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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Steve Austin is not a Baseball Player

We are NOT bigger, stronger and faster. 

I know that flies in the face of human progression, but many analysts forget the economies of developing countries when considering the growth of baseball.  Yes, scouts do a better job in Latin America, both the Caribbean and South America, and Latin America (which in grade school I learned was Mexico and the myriad of countries between Mexico and South America.  Of course, that was 1974, and that may be completely inappropriate these days.)

Every analyst is quick to point out that baseball is better these days because we draw from a larger talent pool, and that athletes are bigger, faster and stronger in other sports.  Both of those things are true in general, however, they have a point of conflict. 

Yes, we, in the US have benefited from a better diet and healthcare system since World War II.  For that matter, a few million extra kids were born from 1946-1964 to only enhance the baseball talent pool from the USA.  Also, once Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, teams could more freely use Latin American players, and many did, picking up players like Luis Aparicio and Roberto Clemente.  But even then these players were still like the gaijin in Japan: a few players per team.  However, the age of the 1960s changed the culture of America, and the influx of minority players increased dramatically.  That has continued to this day, as the ratio of white US players to minority player has decreased significantly.

It is easy, and sloppy, to say “athletes are bigger, stronger and faster” than they were 30 or 50 years ago.  Mark Spitz, who won seven gold medals in the 1972 Summer Olympics, had times that college women can beat today. [Ed. Note: not quite]  Javelin and discus throws are longer.  Sprinting races (100m, 200m) are done much faster than in the past.  All of these events lead people to conclude that MLB players MUST be “bigger, stronger and faster”.

If baseball, MLB, were as lily-white as it was in 1946, then I might be inclined to agree.  But it isn’t.  The percentage of minority players has grown dramatically since 1947.  As the search for more talented players has grown, and the net is cast wider, we gather in players of all sizes and skills.  And what we learn is that as the minority population of MLB grows, the *size* of MLB players *decreases*.  It’d be nice to emphasize that enough, but I do not believe I can.

As MLB uses a greater talent pool, the size of the players decreases.  Were MLB to stick with US-born players for the last 50 years (going by birth date), the average player, born after 1964, would be 73.76 inches and weigh 197 pounds.  But they do not, and I believe we are all in agreement that the talent of MLB is better off for expanding the talent pool and drawing on players from all cultures.  Just using the Latin American countries (Caribbean, South America and Mainland Latin America), we see that the average of LA players (born after 1964) is 72.54 inches and 184 pounds.  That size and weight coincides with players that *debuted* from 1950-1954 (and were born some 20 years before). 

This isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a tremendous surprise.  The socio-economic conditions of the countries often approaches the US in the 1930s.  The size of the players is reflective of that. 

Does that mean the quality of their play if equal to that of the 1950s?  Absolutely not.  They play on better fields and have better equipment, and since joining an MLB team are better fed with better healthcare.  What it absolutely does mean is that today’s players are NOT “bigger, stronger, faster”.  Yes, many of them are, but the influx of foreign players lessens that every day.  The fact of the matter is that MLB is getting *smaller*.  Players making their debut from 1990-1994 averaged 73.46 inches and 193 pounds.  Players that made their debut from 1995-1999 averaged 73.44 inches and 192 pounds.

You may shrug and say that’s nothing (and maybe it is, because the database is older now), but the only two other times the sizes dropped were during WWI and WWII.  That isn’t something we have these days, so for even the tiniest drop to occur is significant.

In a nutshell, MLB is getting smaller, not bigger.  Maybe it is getting faster and stronger (highly unlikely), but it is NOT getting bigger.  So the next time someone wants to assert that a player today is better than a player from yesteryear, do not accept that players are bigger, stronger and faster than then - because they aren’t.  You can read more about the changes in the game and players in these older articles, here and here.

 

Chris Dial Posted: July 11, 2009 at 05:14 AM | 158 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 05:33 AM (#3251567)
The problem with those sports is that for the most part they didn't evolve into serious professional sports until recently. That and the fact that in some cases the field or equipment was non existant or primitive for a long time. For instance track fields have gotten much better in recent decades and these fields shave off a lot time from runs.

