Look at this image of CC Sabathia from yesterday as he’s in mid-delivery.
Sabathia’s innings go up every single year, he racks up the marketable statistics and he’s money in the playoffs. He’s been fantastic this year even though his luck on ground balls in 2011 hasn’t been particularly good with a .254 BAbip (batting average on balls in play). In comparison both James Shields—link, and Justin Verlander are at .177—link.
In short, he’s one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball and the Yankees don’t have to worry that he’s a pitch away from getting hurt.
Does Sabathia’s durability have something to do with his frame and, um, generous proportions?
It’s not something to ignore or accept as a baseline, but it’s something to consider.
David Wells was another corpulent pitcher who’d prefer to get beaten up by men half his size in a drunken late night foray to a Manhattan diner than come within two inches of a treadmill.
Babe Ruth would’ve used a Cybex machine as a bed.
On the other side there are pitchers whose physiques were something out of Muscle and Fitness but spent their entire lives on the disabled list for extended periods of time. Kevin Brown was shredded but had multiple injuries throughout a stellar career; there was an ad during the Athletics-Marlins game yesterday promoting the return of Rich Harden—he of the estimated 2% bodyfat. He’ll be back long enough to injure another part of his body and go back on the disabled list.
Mechanics and genetics have something to do with it, but could it be that—amid other factors—the extra weight is providing padding and protection that a more picturesque athlete doesn’t have?
This isn’t a suggestion to find players who aren’t considered aesthetically pleasing as an end unto itself, but to reconsider what’s considered “in shape” to walk on the beach and “in shape” to throw a baseball repeatedly and not injure oneself.
In his curmudgeonly way, Whitey Herzog once said (in around 1989) that if players “drank a beer or ate a steak” once in a while, maybe their ribcages would stop tearing off the bone.
Maybe he was right.