« Big Rube Speaks | Main | Torre On A-Rod's Biggest Adjustment »

July 11, 2005

Jason Giambi's Turnaround

Since June 11th, to date, Jason Giambi has batted .385 (in 23 games) with 6 HR and 17 RBI. His On Base Average (OBA) in this period has been a whopping .535 and his Slugging Percentage (SLG) is . 738 (which is Ruthian, to say the least).

I have to confess - it's a good thing that I do not run the Yankees. If I did, Giambi would have never had this chance to go on a run like this - because I suggested/wanted him to rot on the bench after he got off to a very slow start this year. Credit to Joe Torre for sticking with Jason and seeing something that I failed to see, no question.

Through his first 27 games of this season, Giambi was batting just .195 and had 3 HR and 6 (yes, six) RBI. His OBA was .386 and his SLG was .325 (which is a pitiful number in that stat).

In fact, at that point, on May 10th, there was discussion of sending Jason to the minor leagues. Since that conference with Torre and Brian Cashman, Giambi has gone on to bat .328 with 7 HR and 26 RBI (in 42 games). His OBA has been .452 and his SLG is .547 (since May 11th).

What happened? Some say that he got mad over the minors-thing and that got him started. Others say that he stopped flying his hips open and that has helped him stay on the ball more. I also heard one theory that it just took him "x" amount of time to heal from 2004, and he's finally able to play now. I really don't know what happened - but, the numbers tell us that something major did happen. There's a big difference between .195 and .328.

As a Yankees fan, I want to sign on to the mechanics and/or health theory. Those are ones that are the most pleasing to the hometown fans. But, what if...and, I say this as theory only...what if, when things hit rock bottom for Jason on May 10th, he said to himself "I'm about to be sent to the minors, or worse, if I don't improve, and improve by a lot. I have to do something. I might as well go back to what helped me from 2000 through 2003. Yeah, I might get caught. But, that risk is the one I'd rather sweat now than the risk of being in the bush leagues, and failing there too."

And, then, out of mothballs, comes Jason's ring, the compartment that he fills with his Giambi super energy pill.

Again, as a Yankees fan, I hope this last possible theory is nothing at all. But, as an honest blogger, I do have to confess that the notion of it - even though many Yankees fans will flame me for 'saying it out loud' - has crossed my mind among all possible reasons for the Giambi turnaround.

And, while many might want to tar and feather me for mentioning it, to be fair, it is because of Giambi's past "confession" that it (this theory) has to be considered as a possible cause for his recent production. It's the ghost of BALCO that brings cause for this current specter.

Hopefully, Giambi keeps mashing the ball, and the last thing that we hear about his 2005 season is his winning the MVP Award for the 2005 World Series. I just wish I could get the very small and faint whispering notion that there should be some slight possible concern over what we're seeing now out of my head completely.

I will continue to think positive thoughts on this one. Maybe that will help?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at July 11, 2005 10:46 AM

Comments

I won't say I told you so....but....I told you so.

I said it back on May 18th (see my post after the 5/17 game) and have been his biggest and possibly only supporter this season....so- yes- I am patting my self on the back and am happy for him

I don't buy the steroids theory. He is the poster child for steroids and if he gets caught his contract is void- and losing 70 million bucks is worse than failing in the minors.

Just my opinion- but its time to give Giambi some well deserved credit for his recent contributions.

What ever happened to "making adjustments", "getting comfortable", "seeing the ball better?"...is the only way you think he can improve is through steroids?

If that is what you truly believe, that's fine- but just don't cheer for any his accomplishments.... continue saying he is a waste of a roster spot.

Posted by: philly phil at July 11, 2005 11:49 AM

With an OPS of 1.273 since June 11th, how could I possibly say he's a waste of a spot? I only said that when he was hitting .195.

Phil, I'm not saying that it believe it's PED at work. I'm just saying that it's one possible cause for the turnaround - or, at the least, something to consider in the back of your mind.

And, note, for the record, I'm hoping that this is not the reason. No one wants to see that now.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi at July 11, 2005 11:56 AM

I am as happy to see Giambi's turnaround as any Yankee fan, and I've been rooting for it all season, but I have to admit the same (PED) thought crossed my mind recently.

Remind me again of how often these guys are tested? Is Giambi sure to be tested in the second half?

Posted by: Mike G at July 11, 2005 12:10 PM

If you believe he is using PED's- then you should stick to your argument that he is a waste of a spot. Can't celebrate his achievements and have doubts at the same time.