Take any sport in which you have a bunch of amateurs taking it only half seriously, in that they don't train full out day in and day out, and then turn it into a big money competition and you'll see a huge improvement in quality of competition. Almost all sports in their early days have one or two guys who were absolute giants in the infancy of the sport and then they enter into a period of tough competition from many.
   102. Jeff K. Posted: July 13, 2009 at 11:42 AM (#3251621)
They can be. What isn't acceptable to me is that you cannot simply assert they are on the basis that they "have to be".

But nobody is doing that. Not here, and not in the real world. Nobody's asserting that players are bigger (you two pulled that one aside, I assume for a reason), they're saying it and it is backed by evidence. I suppose a guy or two might not actually know it to be true, but how would we know? The evidence is clear, it's up and down the thread. They're bigger, end of story.
   103. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 12:22 PM (#3251631)
So basically what the LA and Asian players have done is simply slow the height growth. They have not reversed it. It means that as LA and Asian players continue to get BFS then so to will MLB players.
They slow the growth by increasing their percentages. Does the future hold more or less LA players? Will those players be replacing players that are the same size or larger?

Rey Ordonez replaces Jeff Keppinger (for instance). That's important.
   104. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 13, 2009 at 12:24 PM (#3251632)
Nobody's asserting that players are bigger (you two pulled that one aside, I assume for a reason), they're saying it and it is backed by evidence. I suppose a guy or two might not actually know it to be true, but how would we know? The evidence is clear, it's up and down the thread. They're bigger, end of story.

Which means that the claim that began this whole discussion...

We are NOT bigger, stronger and faster.


is demonstrably false. But while it's hard to imagine how anyone ever could have believed this in the first place, nevertheless I'm glad to see that so many people here (Dr. I in particular) took the time and trouble to dig up the database and post it here for anyone to see. This is one of those threads that's worth saving, just in case anyone tries to make a similar false claim sometime down the road.
   105. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 12:42 PM (#3251643)
But nobody is doing that. Not here, and not in the real world.
Yes, that's exactly what citing track records means.
Nobody's asserting that players are bigger (you two pulled that one aside, I assume for a reason), they're saying it and it is backed by evidence. I suppose a guy or two might not actually know it to be true, but how would we know? The evidence is clear, it's up and down the thread. They're bigger, end of story.
No, it isn't. The percentage of LA PAs is increasing (pardon my assertion). Those players are absolutely smaller than their US-born competition. Yet, they are winning those PAs. The US-born players are bigger then the players from 1950 (I don't specify US-born 1950 players because due to segregation so many were), and are thusly better. They are BFS. The conditions in which they have grown up are better, etc. etc.

Since the 1980s, the LA influence has continuously increased, and *those* players are only the size of the 1950s players. Why are the BFS US-born players losing ground to the LA players? The environment in which these LA players are growing up (socio-economically) isn't better than the US back then.

Yes, the average US player has increased enough to presently swamp out that effect (or stabilize it), but as the LA % grows, the size of the league stalls or decreases.

Now, the argument will say, those players aren't necessarily weaker, slower. Necessarily, no, but the argument above is that bigger generally means stronger (Generally).

Pedro Martinez is significantly smaller than Walter Johnson. *Why* does he *have* to be better? It is generally argued "because he faced better players with similar relative success". Why is that properly asserted? Because his leagues are drawn from a larger pool and are BFS. But do we then argue, as MLB size decreases (or stalls), that these players are now worse?

If we were to replace the LA group with the available US-born group, a group BFS, would MLB be better or worse?

I contend that it would be worse. So if MLB were larger, and I think it is inarguable that replacing LA players with the available US players wouldn't make the league BFS (maybe not F), the league would be *worse*.

There is definitely a selection bias on who gets chances, as Dr. I suggested, and where that selection bias for size breaks down, allowing teams to select for skills, rather than size, MLB improves.
   106. AROM Posted: July 13, 2009 at 01:10 PM (#3251661)
the size of the league stalls or decreases


This has not happened. American players are bigger than 50 years ago. Latin players are bigger than they were 50 years ago. Having a greater % of Latin players does bring down the average height/weight, but even with that, the average size of MLB players has increased.

