): Will, two quick Yankees THR questions: 1) C.M. Wang a green - how is that possible? 2) I could have sworn the original THR had Mariano as a yellow rather than a red - did that change? And if all that you expect is a short DL stint with a minor injury, how does that translate into a red?

Will Carroll: Wang was a quirk of the system. It treated his problems like "tired arm" which is actually a positive and it didn't know about his minor league injuries. The inability to get consistent minor league injury info is one of the biggest downfalls of the system.

No, Rivera is red. Remember, the system predicts the probability of a significant injury, defined as a DL stay. Rivera always has one of those, so it's a relatively easy light. That probability alone isn't the whole story, which is why we comment on them.

GREGHACK (Kansas City): Love your work. What's the health outlook for this year for Bobby Crosby, Jake Peavy, Eric Chavez and Roy Halladay?

Will Carroll: A's THR is coming later this month.
Padres THR is out today ... and free!
Jays THR was just turned in to my editors and will be up later this week.

Please forgive me for not answering these questions. I know a lot of you have fantasy drafts and need/want it. Suffice it to say ... I like Peavy short-term, Halladay long-term, worry about Crosby's tendency to get nicked, and Chavez's shoulder.

Bryan (Maryland): While I'm assuming that this is a Bonds-inspired emergency chat, hopefully you have time for a pitching question. Have you seen Mets relief pitching prospect Henry Owens? If so, what do you think of his mechanics? To my untrained eye, it looks like Keith Foulke meets Derrick Turnbow. Thoughts?

Will Carroll: I have not, but will look out for him now.

GAKIC fan (Atlanta): Love the YoLC blog. GAKIC is expensive but sure seems to work, and not in the Ultimate Orange exploding heart rate way. What have you heard about LEUKIC? I got it because I knew I'd be able to hide the GNC receipt from my wife, but I'm not sure exactly what effect it's supposed to have.

Will Carroll: GAKIC is pretty amazing stuff and in my very unscientific uses of the product personally and with some of the pitchers I work with, it has exceptional gains and some very pitching specific benefits. LEUKIC is a similar, integrated product, but I have not yet used or studied it.

Muscletech, I recently heard, has filed for bankruptcy. We might see a sale on this stuff. Without endorsing or recommending it, I'm stocking up.

dangor (New York): People always ask about sleepers. I'd like to know which pitchers do you think will be Fantasy Busts? Personally, I think Mussina, Trevor Hoffman and Maddux may all be past their expiration date. After all, there is only one Roger.

Will Carroll: Here's a question for you -- how good is 80% of Maddux? 70%? At what point does a player reduced by age, injury, fatigue or any other variable not better than the next option? That's a big question on the frontier of injury analysis. Tom Gorman's BP2006 essay is a big step.

Conor Glassey (Redmond, WA): Hey Will - What do you think of Mike Marshall claiming, "Let me get into one major league organization, and it'll be over for everybody else because my pitchers will never injure themselves. My pitchers will throw harder than they did before. They'll get closer to their genetic release velocity, whatever that is. They'll throw higher quality pitches and they'll do the same thing I did, be able to pitch every single day. We'll have a four-man rotation, we'll have relievers who can relieve every other day without any stiffness or soreness, we'll have an eight-man pitching staff, and we'll just kick your butt."

Will Carroll: Without getting into more debate with Marshall and his disciples ...

I could be the greatest sex of Angelina Jolie's life. I think we'd be great together, able to make passionate love for hours on end in the rainforests she protects, in between takes of her next movie, and while she flies her private plane. I could make her forget all about that Pitt guy and every other guy, guaranteed.

Thing is, Angelina hasn't expressed a lot of interest in giving me the opportunity to prove or disprove my theory. Stalking her or saying her butt's looking a little fat isn't going to make her more likely to let me have my slow, methodical way with her and it remains just a theory.

Daniel Cabrera (Mazzone's Torture Chamber): Holy God, I think my arm just fell off. This guy is brutal. Please tell me I'm going to compete for a Cy Young. . .

Will Carroll: Compete? That's a pretty high standard. You're talented enough, but as past research from Dayn Perry and others have shown, Mazzone's magic doesn't work with everyone. It remains to be seen who among the O's will be the next Glavine and who will be the next Steve Avery.

