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Fit to be BMI'd - Rockies Zingers Colorado Rockies Baseball

Fit to be BMI’d

OK, stop.  Take your eyes of this page and look at yourself.

Back with me?

Now ask yourself this: are you in the best shape of your life?  If the answer is “no,” than you’re probably not a professional baseball player.  For this is the time of year that all professional baseball players are at their physical peaks.  They are in better shape than when they were in high school or college, better than when they played AA, and certainly better shape than they were last year.

Or so we might believe based on the reports we’ll read in the run-up to Spring Training.  In fact, we already have a few in the books for 2015, including one about Jhoulys Chacin!

Now I’m not saying this bit about Chcain is untrue.  Actually, I think I believe this one.  Chacin – having butted heads with the organization on this issue in the past, coming off injury, and entering a contract year – should certainly have had plenty of motivation to get his body right this past offseason.  You’ll forgive me, however, for disbelieving the likes of Russell Martin.

In any event, in the honor of “Best Shape of His Life” Month in Major League Baseball, I decided to dive headlong into the soft underbelly of MLB height and weight data to see just where the Rockies stack up (and out) compared to each other and the rest of the league.

This is a patently absurd exercise for at least two reasons:

1)      Height and weight data is notoriously imprecise.  This isn’t boxing.  There really isn’t any objective need to ensure the accuracy of these numbers or to present true measurements to the public.  In fact, for reasons both vain and strategic, some of these measures are made imprecise with intent.  Moreover, at least with respect to weight, the numbers don’t age well.  Apparently, C.C. Sabathia hasn’t gained a pound since 2004.  Yeah, me neither, C.C.  Me neither.

2)      I calculated the Body Mass Index (BMI) of each player (based on Baseball Prospectus’ 2015 heights and weights), but this doesn’t actually tell us that much about them.  BMI is a relatively simple function of height and weight, and attempts to measure obesity (higher number = more obese).  It doesent account for variables like muscle mass or differences in build; based on standards applicable to the general population, most players would qualify as “overweight,” but of course most of them are not.  Muscle weighs more than fat, and elite athletes tend to have different builds than the rest of us.  Michael McKenry and I might be the same height (5’10”), but I wouldn’t wear 205 pounds half as well as he does.  Truth be told – and related to Reason #1 above – based on my recollection from interviewing him last year, I’d wager he’s both shorter and heavier than his official measures.  And that means nothing; as his nicknames (“Fort McKenry,” and the even more awesome “Quadzilla”) imply: the dude is indisputably well built.  Yet his BMI suggests he’s the third “fattest” Rockie on the roster.  This is ludicrous.

Rockies Zingers Editor Richard Bergstrom reached out to ex-Rockie and current ROOT Sports broadcaster Ryan Spilborghs to get his take on BMI and whether or not players care about it.  Spilly’s response: “Yes and no.  It depends on if they know their optimal health and if keeping a certain level helps performance.  Otherwise, It’s just vanity.”

With all that being said, the guys at the very top and bottom of the league-wide BMI rankings are exactly who you’d expect to see there.  The top three, in order, are:

Noted round-guy Pablo Sandoval, by the way, is 7th (34.17) out of the 1084 players who met my criteria.  On the svelte end on the spectrum, you’ll find players like Chris Sale (20.80) slotted in as the 5th thinnest, and Billy Hamilton (21.70) at #8.  The lowest BMI (19.79) belongs to Milwaukie’s Luis Sardinas, who is the lightest player in the league (at 150 lbs, alongside Dilson Herrera and Alexi Amarista), but who also happens to be 6’1”. In general, notwithstanding a few obvious errors in the “official” data, the ordering makes sense.  And while BMI is an extremely limited tool to assess athletes (and, really, for everyone else, too), using it only to compare baseball players only to each other makes it at least a little less ridiculous.

Most importantly, however, if you keep in mind this is really just for laughs, we’ll be fine.  There are academic studies out there that attempt to tackle this subject more seriously, if you’re interested.  I am not that serious.

Before we get into the individual Rockies players, let’s establish some context and see where the Rockies fit in as a team.  The league-wide BMI (amongst players projected to receive MLB playing time in 2015 by Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA forecast) is 26.97.  That’s higher than it’s ever been.  Both height and weight have climbed steadily upwards year-to-year – not surprising, since our species tends to do that in general – but weight has outpaced height amongst ballplayers, especially lately.  You might have some guesses as to why.  I’m just going to go ahead and move along.

Positionally, BMIs line up exactly as you’d expect them to.  Catchers and first basemen are the most rotund; shortstops and center fielders are the most reed-like.  Slightly more interesting to me is the degree of BMI variety within each position.  BMI deviation is highest amongst first basemen and pitchers.  This makes sense when you think about it; pitchers can be almost any size and still be effective, and first base is where teams tend to hide their least athletic guys, which would put pressure on the upper extreme.  (Note: DH’s are assigned a most-likely field position in the PECOTA spreadsheet from which I pulled the data, and that position is usually 1B.)  Second and third basemen also seem to come in a variety of shapes.  On the other end of that spectrum is one position I’d expect to see (center field), but another that I would not (right field).  Turns out right fielders are the most typecast body shapes in the league.  Huh.  Here’s the full rack-up of both lists.