"Bigger" and "stronger" are positively correlated, this should be obvious to all. But do we need to include "faster"? Within eras, size is negatively correlated to speed. If players are bigger than 20 years ago, maybe part of it is choosing Adam Dunns over Lonnie Smiths to be your crappy fielding outfielder.

Usain Bolt's speed relative to Carl Lewis probably means nothing for the speed of a population of ballplayers increasingly selected for their ability to hit homers.
   107. AROM Posted: July 13, 2009 at 01:17 PM (#3251669)
Speaking of speed:

http://www.sprintic.com/articles/how_much_faster/

"But materials do make a big difference. Gideon B. Ariel, one of the fathers of biomechanics and the founder of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, compared the performance of Jesse Owens with that of Carl Lewis. In 1936 Owens ran the 100-meter event in 10.2 seconds, much slower than the 9.86 Lewis achieved in 1991. “Of course, what Jesse Owens was running on was not the same surface that Carl Lewis ran on,” Ariel explains. Owens ran on a clay track that absorbed more energy than the modern tracks on which Lewis set his record. “Imagine you’re running on the beach in very deep sand. Your joints might be very fast, but you don’t make the progress. If you run the same on the road, you will be faster. You’re really not faster, you are more efficient - you don’t lose as much energy.” Ariel was able to analyze films of Owens running and determine that his joints were moving as fast as Lewis’s. He determined that had Owens and Lewis run on the same track the results would not have been nearly as lopsided, although Lewis would probably still have run faster."
   108. Jeff K. Posted: July 13, 2009 at 01:55 PM (#3251705)
No, it isn't. The percentage of LA PAs is increasing (pardon my assertion). Those players are absolutely smaller than their US-born competition. Yet, they are winning those PAs.

Chris, it's in the numbers. The average player is bigger and heavier now than they were. I'm not saying that means they're better, I've gone to great pains to note that. But they *are* bigger.

Yes, the average US player has increased enough to presently swamp out that effect (or stabilize it), but as the LA % grows, the size of the league stalls or decreases.

Cart, horse, assumption, presumption. I don't see what the hypothetical has to do with it.

Why is that properly asserted? Because his leagues are drawn from a larger pool and are BFS. But do we then argue, as MLB size decreases (or stalls), that these players are now worse?

No, because, once again, there are other traits and skills that are valuable. Bringing in other populations expands the skillset in theory, while in the same theory perhaps dropping the average size. As long as multiculturalism isn't forced, then teams will typically favor that which favors them, and if these new skillsets outweigh the lesser size, they'll take them. And the league will be more skilled.
   109. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 01:57 PM (#3251709)
Since the 1980s, the LA influence has continuously increased, and *those* players are only the size of the 1950s players. Why are the BFS US-born players losing ground to the LA players? The environment in which these LA players are growing up (socio-economically) isn't better than the US back then

They are that size now but in ten years they'll be the size of ballplayer from the late 60's early 70's. Unless something really drastic happens ballplayers will alway be bigger than they were in the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, and 70's. LA players will not shrink MLB height to the point that they are below the 50's height since LA players are already bigger than 50's height.
   110. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 02:03 PM (#3251716)
Pedro Martinez is significantly smaller than Walter Johnson.

But he is still bigger than the average ballplayer of Walter's era.
   111. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 02:07 PM (#3251723)
But he is still bigger than the average ballplayer of Walter's era.
Sure, but what would drive us to assume he's better?
   112. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 02:09 PM (#3251727)
Having a greater % of Latin players does bring down the average height/weight,
And we have a continuing increase (I think).
   113. Ron Johnson Posted: July 13, 2009 at 02:10 PM (#3251730)
Much appreciated, but I can't open it without Microsoft Office Access, which I don't have.


There's always openoffice and I can vouch for the fact that it can open the files just fine.

