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April 8, 2014

Moonshot

Miguel Cabrera and the Bearable Heaviness of Being

by Robert Arthur


A little over a week ago, Miguel Cabrera agreed to an historic contract extension amounting to no less than $248 million dollars. While the response to the deal from many corners was one of concern, it was well understood why the Tigers made the commitment. Nevertheless, in the midst of an MLB-wide trend toward locking up young talent, the Tigers bucked that trend in taking a bet on an aging slugger ripe for regression.

The contract has been dissected from almost every angle, and so I won’t attempt to rehash the various projections or what they mean for overall value in a $/win framework. Instead, I intend to consider an ancillary factor in the Great Contract Debate, one which was brought up in a handful of discussions: Miguel Cabrera’s considerable weight (240 pounds, listed).

Cabrera’s paunch is not expected to significantly impair his superhuman skill at swinging a bat, and what little effect there is has already been integrated into projection engines like PECOTA. However, there are also indirect ways in which weight might affect other aspects of Cabrera’s career. I will examine how weight affects injury probability and career length, with the expectation that general conclusions from this analysis can be applied to the specific case of Cabrera.

Injury Probability
Weight enters the calculus of injury probability in a rather straightforward way: Folks with larger body mass put more stress on their bones, especially in the act of performing physically-demanding athletic maneuvers like running the bases. At the outset, we expect more weight to correlate with a greater incidence of injury, especially lower body strains and fractures (or so the medical literature suggests).

I’ll scrutinize injury probability in position players with a logistic regression model, similar to the approach used by Jeff Zimmerman for pitching injuries. In previous studies, I found age and prior injury history to be dominant determinants of injury probability. I calculated a Body Mass Index (BMI) based on Lahman’s player database. BMI relates height and weight to produce a number that is generally indicative of girth: High values of BMI indicate obesity, low values slimness. I integrated the BMI data and asked whether BMI was at all associated with injury.

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Related Content:  Injuries,  Miguel Cabrera,  Weight,  BMI

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