Pos BMI Height (in) Height (ft) Weight (lbs)
C 28.80 72.57 6′  1″ 215.56
1B 28.70 74.76 6′  3″ 228.21
LF 27.40 72.87 6′  1″ 207.10
3B 27.28 73.27 6′  1″ 208.17
RF 26.86 73.64 6′  2″ 207.27
P 26.67 74.57 6′  3″ 211.04
2B 26.38 71.68 6′  0″ 192.71
CF 26.14 72.52 6′  1″ 195.60
SS 25.79 71.82 6′  0″ 189.29
Pos BMI – Stand. Dev. Height (in) Height (ft) Weight (lbs)
1B 2.28 74.76 6′  3″ 228.21
P 2.28 74.57 6′  3″ 211.04
3B 2.21 73.27 6′  1″ 208.17
2B 2.17 71.68 6′  0″ 192.71
C 2.05 72.57 6′  1″ 215.56
LF 2.02 72.87 6′  1″ 207.10
SS 1.96 71.82 6′  0″ 189.29
CF 1.84 72.52 6′  1″ 195.60
RF 1.74 73.64 6′  2″ 207.27

Anyway, accounting for all positional body types, where does the Rockies’ collective girth fit in alongside the rest of MLB?  With a Team BMI of 26.53, we have the 4th most slender team in the league!  Here’s the full list, sorted by BMI, but with heights and weights listed, as well:

Team BMI Height (in) Height (ft) Weight (lbs)
CIN 27.93 73.06 6′  1″ 212.21
HOU 27.54 73.79 6′  2″ 213.42
WAS 27.41 74.29 6′  2″ 214.85
MIA 27.40 74.03 6′  2″ 213.79
DET 27.33 74.00 6′  2″ 212.94
TOR 27.24 72.89 6′  1″ 205.97
CHA 27.21 73.63 6′  2″ 209.87
MIL 27.19 73.62 6′  2″ 209.62
SEA 27.18 74.03 6′  2″ 211.71
LAN 27.13 73.76 6′  2″ 209.87
NYN 27.09 74.03 6′  2″ 211.11
TEX 27.03 73.97 6′  2″ 210.42
SLN 27.00 73.97 6′  2″ 210.44
League 26.97 73.79 6′  2″ 208.91
PHI 26.97 74.26 6′  2″ 211.87
PIT 26.96 74.11 6′  2″ 210.86
MIN 26.96 74.08 6′  2″ 210.51
NYA 26.94 74.55 6′  3″ 213.29
ATL 26.94 73.65 6′  2″ 207.81
ARI 26.90 73.58 6′  2″ 207.36
ANA 26.90 73.17 6′  1″ 204.86
SFN 26.81 73.69 6′  2″ 207.29
BOS 26.76 73.16 6′  1″ 203.58
CLE 26.76 73.12 6′  1″ 203.64
SDN 26.62 73.70 6′  2″ 205.81
OAK 26.58 73.83 6′  2″ 206.11
KCA 26.56 73.37 6′  1″ 203.55
COL 26.53 74.25 6′  2″ 207.88
CHN 26.43 74.08 6′  2″ 206.39
TBA 26.41 73.62 6′  2″ 203.68
BAL 26.38 74.27 6′  2″ 206.97

Billy Hamilton certainly can’t carry the Reds all by himself!  (Get it?)  Besides the aforementioned Jumbo Diaz, the Reds also have Brayan Pena and Marlon Byrd in the league-wide Top 10 BMIs.  For heaven’s sake: how do they all fit in that tiny ballpark of theirs?!  (I’ll be here all week.)  Although, to be fair, Cincinnati’s leading BMI has more to do with the Reds being particularly short (2nd shortest in the league after Toronto), than heavy (Washington is the heaviest, Cincinnati comes in at #6 on that scale).  Along those lines, our Rockies are actually of roughly league-average weight; we just happen to have the 5th tallest players in the sport.

Here’s the rundown on all Rockies.  Let’s see if we identify the folks most in need of a good “best shape of his life” press piece.

