Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Curious Case of Shawn Green


"As everyone else was gettin' stronger as they was gettin' older, I seemed to be gettin' weaker..."

Recently, I was having a discussion with someone from my work about Shawn Green (seriously). We all remember Shawn and his power hitting ways of the late 1990's and early 2000's. He burst on the scene north of the border as a power/speed threat, and quickly turned himself into one of the league's elite run producers of the latter half of the decade. But after a good run, something weird happened. He slowly started to get worse. It was something us baseball fans have not been accustomed to recently. It was unexplainable - he just started to not hit as well, and not hit as many homers, and not drive in as many runs as he used to. You see, when someone is good they stay good for a long, long, long time...right? So something had to be up.

Knowing that I'm a Mets fan, this co-worker sought me out and asked, "What ever happened to that guy?"
My reply was, "He didn't take steroids. He got old."

You see, we've been conditioned to believe that something otherworldly must have taken place to account for Green's steady decline. The way his career progressed, and subsequently ended, just didn't seem, well, what's the word...natural.

Let's do some very rudimentary statistical analysis:

AGE/HR/RBI/SLUG

  • 1995 - 22/15/54/.509
  • 1996 - 23/11/45/.448
  • 1997 - 24/16/53/.469
  • 1998 - 25/35/100/.510
  • 1999 - 26/42/123/.588
  • 2000 - 27/24/99/.472*
  • 2001 - 28/49/125/.598
  • 2002 - 29/42/114/.558
  • 2003 - 30/19/85/.460
  • 2004 - 31/28/86/.459
  • 2005 - 32/22/73/.477
  • 2006 - 33/15/66/.432
  • 2007 - 34/10/46/.430


*note - 2000 was the first year of his big deal in LA and I guess he was "trying to do too much", which is the most reasonable explaination for his numbers being a bit lower than the year before and after


When you glance at the numbers quickly, what do you discover? You see that his career can be divided up into three distinct sections: his early increase in skills/ability, his 'prime' and his 'decline'. Hmm, very curious. I thought that once a player reached his 'prime', he just continued on at that pace until he decided he no longer wished to unleash his talents on the world? That doesn't seem to be the case here, though. Again, something strange is going on...

Oh, now I remember. All those guys that were capable of playing above and beyond normal ability were on 'roids! When mortal men age they gradually get slower and less agile and lose some of their youthful ability and responsiveness. That means they can't get as many hits. I guess Shawn didn't take steroids. Good for him.

6 comments:

xGooks said...

also - loooooves matzah, hannukah and dredles. and seriously, can you blame the guy?

Doc Holliday said...

And yarmulkes with the Mets symbol on it.

J said...

/hates Shawn Green

//nothing else substantive to say

Anonymous said...

A story on Shawn Green not doing steroids...could there be a less interesting topic than that?

Joe Kidd said...

Well, Jack Clark, Green's hitting coach in LA, now says that he was on the juice, whether true or not. Certainly, Green's sudden decline from 42 home runs in 2002 to 19 in 2003 (the first year of steroids testing) at the age of thirty seems a little odd, especially given that Green never again hit as many as 29 dingers and only smashed more than 22 once more.

Matt Ray said...

As Joe Kidd, points out declining from 42 to 19 home runs at what should have been a prime age of 30 is not typical, especially since this was in 6 more plate appearances with 112 strikeouts both seasons and a line of .280/.355/.460 in '03 compared to .285/.385/.558 in '02 and he did a reverse Giambi as the home runs turned back into doubles with a career-high 49 in '03 compared to 31 in '02 so he even hit similarly and made the same or slightly better contact, yet his power still fell dramatically. In fact, Green was a remarkably consistent hitter regularly in the .280 range give or take from the beginning to end of his career(.288 his first full year, .291 his final year and .283 career), yet he wasn't much of a power hitter before '98 or after '02 yet he was an elite slugger in that 5 year stretch, which happened to be the height of the steroid era. His peak came in '01 when the most remarkable individual power numbers were put up and Green's numbers were suppressed by Dodger Stadium with 30 of his 49 home runs coming on the road in '01 and 24 of his home runs coming on the road in '02. Career trajectory isn't proof, but other than a guy like Luis Gonzalez, Green's career trajectory is about as unique to that era as you can get. I think people still look at the bulkier guys, but Green started looking like a twig and filled out to be a wiry strong type. In fact, admitted steroid user Dan Naulty remarked about how strong Green was when they worked out together. None of this is proof he used, but it'd hardly be surprising if he did. Especially when you consider those Dodger teams with known users like Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne, Todd Hundley, Guillermo Mota, Paul Lo Duca, Matt Herges, Jim Leyritz, Chris Donnels and Ismael Valdes along with several other highly suspect players. In fact, Gagne estimated the number using on that team was 80%. Green might be a victim of guilt by association, but while I don't expect anyone to rat on specific players, any clean player could have taken a stand like Rick Helling, Frank Thomas and Curt Schilling. I tend to give those players the benefit of the doubt for that reason. But everyone else? They have mostly themselves to blame.