CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (04/08)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Moonshot: Cracking the... (04/01)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Moonshot: Does April V... (04/14)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Notes from the Field: ... (04/08)

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.

The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.

Not a subscriber?

Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.


Cancel anytime.


That's a 33% savings over the monthly price!


That's a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Related Content:  Injuries,  Miguel Cabrera,  Weight,  BMI

10 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Richie

Yes, given the HUGE! (arfarfarf) data problems presented, you just can't use that data.

It'd be bringing in a %100 subjective factor (gadzooks!), but maybe just ask longtime sportswriters who were the fattest players of each generation, then see how they aged in contrast to their svelter statistical comparables.

Apr 08, 2014 08:42 AM
rating: -2
 
newsense

Did you look at interactions: BMIxage? BMIxPrevInj?

Apr 08, 2014 10:25 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Robert Arthur
BP staff

Yeah, nothing significant or clear showed up.

Apr 08, 2014 11:08 AM
 
omicron

I'd also like to point out that Cabrera's initial injury last year occurred while playing 3rd and in the midst of playing 7 straight games on fieldturf. (6/28-31 @ TB and 7/1-4 @ TOR) While I agree that players always have some level of injury risk, I feel that Cabrera's move back to the less physically demanding 1st will help to mitigate some of that risk for him.

Apr 08, 2014 11:32 AM
rating: 0
 
pandroid

The problem with this is that BMI calculations generally don't work for people over, say, 6'1", because the calculation (Weight/(Height squared)) assumes that every pound you weigh is the same percentage fat/muscle/water/bone, so two similarly heighted-and-weighted players, like Mark McGwire and Jose Valverde, will have the same BMI, despite drastically different body compositions. Athletes tend to have significantly higher BMIs due to a) their above-average height (which comes with extra bone & muscle) and b) their muscle mass and density (which also increases bone density.) It's a shame you don't have access to body fat %ages, which paint a much clearer picture of a body's overall health than BMI.

Apr 08, 2014 11:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Robert Arthur
BP staff

Yes, this is true, hence a large portion of the MLB population would technically be considered obese by some BMI charts. However, all things considered, I would expect that on average players with higher BMI are more likely to have higher body fat % than players with lower BMI.

Still, I agree it would be much better to have that data (% body fat) directly, rather than a noisy, biased correlate of it.

Apr 08, 2014 13:18 PM
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Maybe it's time for us to use BP's status as a credentialed outlet to do something about the lack of publicly available body fat data. I'll request daily press passes for you if you bring your own calipers.

Apr 08, 2014 13:21 PM
 
BP staff member Robert Arthur
BP staff

That sounds like a job for an intern if ever there was one.

Apr 08, 2014 13:25 PM
 
Roy in Omaha

I think it is obvious that fat people are going to have shorter careers, since, by inference, they are out of shape. Many Royals fans are already wondering if this is an issue with Billy Butler and all one needs to do is take a look at the end of Cecil Fielder's career to know it was an issue with him (much like it will also affect his son). I think CC Sabathia is another player that will ultimately "fat" his way out of the game as well. Anybody reading this know an old, fat and obese person? I don't. They don't exist much like fat, old, great baseball players that are still playing.

Billy Butler, to my eye, already looks like he can no longer get around on a good fastball.He looks slow--because he is fat.

His nickname with Royals fans is already "Billy Gutler" and he doesn't even turn 28 until next week!

Apr 09, 2014 05:30 AM
rating: -1
 
Jamey
(208)

Is it possible to look at changes in BMI to predict injuries? I'd guess that someone who put on (or possibly lost) a lot of weight would be more injury prone.

Of course, the self reporting problem probably kills any possibility of that working.

Apr 09, 2014 09:38 AM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (04/08)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Moonshot: Cracking the... (04/01)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Moonshot: Does April V... (04/14)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Notes from the Field: ... (04/08)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article TTO Scoresheet Podcast: Talking Keepers and ...
Fantasy Article Player Profile: Neftali Feliz
Fantasy Article Fantasy Players to Avoid: Relief Pitchers
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Trout Pulling the Trigger
Premium Article Raising Aces: Under the Gun 3.0
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: All the Reliever News ...
Some Projection Left: The Severino Enigma

MORE FROM APRIL 8, 2014
Premium Article Notes from the Field: Backfield/Minor-League...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: The New Class of Shif...
Premium Article Draft Ten Pack: USA Baseball NHSI Edition
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of April 7, 2014
Fantasy Article Dynasty Dynamics: AL West U25 Lists
Fantasy Article Closer to Me: Attrition
Daily League Strategy: Underpriced Studs

MORE BY ROBERT ARTHUR
2014-04-28 - Premium Article Moonshot: How Quickly Do Team Results Stabil...
2014-04-23 - Moonshot: What PITCHf/x Can Tell Us About Ba...
2014-04-14 - Premium Article Moonshot: Does April Velocity Last?
2014-04-08 - Premium Article Moonshot: Miguel Cabrera and the Bearable He...
2014-04-01 - Premium Article Moonshot: Cracking the Location Code
2014-03-25 - Premium Article Moonshot: Attrition Over Time
2014-03-14 - Premium Article Attrition By Position
More...

MORE MOONSHOT
2014-04-28 - Premium Article Moonshot: How Quickly Do Team Results Stabil...
2014-04-23 - Moonshot: What PITCHf/x Can Tell Us About Ba...
2014-04-14 - Premium Article Moonshot: Does April Velocity Last?
2014-04-08 - Premium Article Moonshot: Miguel Cabrera and the Bearable He...
2014-04-01 - Premium Article Moonshot: Cracking the Location Code
2014-03-25 - Premium Article Moonshot: Attrition Over Time
More...