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Daily Box Score 7/22: Before, During and After Prospecthood

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Hey, you know what would be fun? If you clicked on the comment hyperlink and added your own findings from around the web today. 

We lead off with a report in the New York Times that major league baseball is using DNA testing to verify the identity of prospects abroad, particularly in the Dominican Republic. Last week, the Yankees voided the contract of a 16 year-old who purported to be named Damian Arredondo. After signing him in this year's July 2nd period, the Yankees performed a DNA test, in the wake of which they discovered he was neither who he said he was nor 16 years old.

According to the Times:

Baseball’s use of DNA information alarmed experts in genetics and bioethics, who said this may be the first instance of such an arrangement since the federal bill, known as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, was passed last year.

The GINA comes into effect in November and would effectively ban the practice, which according to one baseball official, has been used by individual teams for several years. It is unclear how strictly the law will be enforced. Do you think it is ethical for a company to perform a DNA test on its prospective employees?

Speaking of investigations and international prospects--MLB's investigation of international prospect Miguel Sano is still ongoing. And while the Pirates, among the favorites to sign Sano, conducted their own tests prior to tendering an offer to Sano's agent, the official investigation is being conducted by MLB's Department of Investigations, headed by Dan Mullin.

Investigators that MLB had used in the past would review players' birth certificates, hospital records, school records and conduct field work in a player's hometown. However it turned out that many times it was the investigators themselves who needed to be scrutinized. In a span of a little more than a year, MLB fired five investigators for reasons ranging from sloppy work to accepting bribes. 

"Before we took it over, you had these independent contractors who were overseen by people who didn't necessarily have any investigative background themselves," Mullin said. "The quality control wasn't as good because the clubs could go directly to an investigator without knowing how good that investigator was, and the results would be given directly to someone who had no background in doing investigations. 

The Sano investigation is expected to be completed this week.

While international prospects must face a rigorous testing regimen and the highest degree of scrutiny, top picks in MLB's Rule 4 June draft are treated like kings. Number one overall pick Stephen Strasburg, however, has seen his negotiations with the Nationals stall to a standstill. Or maybe they never got moving in the first place. According to ESPN's Pedro Gomez,

the Nationals have had ongoing dialog with Strasburg's advisor Scott Boras, but they have made no offer other than the mandatory minor league tender that all clubs must make to their picks within 10 days of the draft. That is a standard minor league deal that pays the player $1,000 per month but does not include any bonus money.

Doesn't sound good. If the Nationals fail to sign Strasburg, they would receive a compensatory pick in next year's draft (though not the top overall pick). Strasburg would be forced to play in the independent leagues and re-enter the draft next year. Would anybody care to defend the way the Rule 4 draft is currently conducted?

Once they get their way into the minor leagues, though, some of these prospects are actually pretty exciting to watch. Take, for example, top Braves prospect Jason Heyward and top Marlins prospect Mike Stanton. Both are highly touted, both started the year in high Class-A and both are now holding their own in Double-A. And both are featured in this post by baseball-intellect, which compares their blue chip bona fides. As always, there's plenty of animated .gif goodness. It's a close call between the two:

Stanton and Heyward are both elite prospects with All Star potential, but at this moment Heyward is probably the No. 1 prospect in baseball. He doesn’t seem to display a true weakness, while Stanton still must overcome his issues with contact. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Stanton has more upside, however.

Heyward and Stanton were ranked 1-2, respectively, in Baseball America's recent mid-season top 25.

It's very important to remember, though, that not every prospect works out. Especially pitching prospects: you may have heard the acronym TINSTAAPP--"There is no such thing as a pitching prospect" (nerd alert: TINSTAAPP is derived from the economist's aphorism TANSTAAFL, which was popularized by one of my favorite science fiction books). At the risk of angering Dan (who linked to this a few days ago), the anecdote that proves the TINSTAAPP rule is Steve Dalkowski. Widely believed to be one of the hardest throwers ever, Dalkowski flamed out before ever making an impact in the majors. Ron Shelton at the Baltimore Sun looks back at Dalkowski's career:

Look at the numbers and weep. In his first two seasons of pro baseball, in the Appalachian and South Atlantic leagues, he averaged 19 strikeouts and 18 walks per nine innings. Playing for the Aberdeen Pheasants in a low Single-A league in South Dakota in 1959, he averaged 20 walks and 15 strikeouts per nine innings. In the Eastern League, he struck out 27, walked 16 and threw an astounding 283 pitches in a game.

Then there was the time at Elmira when he was pulled from the game after throwing 120 pitches - it was still the second inning.

Dalkowski is the ultimate cautionary tale.

For some hardcore sabermetrics, we turn to Walk Like a Sabermatrician, who examine home field advantage in the World Series. They say we should all calm down about the All-Star Game determining home field:

It's certainly a good thing to have home field advantage for the World Series, or any game for that matter, and I'm not going to try to argue that basing home field on which league won the All-Star Game is anything but a gimmick. However, given that the previous method of determining home field was simply to alternate it yearly between the leagues, I don't think there's any real harm being done by this approach. If you really wanted to reward the stronger league, the overall interleague record would be far more likely to successfully identify the stronger league, but I don't consider the whole matter worth getting exercised over.

Some good methodology, with all the work shown, can be found at the link.

To update an item from yesterday, Kerry Whisnant has posted part two of the high-average vs. low-average smackdown. The results after a 10 million games simulation are surprising:

The Hall-of-Fame team scored an average of 1010 runs in a 162-game season, while the others scored 1027. As you can probably deduce from these numbers, the challengers won more games, 5,082,911 to 4,917,089, equivalent to an 82.3 to 79.7 advantage over 162 games. This was very close to the Pythagenpat expectation of the runs scored by the two teams.

He includes defense too, but found it made little difference on the outcome. 

Finally, on the lighter side, the Iraqi baseball team now has uniforms. After watching a segment on the Rachel Maddow Show, the owner of a uniform supplier in Seattle decided to take it upon himself to manufacture and donate uniforms and caps to the players

"I was quite prepared to design something based on the green, red and black that's in the Iraqi flag, but they said no, They wanted a blue jersey," recalled Cohen. "I think it's because someone (there) is a Dodgers fan."

I'm guessing they're Ramon Troncoso fans.