I think you either think he is or isn't

For me- it's not even a thought....not in the back, front, or middle of my mind

I think it is all about confidence- he didn't have it earlier this year....he looked scared, he looked weak...a shell of his former self.

amazing what a few walks and a few dingers will do for him.

Posted by: philly phil at July 11, 2005 12:14 PM

Even if he is tested, if it's HGH, it won't show on the test that they use. I say this not knowing if HGH even helps, but, I know that they need to draw blood to test for HGH, FWIW.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi at July 11, 2005 12:15 PM

Phil, FWIW, most of the "users" in the past have said that the number one thing that juice gives you is King Kong confidence.

Mike, back to your point, I just checked. The new policy calls for year-round, random tests. They won't be strictly scheduled, as they have been the two years that the previous testing program has been in place. And players, at random, reportedly can be tested more than once, even in the offseason.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi at July 11, 2005 12:18 PM

plus- in May- we got real tired of hearing:

"I've been working with Donny in the cage"
"I've been working with Donny in the cage"
"I've been working with Donny in the cage"
"I've been working with Donny in the cage"

Well- guess what- it looks like all that work is paying off. Remember- this guy has been working his ass off this season....in the cages before every game working on his swing.

Posted by: philly phil at July 11, 2005 12:23 PM

So- then its a no-win situation for Giambi.

If he can't hit- he's booed for poor performance

It he does hit- he's criticized for possible substance abuse.

Boy- if you beleive it- then you really slapped Mattingly in the face then, huh?

Posted by: philly phil at July 11, 2005 12:30 PM

Phil - please read and calm down. I never said that I believe it - I'm just saying that it's something that could be possible.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi at July 11, 2005 12:35 PM

Given the guys who have failed the MLB test, do you REALLY want to look at the PED angle?

Posted by: Raf at July 11, 2005 01:23 PM

This steroids stuff has gotten out of control. Is Andruw Jones on steroids? How about Derek Lee? You know, come to think of it, David Ortiz didn't start hitting like a monster until a couple of years ago. Maybe he's on the juice too?

Home run production will be down--maybe about 10 percent overall--because of guys getting off steroids. But these are still huge guys who swing for the fences against a lot of double and triple A pitching in a talent-diluted, over-expanded league.

Giambi is legit.

Posted by: Joel at July 11, 2005 01:40 PM

I'm perfectly calm....and nothing was directed towards you...just in general...my posts do not reflect accurately my true state of mind :)

but anything can be possible...Derek Jeter could be on PED's as well. A-Rod could be corking his bat...likely? no possible? of course..anything is.

I just took exception to the implication that something fishy was going on....when I truly believe all signs and reasons are pointing the exact opposite direction.

Posted by: philly phil at July 11, 2005 01:52 PM

Steve, a fair and balanced post.

Remember that the steroid developers are usually a step ahead o the tests and that multi-millionaires, like Giambi, can afford to find the latest and greatest. Also, this stuff has a type of addicting power that people find difficult to shake once they've used it for a while. So yes, this is in the back of many fans minds with Giambi, who looks bigger than earlier in the season.

It could also be he is fully recovered from his cancer and other physical problems of 2004.

They may have the ability to detect hGh in urine now, I think I heard this someplace.

But when you hit a bomb as Giambi did Sunday, well, people will wonder.

Say it ain't so Jason. Say it ain't so.

Posted by: Don at July 11, 2005 01:52 PM

If Giambi's back on the juice, then he is one of the stupidest men alive. I don't buy it - I don't think he would continue to jeopardize his career and reputation. He's basically a good (and sensitive) guy. This is not Barry Bonds. And hey, Joel might be on to something - maybe Matsui's 'roiding? After all, his HR production also shot up overnight. Let's speculate!

Posted by: josh at July 11, 2005 02:55 PM

I honestly think this is a product of hard work, repetition in the cages, and a realization that he needed to beleive that he can hit.

He has always been known as a hitter who needs to be clicking on all cylinders...even the slightest thing off has and will affect him

Posted by: philly phil at July 11, 2005 03:03 PM

How long do steroids take to work? I'd think that either he actually started juicing again a few weeks earlier than May 10th -- or his resurgence (at least the start of it) was legit.

Is Don infringing on copyright there? ;-)

Posted by: Anonymous at July 11, 2005 03:09 PM

Hey there, want to start off by saying I love this blog!

Steve, I for one am OK with you raising this point, because considering Giambi's history, it's something he has to address.

But I have to ask you a question here -- what steroid do you take to raise your batting average? There are drugs out there that add bulk and muscle, and obviously that can explain a sudden rash of homers. But how does that explain a sudden increase in batting average?