Tim (Boston): One of the tenets of BP seems to be not to overpay for relief pitching, but rather to find young or otherwise "free" talent, which history shows has a good chance of putting up equivalent (or superior) numbers. While I agree that many teams get stuck on a few aging veterans, just how does a team go about identifying the best of the "free" talent available? There seems to be a lot of variation from year to year (as the Yankees chapter in the new annual lays out very well) in reliever performances, but how does a team pick just the right folks to have a breakout season, especially when they might be unlikely to repeat it for more than a year or two? It seems like it would be harder than BP implies. Is it just that anything would be better than what teams are doing now? Step one: collect free talent Step three: Profit! (loved the Oscar Villareal comment in the annual)

Will Carroll: Of course it's hard. You collect information, you study video, have scouts watch, look at stat lines for quirks, you make your best projections, and you value appropriately. The team that does the best job of that and has some luck wins.

Pay for consistency, not potential.

val (sacramento): is kelvim escobar healthy?

Will Carroll: Bone chips are a pretty known quantity. You remove them, you rehab a bit, you come back, then you wait for them to recur. I think Escobar's had three, maybe four rounds of this.

Opper (Brooklyn): Harold Reynolds thinks Bobby Crosby will win an MVP award this year. Setting aside the question of whether or not Harold is insane, how worried are you about Crosby's shoulder?

Will Carroll: Not terribly. Some interesting rumors that I haven't been able to confirm about it, but none change the diagnosis. It's a good time to rest him and make sure he's ready. Add in the depth that the A's have across the board and it's not going to be a horrible loss unless it gets significantly worse.

birkem3 (Dayton, OH): Will, it is mentioned several times in the Team Health Reports that catchers have a higher baseline for injury risk. How do these differ from position to position? Do you have a position baseline ranking we can look at?

Will Carroll: They not only differ from position to position, but from age group to age group within each position. I group them in bundles, such as 22U, 23-25, 26-29, etc, to get better sample sizes and because of the similarity in injury patterns discovered by American Specialty, the company that formerly did the Redbooks.

As for showing it, I'm sorry. I'm not being closed-source, but the table I'm using is a proprietary actuarial table that's still in use today. I have permission to use it in the system, but not to disclose it.

dave (yonkers): what do you make of Sheets saying that he's afraid to throw his curveball?

Will Carroll: Not much. Here's a guy coming back from injury. Remember in '04 when Santana was coming back from bone chip removal? His first couple starts were bad until he finally stopped guarding and threw like he could. The rest is history. Sheets is human.

pjfsks (metsville): When will you start the DPMTU (Daily Pedro Martinz Toe Update)? Please tell me that he will be effective for 30 starts. Also, cortisone shots seem to be a solution for some problems. Why hasn't Pedro had one this spring. Are there short term or long term side effects?

Will Carroll: I'm hoping to avoid it. The Mets have been extremely conservative with Martinez's treatment and why not? There's plenty of time to get more aggressive and, I imagine, this is a nice way to keep him out of the Classic without making him or the team look bad.

It's definitely one of the injuries I'll be watching and it could well be daily once UTK returns to its normal in-season schedule in a couple weeks.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): Between Greinke this year and Worrell last we're starting to see guys go get psych help when needed. I think it's a positive that they're doing this in the relative open rather than calling it a "tired arm" and sending him to live upstate like a pregnant girl in the 50s. At any rate, any word on his prognosis? Is it career-ending or just a matter of time and support?

Will Carroll: Cris, I agree - it's not only good that there's not as much stigma on a mental/emotional problem, but there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes with most teams to prevent and deal with these types of problems.

As far as Greinke, I'm watching like you and hoping he makes the best decisions for him. He'll be a real loss if this is the end of his pitching career.

Carla (Buckman Springs): no!!!!!!!! take back those bad things you said about peavy!!!!!! he's going to be our ace (and a dominant one) for the next yen years!!! bad red light, bad!

Will Carroll: People think I want people to be injured. I don't. Trust me, I *want* to be wrong about this, but I presented my case.

Jim Andrews said real success would be the day no pitchers show up at his office. I agree.

Will Carroll: Thanks for all the questions on Bonds and everything else. I want to extend my deepest thanks for the care and intelligence you show with your questions and comments. The best part of my job is the people I meet and learn from. I want to thank everyone for reading and listening and hope you'll continue to do so. I understand how lucky I am to have this job and try to earn it every day. See you next time. I'm off for more coffee ...

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