Though like Chris I use the database almost exclusively in Excel mode.
   114. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 02:11 PM (#3251732)
LA players will not shrink MLB height to the point that they are below the 50's height since LA players are already bigger than 50's height.
They don't need to shrink to that level. They just need to shrink or stall.
   115. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 02:12 PM (#3251733)
Ron, does your BTFmail work? I am coming to canada, and I'd love to have dinner.
   116. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: July 13, 2009 at 02:15 PM (#3251738)
AROM, that is an interesting link; esp the part about the Fosbury Flop.
   117. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 02:54 PM (#3251772)
They don't need to shrink to that level. They just need to shrink or stall.

So that at some point in the future we won't be able to say that baseball players are bigger than they were at some point in the past. But right now we can say that.
   118. AROM Posted: July 13, 2009 at 03:10 PM (#3251784)
One thing I see from looking at nationality in the Lahman DB - of the foreign born players, about 70% come from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Those countries combined have about the same population as Canada. Less than 10% come from Mexico, a country where baseball seems to be quite popular and with a long history. Mexico's population is over 100 million.
   119. BDC Posted: July 13, 2009 at 03:17 PM (#3251788)
Dr. I, thanks for that breakdown by position players vs. pitchers on the 90s of page 1 here. Fascinating stuff.
   120. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 03:18 PM (#3251789)
McCoy,
my db sn't as nice as yours. Can you combine posts 72 and 73 for the "MLB averages". My averages come up with a slight decrease from 90-00. Can you provide two decimals to avoid the issues you mentioned earlier?
   121. PreservedFish Posted: July 13, 2009 at 03:31 PM (#3251797)
Less than 10% come from Mexico, a country where baseball seems to be quite popular and with a long history. Mexico's population is over 100 million.


Having worked with dozens of Mexicans I can tell you that despite rumors, baseball is not in fact very popular there. Most Mexicans - especially those from Mexico City and points south and east - don't pay any attention and possibly don't even know the rules.
   122. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 03:51 PM (#3251814)
Dec    Height    Inc
1870    68.95    
1880    69.52    0.82
%
1890    69.88    0.52%
1900    70.16    0.41%
1910    70.56    0.57%
1920    70.69    0.18%
1930    71.42    1.03%
1940    71.76    0.48%
1950    72.20    0.60%
1960    72.52    0.45%
1970    72.61    0.12%
1980    72.91    0.41%
1990    73.02    0.15%
2000    73.14    0.16
   123. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 04:02 PM (#3251829)
A fellow poster on another board did this one. He based it on innings pitched for pitchers and PA for hitters.

Decade    Pitchers    Hitters
1870    69.79        68.92
1880    69.92        69.52
1890    70.67        69.83
1900    71.49        70.08
1910    72.31        70.40
1920    72.11        70.55
1930    72.53        71.30
1940    72.88        71.64
1950    73.01        72.09
1960    73.61        72.37
1970    74.00        72.42
1980    74.38        72.67
1990    74.44        72.72
2000    74.54        72.78 
   124. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 04:06 PM (#3251836)
Do you have that broken down like #72 or #73?

And thanks a bunch (which other forum?)
   125. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 04:07 PM (#3251838)
One other thing to mention. Apparently if you use the SABR bio database you get different numbers. For instance the drop from 1910 to 1920 for pitchers goes from .2 to .08 and through 2007 pitchers are slightly smaller than pitchers from the 1990's.
   126. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 04:10 PM (#3251842)
Do you have that broken down like #72 or #73?

Do you mean on a yearly basis?

