On Heavy Players

Yesterday, in writing about the pros and cons of signing Prince Fielder to a free agent contract, the issue of his weight and what it could mean to his future was brought up and discussed.

When making a prediction in baseball, I’ll look to history. No, it’s not fool proof. Things do happen that have never happened before. We’ve seen this first hand in Toronto with the emergence of Jose Bautista. However, given the large samples that the game of baseball offers us, if something has never happened in the past, it’s reasonable to believe that it won’t happen in the future. Likewise, if things occur frequently throughout baseball history, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to believe that those instances will continue to be frequent in baseball’s future.

And so, in trying to guess as to how Prince Fielder will age over the life of a seven year contract, I looked to baseball’s past.

There were several challenges in attempting this. The records for players’ weight don’t often change from their rookie season. For instance, on Baseball Reference, Barry Bonds is still listed as a 6’1″ outfielder, weighing in at a spry 185 lbs.

However even if accurate weights were listed, surely 250 lbs would have a different impact on the career of a 5’8″ player compared to a 6’8″ player. Lessening any potential sample size even further was the fact that no player in the history of baseball has ever started his career with a body like Prince Fielder’s.

Adam Dunn is the only position player with a weight listed above Fielder’s and he’s seven inches taller than the Brewers’ first baseman. Jim Thome is listed at 250 lbs, but I recall recently seeing his very first home run, hit at Yankee stadium, and back then he wouldn’t have weighed that much if he was soaking wet, carrying a fifty pound weight in each hand as he rounded the bases. On that note, who’s to say that putting on weight throughout one’s career is easier or harder on your body? There are too many variables and not enough examples to say that heavier players do or don’t age well, let alone say anything definitive about Prince Fielder specifically.

What we can say is this: If Prince Fielder signs a contract on par with what the Boston Red Sox gave to the two year older, but better defensively, Adrian Gonzalez, he would earn $154 million over seven years. In order to make this contract worthwhile, in terms of other free agent contracts that have been handed out, Fielder would have to put up something close to 27 wins above replacement over the length of his contract.

149 players in baseball history have accumulated 27 or more WAR from the age of 28 to 34. Keeping in mind the difficulties in tracking a player’s weight, of those 149, only 32 of them are listed as weighing 200 lbs or more. The total number falls to eight when we look at players with a listed weight of 225 lbs or more. Then, only two players weighing 250 lbs or more in the history of baseball have put up more than 27 wins above replacement from the age of 28 to 34: Jim Thome and Frank Howard. Two things should be remembered when considering this: 1) Only 27 position players have a recorded weight of 250 lbs or greater; and 2) Prince Fielder is listed as weighing 275 lbs.

Once again, there isn’t a clear answer. On one hand, it would be surprising if Fielder didn’t offer a team as much value as Robin Ventura did after his 28th birthday. On the other hand, there is no precedent for a player of Fielder’s size and talent playing at his level. For what it’s worth, and I don’t really think it’s worth much, Prince’s father Cecil Fielder had his peak season at the age of 26, and then, after the age of 30, never again recorded a single win above replacement in any given season.

Of course, the father and son appear to be on very different career paths:

Comments (51)

  1. Admit it, Dustin. You just don’t like fat people. Joking aside, some very good points here.

  2. Thanks for compiling the data, Parkes. You’re bang-on about the fact that there hasn’t been really precedence set for such a big man playing at such a performance level.

    But I think it’s interesting to see a comparison like Mo Vaughan. He’s listed at 6″1 and 275 pounds.

    From age 27-31, Vaughan was in the prime of his career, where he had WARs of 2.7, 5.2, 6.5, 4.2, 6.6.

    That totals of approximately 25.2 WAR for 5 years at his prime.

    It’s important to note that he was sill somewhat productive in years 32 and 33 before declining into pure fatness which is very likely the result of Vegan Prince during the twilight of his career.

    I guess my questions would be:

    Is this a fair comparison to compare Mo and Prince, and if he had that type of production, would a 10-year contract at 250-300 Million be still a bargain?

