Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Today's DUH! Fact

Ladies and gentlemen, baseball players are getting heavier. This shouldn't be a surprise to, well, anyone who is a fan of the sport. It's mentioned all the time now that Americans are getting larger, so it follows that players of the only major sport that allows you increase your bulk over the length of its season are also getting heftier. Let's start by looking at a simple chart of the total number of players overall and players who were listed at 200 or more pounds. If you think about it, that's not too heavy these days; for some taller players, that weight doesn't look bad on them: Derrek Lee is listed at 205 pounds and he doesn't look that heavy (his height helps). In any event, last season 574 players out of 1174 total (i.e., played in at least one game) were listed at 200 pounds or heavier. In 1901, only 28 of 371 total players were that heavy. Here is the full chart:

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As you can see, the percentage of players weighing over 200 pounds seems to increase over time. I would guess if you had a graph of all Americans it's not too far off from that, but oh well. What happens if we look at the true thunderfooted types: the guys who are listed at 250 pounds and above?

Well, there haven't been many of those guys in baseball history since 1901. Forty of them, to be exact. The first was the original Bill Hall in 1913 and he was followed five years later by a guy I can only assume became a traveling country musician after he retired: Garland Buckeye. Since there have been so few heavy players, the chart of the total number per year is pretty boring:

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A couple things to note. One, I know Babe Ruth was active some of the years zero players were above 250. I've seen pictures of him, so I question his listed value (just like most of the values printed in programs should be). Two, obviously the number of heavy guys has taken off like a rocket recently, but you didn't need a chart to show you that. What I find interesting is the percentage of players at 200 lbs. or above and 250 lbs. or above. The chart showing that is below (blue is 200 lbs. or heavier, red is 250 lbs. or heavier).

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It's kind of hard to see, but the red line is finally creeping upwards at the right side of the graph. I guess it's kind of like an overloaded plane climbing off the ground ever so slowly...okay, maybe that's mean - sorry. I do think it's curious that even during the heyday of the steroid era, 1994-1998, the percentage of players above 200 pounds actually dropped! Maybe some of that is explained by aging, hefty guys deciding it wasn't worth it to try and come back after the strike, however. Regardless, MLB is expanding, not only to new countries and markets but also in belt size. Walter Young was the first MLB player to be listed at over 300 pounds when he stepped on the field September 6, 2005 in Baltimore, but I'm guessing he might not be the last.


KL Snow said...

He may not have been the first guy listed over 3 bills, but there's no way Cecil Fielder finished his career under 300. NO way.

TheJay said...

Hah, I know. Most of the time listed weights (and sometimes heights) are a joke anyway.