For post 122
yearID    
1871    68.58
1872    68.71
1873    68.69
1874    68.87
1875    68.97
1876    69.24
1877    69.00
1878    69.26
1879    69.05
1880    69.40
1881    69.54
1882    69.36
1883    69.45
1884    69.34
1885    69.44
1886    69.55
1887    69.57
1888    69.74
1889    69.63
1890    69.89
1891    69.85
1892    69.87
1893    69.93
1894    69.74
1895    69.77
1896    69.87
1897    70.00
1898    69.98
1899    69.86
1900    69.94
1901    69.79
1902    69.90
1903    69.99
1904    70.06
1905    70.16
1906    70.28
1907    70.31
1908    70.43
1909    70.47
1910    70.46
1911    70.49
1912    70.60
1913    70.51
1914    70.45
1915    70.64
1916    70.77
1917    70.63
1918    70.50
1919    70.57
1920    70.58
1921    70.52
1922    70.51
1923    70.50
1924    70.54
1925    70.64
1926    70.71
1927    70.92
1928    70.99
1929    70.96
1930    71.15
1931    71.18
1932    71.20
1933    71.35
1934    71.46
1935    71.47
1936    71.49
1937    71.59
1938    71.61
1939    71.65
1940    71.74
1941    71.75
1942    71.73
1943    71.65
1944    71.65
1945    71.55
1946    71.91
1947    71.83
1948    71.94
1949    71.86
1950    71.95
1951    71.99
1952    72.03
1953    72.10
1954    72.26
1955    72.22
1956    72.30
1957    72.30
1958    72.38
1959    72.34
1960    72.48
1961    72.38
1962    72.46
1963    72.50
1964    72.58
1965    72.58
1966    72.54
1967    72.54
1968    72.56
1969    72.57
1970    72.54
1971    72.49
1972    72.50
1973    72.51
1974    72.53
1975    72.61
1976    72.67
1977    72.70
1978    72.74
1979    72.77
1980    72.77
1981    72.81
1982    72.88
1983    72.88
1984    72.94
1985    72.94
1986    72.96
1987    72.96
1988    72.98
1989    72.92
1990    72.95
1991    72.91
1992    72.95
1993    73.05
1994    72.95
1995    72.96
1996    73.03
1997    73.08
1998    73.12
1999    73.13
2000    73.11
2001    73.11
2002    73.04
2003    73.07
2004    73.04
2005    73.13
2006    73.21
2007    73.28
2008    73.26 



And thanks a bunch (which other forum?)


Baseball-Fever.com
   127. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 04:12 PM (#3251845)
1998 73.12
1999 73.13
2000 73.11
2001 73.11
2002 73.04
2003 73.07
2004 73.04

Thanks a bunch McCoy. This is a strange thing.
   128. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 04:19 PM (#3251859)
Also, can you link to the Baseball Fever thread, because I can't find it.
   129. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 04:29 PM (#3251873)
Thanks a bunch McCoy. This is a strange thing.

Not really
Cal Ripken 6'4"
Paul O'Neil 6'4"
Mark McGwire 6'5"
Jose Canseco 6'4"
so on and so on

The average height of the top 25 (>150 PA)retiring players was 73.52 inches. The average height of the top 25 players debuting in 2002 is 72.58 inches. I think it is reasonable to assume that there are going to be some yearly anomalies.
   130. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 04:45 PM (#3251883)
I can see another bias: recent expansion: they took the biger players (scouts) versus performers (stats) and the next year or two saw a size reduction.
   131. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 04:59 PM (#3251891)
Bobby Abreu is 6 feet tall. Quinton McCracken is 5'10. Tony Saunders is 6'2, Brian Anderson 6'1, Suppan 6'1, Cairo 6', Randy Winn 6'2" While I don't have it in database form it certainly doesn't look like the 1998 expansion saw teams drafting bigger than average guys.
   132. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 06:11 PM (#3251960)
While I don't have it in database form it certainly doesn't look like the 1998 expansion saw teams drafting bigger than average guys.
The expansion years of 1993 and 1998 both jump up and then ease down. It's not just who the drafting teams took, but who replaced those players on the teams they left.
   133. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: July 13, 2009 at 06:52 PM (#3252017)
FWIW - various averages of NBA players from 1985-2004. Height seems to have plateaued, weight has increased by 10 lbs.