  3. Babe Ruth is a chocolate bar. There, I said it!

  4. this is all retarded. if a top 10 major leaguer wants to come build a championship in toronto and at a position where the team needs help (DH/1B) then we should be kissing his fat ass and rolling out the red carpet. an overweight 33 year old masher of a DH in the AL? Bring it on.

    stop writing like an arrogant know it all with an agenda.

  5. Also, reference David Ortiz ….

  6. Note, though, that I don’t appreciate people being overweight. Watch your calories, pure and simple. Enough with the “i’m fat for this reason” and “i’m fat for that reason”. It’s a matter of exercise and eating right, you lazy lard basins!

    • It’s a lot more than counting calories. Choose to be ignorant if you wish but to not appreciate a person because of their weight? Way to be cold and judgmental.

  7. furthermore, there will always be RISKS associated with building a championship team in the AL East that isnt the Yankees or Red Sox. The Jays will have to take on risks, just like they did with Bautista’s contract.

    Risk is a part of any business. Is signing him to 7 years risky? depends on the time horizon for contending. If we want to contend in the 6th and 7th year, the risk increases. If we want to contend in the first 3 years, the risk is less.

    The Jays have to take risks. If their biggest risk is signing Prince Fucking Fielder, than good for them.

  8. Zoltar’s website is my favourite.

  9. Isnt Prince a Vegan or something?
    Would lead me to believe his obesity is a result of some awful food choices. Its one thing if you have a Hoss who is loading up on prime rib and potatoes every night. Its another if chips and cookies.

  10. Who knows. All I know is, if he were concerned about losing weight, he’d eat less calories than he burns in a day. X<Y.

    Anyway, he was fat as a kid. Much harder to lose weight than to not gain it.

  11. Hey Jeff, i’ll take your comment to heart. I’ll try sleeping with a dude, because you must be right.

    I’m so boundlessly off base discussing weight on a post about a fat fuck.

    Go get some cookies and simmer down.

  12. you’re not discussing. you’re preaching about one of the top players in baseball. Let us know how the dude is.

  13. Parkes is the new Bob McCowan. i dont even think he believes what he writes. he just tries to use his contrarian opinion and 101 level knowledge of statistics to get people to click his blog.

    • Feel free to fuck off then. I still don’t understand why people complain about the blogs they willingly choose to follow. Go read the Bleacher Report or something.

  14. I’m in no way preaching. You’re the whining preachy wanker with the thoughts of your opining being supreme.

    There are, easily, 20 players i’d rather have on my team. He may be one of the top DH’s in baseball, so i’ll give you that.

    You must be a former classmate of his or something. Newsflash, he doesn’t need your defending.

  15. i guess its working…lol…but still…

  16. I have nothing against Prince, and in a world where money doesn’t matter would be happy to have him on the Jays. But I’m baffled as to why everyone seems to think this would propel the Jays to the playoffs.

    Consider the players the Jays dumped out there this year: Patterson, Davis, Rivera, Nix, Lind, Hill. They all got significant playing time. Replace those with full season’s worth of Thames, Rasmus, Lawrie, Johnson, any average 1B. How is it offense holding this team back?

    If you want to compete next year then go after pitching. If you want to wait for internal pitching solutions, then wait 1-2 years and pass on Fielder.

  17. @ian – i dont think i agree. compare these lineups and tell us which one has better offensive potential?

    escobar, thames, bautista, lind, lawrie, encarnacion, rasmus, johnson, arencibia

    escobar, thames, bautista, fielder, lind, lawrie, rasmus, johnson, arencibia

  18. I sincerely hope that we don’t have to live with Thames as a regular. I’d like to believe Snider can get his approach to where it needs to be.

    Thames’ batting reminds me of RBI baseball. It’s like he has to swing at everything. As you know, in NES RBI Baseball, there is little reaction time and it’s very difficult to determine if a pitch will cross the plate. Also, you can’t check your swing. So, you basically are playing a mental game where you have to recognize your opponent and ‘guess’ if he’ll throw a strike. This approach doesn’t work in MLB because MLB is real life and there are more than two dimensions, hence guessing involves way more factors. Thames looks like he’s too geared to swinging.

  19. Also, Jeff, your lineup construction is terrible.

  20. the Jays have enough payroll for Fielder and a 2/3 pitcher. they shed 80M with VW and have almost 80M of room before they hit their target competitive payroll of 140-160M

  21. There’s no point in adding spice to a pot of water, Jeff. You need to have an idea that the soup has the right ingredients first.