Frankly, if there were a pill you could take that made you able to hit a 90-mph fastball, *I'd* be first in line to get it. And I'd bet dollars to donuts that many other readers of this blog would, too.

Also, someone else raised the question -- can steroids really take effect that quickly? I'm no doctor but it seems to me it would take some amount of time taking a drug before you'd start to notice a serious performance enhancement.

Posted by: Scott at July 11, 2005 03:31 PM

I read an interesting article in a medical journal earlier this year....which may be somewhat relevant....I'll try to find the link.

The whole argument was around how although steroids may allow you to hit a ball further, but does it improve the skill to actually hit a ball, (the whole hand eye-coordination)....or is this just something you are born with?

Well- in short they did a test on two rats...and showed that the rat on roids was able to follow a light projected on a wall faster than the other.

The conclusion was that steroids could impact the speed in which your eyes transmit information to your brain, and subsequently the reaction time to your hands.

Now- I'm no doctor either- but sounds reasonable right? But it was interesting

Posted by: philly phil at July 11, 2005 04:05 PM

Scott, thanks.

Phil, FWIW, I heard a guy on the radio back in February who was a scientist that works in a lab where they study the effects of steroids, etc. And, he too said that in rat tests, they have established that steroids do significantly improve the rat's ability to track with their eyes. He said that this makes sense because the PID increase testosterone and it was because of testosterone that men became the hunters and women stayed in the cave - - - because the testosterone gave men the better ability to track their prey.

This guy sounded absolutely convinced that steroids help your eyesight and ability to track moving objects.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi at July 11, 2005 04:53 PM

Also, here's an article that was in Newsday on how it helps you hit:

http://www.newsday.com/sports/printedition/ny-sphow184264800may18,0,1015405.column?coll=ny-sports-print

Posted by: Steve Lombardi at July 11, 2005 04:56 PM

cool- thanks- the article I read was regarding the same experiment.

So- in conclusion....Giambi is not on Steroids...becaue if he was- he would not be striking out as much.....if ever. :)

Posted by: philly phil at July 11, 2005 05:06 PM

//Also, here's an article that was in Newsday on how it helps you hit:

http://www.newsday.com/sports/printedition/ny-sphow184264800may18,0,1015405.column?coll=ny-sports-print//

Well, those players who've been suspended didn't get the memo, cause most of 'em are/were scrubs (:

Posted by: Raf at July 11, 2005 05:41 PM

While I don't think it was wrong for Steve to bring it up, I don't think Giambi is on the juice. I really don't think he could be that stupid. I mean, Tino had a run earlier this season that was even more improbable than this.

Personally, I'm going with the idea that he was affected by four things that are no longer affecting him: his knees, getting off the juice, the parasite, and the tumor. But then again, I was one of those guys who truly thought Strawberry had cleaned up his act.

Posted by: JeremyM at July 11, 2005 11:16 PM

don't forget that eye problem that Giambi had as well where he wasn't able to see the ball (or was that related to the parasite?)

Posted by: philly phil at July 12, 2005 10:27 AM

For what it's worth, I think Giambi is doing this drug-free. I think it was around the time of the minor-league demotion talk, that Giambi and Mattingly decided on a new approach to hitting. At the beginning of the season Donny was trying to get him to hit more to the opposite field and Giambi said he was having a difficult time making this change. Of course, it's not unreasonable to think there could be a possibility that he is again juicing. This is how a stigma works. This is what it means to live with the consequences of your actions. It sucks and maybe it's not fair, but that's the price you pay for cheating once.

Posted by: Nick at July 12, 2005 12:04 PM

I don't necessarily think that Giambi has gone back on steroids - although the thought has crossed my mind for a few hours at a time. 8) I think that, getting a chance to play every day and to adjust to the new, different way his body works (while you can't get the strength & speed that steroids give you, you can still get pretty strong & fast without them if you're training correctly).

Posted by: Chuck May at July 12, 2005 12:13 PM

Thank you Steve for the link, that explains a lot. The only other things I'll add is: 1) The Hooven study is interesting but it's basically a review of the results of past experiments that *might* indicate a link between steroid use and eye-hand coordination improvement. She says herself that it's not conclusive; 2) experiments with rats indicate trends that warrant further research but the leap from rats to human is not automatic.

Overall I'd say there would need to be a lot more study done before we could say for sure that steroids could improve batting average. Then again, if we do the study, we may not like the answer ... maybe more people would risk taking steroids if they knew for sure it could improve their BA.

Either way -- like the rest of us, I'm hoping Giambi's turnaround is the result of practice, technique and confidence rather than a drug.

Posted by: Scott at July 12, 2005 12:34 PM