http://www.nba.com/news/survey_2004.html

Players may not be taller, but they are bigger, and by visual evidence, faster (certainly) and stronger (probably). 'Better' game? That is entirely up to what type of basketball you like to watch. Too many rule and emphasis changes to compare the 80's to today.
   134. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: July 13, 2009 at 06:55 PM (#3252021)
SURVEY OF HEIGHT, WEIGHT, AGE AND EXPERIENCE SINCE 1985
Team Height Weight Age Exp.
1985-86 6’ 7.36” 214.40 26.72 3.85
1986-87 6’ 7.62” 215.46 26.53 3.83
1987-88 6’ 7.38” 215.61 27.01 4.10
1988-89 6’ 7.31” 215.58 26.92 4.01
1989-90 6’ 7.09” 214.82 26.79 3.95
1990-91 6’ 7.16” 216.16 27.01 4.08
1991-92 6’ 7.04” 216.47 27.09 4.20
1992-93 6’ 7.06” 219.86 27.19 4.15
1993-94 6’ 7.34” 221.68 27.26 4.28
1994-95 6’ 7.19” 221.50 27.43 4.56
1995-96 6’ 7.27” 223.66 27.56 4.42
1996-97 6’ 7.20” 223.67 27.74 4.63
1997-98 6’ 7.11” 222.95 27.82 4.82
1998-99 6’ 7.10” 222.85 27.82 4.81
1999-00 6’ 7.26” 224.68 27.95 5.20
2000-01 6’ 7.03” 223.47 27.75 5.01
2001-02 6’ 7.26” 224.05 27.47 4.82
2002-03 6’ 7.40” 225.40 27.34 4.73
2003-04 6' 7.31" 225.45 27.22 4.76
2004-05 6' 7.26" 224.29 27.03 4.61

Not sure how to format this all pretty like.
   135. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 07:02 PM (#3252044)
The expansion years of 1993 and 1998 both jump up and then ease down. It's not just who the drafting teams took, but who replaced those players on the teams they left.

I'm not seeing it. Where is this "jump up and ease down" for 1993? Then after the 1998 expansion it takes 4 years to have a noticeable drop and that drop happens because a lot of tall players retired at once. Like I said it happens, on a year to year basis we should expect some dips here and there but the trend is clear, people are getting bigger.
   136. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 07:04 PM (#3252048)
there but the trend is clear, people are getting bigger.
I am not saying people are not getting bigger. I am comparing the LAs to the US players they are replacing. They are smaller.
   137. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 07:18 PM (#3252065)
Yes, and still bigger than players from the 50's.

The 60's saw the rise of LA players and those players dragged down the numbers of the 60's since those players were as big as players from the 20's and 30's. Now then there are more LA players playing now but these LA players are bigger than the LA players of the 60's. So it isn't like the LA player's height are constants throughout the decades. They too are getting bigger.
   138. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 07:24 PM (#3252075)
   139. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 08:02 PM (#3252114)
but these LA players are bigger than the LA players of the 60's
It doesn't matter if they are bigger than the LA players. It matters if they are bigger than the US players - which they aren't. They are about the size of the 1956-1958 US-born players.
   140. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 08:16 PM (#3252124)
Yes and US born players are bigger than that so no matter what players of today are bigger than they were 50 years ago. Your whole "I cannot emphasize this enough" point is absolutely and totally wrong. Players are bigger than they were 50 years ago. Players are bigger than they were 30 years ago. Players are bigger than they were 10 years ago.
   141. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 08:20 PM (#3252126)
Graphical representation of MLB Heights, y-to-y, from 1947 to present

This starts in 1947, where almost all players are use born (that stayed true until about 1954. The top line is US-born players (form post #73, the Overall size from post #126 and Non-US born from post #72.

LA players have been 72.5 for a decade now, approximately the same as US-born players from 1956.
   142. Jack Keefe Posted: July 13, 2009 at 08:23 PM (#3252127)
Hey I am larger than I was 45 minutes ago I just had a Baconeater Combo Al.
   143. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 08:26 PM (#3252131)
Your whole "I cannot emphasize this enough" point is absolutely and totally wrong.
Pardon? Here's the sentence:
"And what we learn is that as the minority population of MLB grows, the *size* of MLB players *decreases*. It’d be nice to emphasize that enough, but I do not believe I can."

Are you saying that is absolutely and totally wrong?

I thought we were all on that page.
   144. AROM Posted: July 13, 2009 at 08:42 PM (#3252153)
I understand what you are saying Chris. Right now American born players are, I think, 73% of MLB. If you immediately released a huge number of US players, replaced them with Latin players, and brought the US born percentage down to 60%, then the average size of players will be smaller tomorrow than it was a day ago.