  22. Wow. Lots of homophobic fat hatred here.

    I’d love to see Prince in a Toronto uniform. Every player has a risk of regression. Even Wells, Hill, Lind, Ryan, Thomas, Burnett and all the other players that flopped after signing (relatively) big contracts. Doesn’t mean the risks were necessarily unwise.

  23. Jeff, enough with the homophobic messaging. You’re embarassing yourself. Beyond that, your money argument is idiotic and lacking. I’d break down why that is to you; however, I don’t feel it’s worth my time.

    What is worth my time, though, is telling you again that you’re clearly an under-educated, foolish, self-absorbed, inflated-ego, net-nerd.

    Have fun playing Settler’s with your parents tonight.

  24. They’re not going to jump right away to 140-160 (if they even get that high, which I doubt… I’d say 120 is a ceiling barring 40k a night coming to the stadium). You have to leave romo for the soon to grow contracts of players like Lawrie, Arencibia, Alvarez, etc.

    That said, you can’t say we want to win in 2 years, so signing this year is a bad idea. If you need him in 2 years, then sign him this year and you have him. If you wait til next year you get next year’s crop. Is next year any better for 1b?

  25. Wow. the score as a whole this week has been disappointing. Why not just call the article what it is, “fat people suck at sports and I don`t want them on my team. ” I want Fielder to sign with the Yankees as the new DH and just crush the Blue Jays for years because of this post. I would love it if it was Fielder who crushes the Blue Jays hopes of making the playoffs next year or even better, in the playoffs. This post a week after bitching about TIFF and the vacuosness of those who attend it. Unbelievable.

  26. I’d say a lower risk activity is giving Lind another shot, albeit on a short leash, to show that he can/ can’t hack hitting. I have a hard time believing he is as bad as he’s showing. Also, this team has a history of operating along this line, as we saw with Aaron Hill.

    1B is not a tough position to fill in this league.

  27. Me thinks Jeff doth protest too much…

    That’s some rampant unprovoked homophobia, dude.

    And any lineup that has Thames hitting two is not ready for prime time.

  28. In fact, the lineup is flexible. EE can fill that spot and they can plug another DH, or work a rotation that allows players like Loewen to work in line-up.

  29. Who cares if hes fat, everyone has a chance to slide

  30. So, basically, Prince is a weird case who may not be worth the money.

    Like as not, those are going to be the impact FAs the Jays will have to go after to compete in the East. The sure things will play for the Sox and Yanks. The Jays have to be (and, given their acquisitions of Rasmus and EE*, are) built with a 70s Raiders mindset: give us all the freaks with talent and we’ll hope they all stay sane / non-obese long enough to win.

    And, hell, if all else fails I’m sure AA will be able to deal the insane contract to the Phillies or someone else.

    * – Dustin, you’ve talked about the value of high-potential, low-intangible guys before. Well, aren’t Prince’s intangibles just locked up in his body, rather than his attitude? Everything we’ve seen suggests that the guy can rake. That’s all that matters, surely?

  31. EE and Loewen arent taking down the yanks and red sox. come on, be serious please. loewen will have a tough time starting for any team next year.

    Fox is right. let the Yanks have him and then we can all complain that the AL East in unfair.

  32. zoltar – for free?

  33. good point @stephen. as long as the contract is reasonable (defined anyway you choose) it is unlikely that he could ever have a regression at DH that would make his contract immovable. especially at trade deadline time.

  34. There were some comments deleted that crossed the line. Please try and stay respectful.

  35. @jamie – my bad. apologies.

  36. I usually enjoy reading this blog, but I have to agree with some of the sentiment here – this post and the comments that followed it were a waste of my time.

  37. Size aside–Fielder’s way less of a defensive player than Adam Lind, like it or not. Lind’s fielding percentage is something ridiculous like .996, which is hard to beat at first base; were we to pick up Prince Fielder (which I don’t think we will do) and hang on to Lind, it would make more sense to have Fielder DH and keep Lind at first.

    All this aside, I don’t think the Jays are going to take Fielder. We might try, but I doubt it will happen.