Name

Pos BMI League Rank (BMI) Height Weight

Wilin

Rosario C 30.68 56 5′  11″ 220

Tommy

Kahnle P 30.34 71 6′  1″ 230

Michael

McKenry C 29.41 134 5′  10″ 205

Carlos

Gonzalez LF 29.02 184 6′  1″ 220

Jonathan

Gray P 28.60 225 6′  4″ 235

Rex

Brothers P 28.48 238 6′  0″ 210

Jorge

De La Rosa P 28.36 261 6′  1″ 215

Jorge

Rondon P 28.36 262 6′  1″ 215

Kyle

Parker 1B 27.80 373 6′  0″ 205

Adam

Ottavino P 27.27 455 6′  5″ 230

Daniel

Descalso 2B 27.26 470 5′  10″ 190

Charlie

Culberson SS 27.12 497 6′  0″ 200

Corey

Dickerson RF 27.04 513 6′  1″ 205
League 26.97 6′  2″ 208.91

David

Hale P 26.96 536 6′  2″ 210

Brandon

Barnes CF 26.96 544 6′  2″ 210

Jhoulys

Chacin P 26.87 546 6′  3″ 215

Troy

Tulowitzki SS 26.87 561 6′  3″ 215

Justin

Morneau 1B 26.78 580 6′  4″ 220
Rockies 26.53 6′  2″ 207.88

Chad

Bettis P 26.38 636 6′  1″ 200

Nick

Hundley C 26.38 646 6′  1″ 200

Nolan

Arenado 3B 26.32 664 6′  2″ 205

Kyle

Kendrick P 26.25 685 6′  3″ 210

Tyler

Matzek P 26.25 686 6′  3″ 210

Charlie

Blackmon CF 26.25 689 6′  3″ 210

Christian

Friedrich P 26.17 703 6′  4″ 215

Tyler

Anderson P 26.17 704 6′  4″ 215

Jordan

Lyles P 26.17 708 6′  4″ 215

LaTroy

Hawkins P 26.09 714 6′  5″ 220

John

Axford P 26.09 715 6′  5″ 220

Brooks

Brown P 25.62 804 6′  3″ 205

Boone

Logan P 25.49 826 6′  5″ 215

Rafael

Ynoa 2B 25.09 857 6′  0″ 185

Chris

Rusin P 25.03 880 6′  2″ 195

DJ

LeMahieu 2B 24.95 911 6′  4″ 205

Drew

Stubbs CF 24.95 912 6′  4″ 205

Ben

Paulsen 1B 24.95 913 6′  4″ 205

Christian

Bergman P 23.75 1009 6′  1″ 180

Yohan

Flande P 23.11 1036 6′  2″ 180

Eddie

Butler P 23.11 1037 6′  2″ 180

Kraig

Sitton P 22.53 1056 6′  5″ 190

My observations:

  • Wilin ain’t fat, although if he’s going to get reps in right field, as speculated, he’s got some conforming to do.  Remember we just learned about right fielders.
  • Carlos Gonzalez ain’t fat either.  But whether it’s productive weight or not (hint: it is), his knees might appreciate a lighter load as he enters his 30’s.
  • You’ll see many pitchers (not to mention Brandon Barnes!) ahead of Jhoulys on this list, but I’m guessing that listed weight of 215 is left over from the 2006 Dominican Summer League.
  • Speaking of Brandon Barnes, he and David Hale are almost exactly the league-average shape.  (Humble suggestion: all the league-average-size guys should get together for a “team” photo every year.)
  • Jhoulys and Tulo have the same measurables.  Mind.  Blown.
  • That Jorge De La Rosa weigh-in is also hard to believe at first blush, but this video (of him, already in Scottsdale) does seem to show a very fit-looking DLR.  I love this video for about 37 different reasons in addition to that one.
  • Really, none of those heavy pitchers of ours concern me.  Again, guys who have injury issues and/or are aging are one thing; Jon Gray can be whatever shape he wants to be for now.  Let’s check back in on this ahead of Spring Training 2019 (after his Cy Young season, of course).
  • DJ LeMahieu, Drew Stubbs, and Ben Paulsen are the same size… and couldn’t be more different from one another.  Baseball is weird.
  • Eddie Butler and Christian Bergman might want to consider having a nacho-eating contest this Spring.  Not because being skinny hurts their performance, but because it’s the right thing to do on behalf of those of us whose dream is to be able to eat nachos with such reckless abandon.

So there you have it.  Absolutely no conclusions should be drawn from any of the “analysis” that’s transpired here, although you should feel free to use your knowledge of Tommy Kahle’s BMI to enhance your self-image and/or impress your coworkers.  Later – probably sometime in the next couple of weeks – when  you hear about how much stronger, faster, and handsomer Nolan Arenado has made himself over this last offseason, feel free to be duly inspired to get yourself in the best shape your life, as well.  And whether that works or not, if you want to falsify your height and weight to the Powers Who Be, well that’s OK, too.

About RyanHammon

I’m just a small town kid from Montana who thinks Coors Field on a sunny summer Saturday night is the best place to be on this or any other plane of existence. Sadly, I’ve given up all hope of making it as a professional second baseman, but take some solace in the opportunities I have to watch and talk about professional second baseman (and other positions, too!). In those fleeting moments when I’m not thinking about baseball, I’m probably camping in the Poudre, laughing with my wife, or chasing my toddler around my unfurnished living room.

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