    @Beau: I’m certainly for giving Lind chances. When he’s on, he’s clearly seeing pitches, taking more of them, not hacking at everything. Lately he’s been striking out on three or four pitches and it’s totally the opposite of Good Lind. I don’t know what’s going on but I hope we hang on to him for another year and cross our fingers.

  38. Jeff, take your hate-filled derogatory discourse elsewhere. It isn’t welcome here.

  39. Seems like a volatile issue…my take. Who cares if he’s overweight. Were paying for taters!

  40. I bet there isn’t a player in baseball that Parkes couldn’t find a reason not to sign. It’s as if he believes unless a player is held in the minors extra long to delay free agency and currently make next to nothing, they aren’t worthwhile going after.

  41. The question ownership should be asking is, are we close enough to be serious contenders over the next 1-3 years? If so, how much revenue would playing late in seasons plus playoff games to a packed house generate? If Fielder is a key piece in that run, can the Jays eat the sunk costs at the back end of the contract because of the increased revenue generated in the first few years of it?

  42. That said, if they are going to make a major signing I think it should be for a 1 or 2 starting pitcher. See how well the Rays are doing with an average offense and a top end starting five.

  43. I am also far more concerned about landing a pitcher for next season. The bullpen can be assembled from guys who won’t make the rotation, but right now there are too many question marks that won’t be answered. I say go out and spend to get a good pitcher to slot in behind Romero. That way you can hope that some combination of Morrow, Alvarez, Drabek, Cecil, McGowan etc will fill out the rotation. At some point the youth of the team will carry the bulk of the innings, but I really don’t see a contender in a 2012 lineup that only has Romero as a known quantity.

    As for Fielder, I think he would be a good addition. Comparing him to other hefty players helps to show how rare his type is. It certainly doesn’t mean that he can’t be the one example of a guy who is still good later in his 30s. The fact is that there is always an element of risk in a long-term contract. If AA thinks that risk is too high – then I’m on board with giving Fielder a pass. You can’t wait around for the perfect guy though. Bautista’s not going to be this good forever so they should do more to use him.

  44. warren sapp played at a fairly high level for 8 years after his age 27 season.

  45. Perhaps instead of looking at the best case scenario, we should look at the worst case one.

    If the jays were to get Fielder on a seven year deal, I have no doubt that he would be great for 3 years. What happens if he breaks down for the last 4 years?

    The Jays got Frank Thomas for 2 years $18 million and I thought that was a lot. When he let go, just like another expensive underperforming closer, the fans blamed management for a stupid signing. Try having a guy way more expensive than Thomast who’s eating up a huge amount of salary and taking up a value spot in the order. If he sucks, his signing will cause the jays to return to 4th place as usual. There will be no other big name free agent signing and no other contract extensions for core players.

    That is a HUGE gamble. If you can sign him for 5 years then absolutely . He won’t take that though. For 7 years, absolutely not.

  46. If he does sign with the Yankees and sucks they will just bury the contract by getting better players to player around him. For the Yankees, it is worth the risk. It is not the same for the Jays. Blame the financial structure of baseball not the jays if they decide to take a pass on Fielder.

  47. If the rays made the playoffs with Carlos Pena as thier First Basemen, than the Jays can do it with Adam Lind. spending 100+ mill for yu darvish and 140+ for Fielder is just ridiculous. AA will do what he always does and make the team better via trades and minor free agent signings that will go under the radar. hey how about joe nathan!!

  48. Yeah, I am even LESS thrilled about the possibility of signing Yu Darvish for $100M than I am for signing Fielder for seven effing years. One hundred million dollars is a lot of dollars, and it seems like way too much of a gamble to even be considered a good idea.

    We can do it with Lind, with better pitching. Some of the rookies could come in big next year — Thames, Loewen, etc.

  49. Yes, Fielder’s weight is a concern, but we lack a proper sample size to determine the effect his weight will have over the length of a seven year contract. On the other hand, we do have a proper sample size for players in their mid-to-late thirties. Fielder represents an extremely rare opportunity to acquire a premium free agent in his 20′s. At the end of the day, I’d rather take a fat 35 year old than a thin 40 year old at 20 million per year.

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