But it takes me awhile to get there, a lot of effort to work through the qualifications. The simple, generalized statement does not appear true.

And if you wait for the passage of time to naturally increase the # of Latin players, it is not true that they are decreasing the size of MLB players. Because both US born and Latin players are bigger. And even the decrease in US born players from 90% to 70% has not stopped the trend of the average player getting bigger.
   145. McCoy Posted: July 13, 2009 at 08:54 PM (#3252167)
I thought we were all on that page.


No, because it isn't true. Not now and not likely in the future. Not unless LA experiences a huge soul crushing economic depression and famine that alters growth rates. LA players are getting bigger every year and even if in 10 years they somehow become 50% of the baseball population baseball players will still be bigger than they were in the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's. The reason being that at the very least LA players will be at similar heights as American born players were in the 1970's and American born players will probably be a little bit taller as well.

At no time has the size of MLB players decreased over any sizeable amount of time. Minorities, or I should say smaller minorities, have been a growing trend now for decades and they still haven't altered this basic fact. Yes, if somehow tomorrow all US players were replaced with LA players the size of baseball players would decrease but how is that fact important?
   146. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 13, 2009 at 09:19 PM (#3252198)
Again, here's the quote that started this whole discussion. Was the person who wrote this being misquoted?

We are NOT bigger, stronger and faster....In a nutshell, MLB is getting smaller, not bigger. Maybe it is getting faster and stronger (highly unlikely), but it is NOT getting bigger.
   147. Dr. I likes his panda steak medium rare Posted: July 13, 2009 at 10:43 PM (#3252262)
And what we learn is that as the minority population of MLB grows, the *size* of MLB players *decreases*. It’d be nice to emphasize that enough, but I do not believe I can.


This only becomes true if the minority population grows at a rate sufficiently fast enough to offset the general trends in height of the MLB selected population. In other words:

<ht> = f x <ht,us> + (1-f)<ht,row>

leads to:

d<ht>/dt = df/dt x (<ht,us>-<ht,row>) + f x d<ht,us>/dt + (1-f) x d<ht,row>/dt

where <ht>, <ht,us>, and <ht,row> are the mean heights for all players, US born players, and non-US born players. f is the fraction of players in the league who are US born. d /dt is a rate of change.

Even with df/dt < 0 (pop of US born players falling) this can easily be offset by increasing heights. All evidence suggests that so far it has more than offset these changes.

..........


We are currently in an era where the hitters arriving in MLB are much taller than they were 20 years ago. It is reasonable to think that hitters derive advantages by being taller. Some of the evidence for this is that MLB hitters on the whole contain a disproportionately high number of guys over 6'3", 6'4", and 6'5" relative to the US population as a whole. This is despite the increasing influx of foreign players, who slow this growth.

.........

Could just be a small sample size, but in the table I posted in #91, the hitters who debuted between 2000-2005 appear to have a bimodal distribution of heights. One mode is roughly centered around 72 inches, and the second around 74 inches. If you plot the data by decade, this mode seems to have gradually emerged starting from about the 1960's. If you believe this two mode argument (and I am not sure that I do), the 2000-2005 data show the modes to be roughly equal in peak height for the first time.

If there really is a bimodal distribution of position player heights, I am sure we could all make arguments as to why this would be.
   148. Chris Dial Posted: July 13, 2009 at 11:57 PM (#3252324)
No, because it isn't true. Not now and not likely in the future.
So the LA players that have replaced US players are not smaller than them?
   149. McCoy Posted: July 14, 2009 at 12:02 AM (#3252331)
No. LA players are either the same size or bigger than the players they replaced.

US born players are getting bigger every year which means the LA players are primarily taking the jobs away from the smaller US born players. The LA players are as big or bigger than them on average.
   150. Chris Dial Posted: July 14, 2009 at 12:05 AM (#3252335)
At no time has the size of MLB players decreased over any sizeable amount of time.
What would constitute "sizable" to you?
   151. Chris Dial Posted: July 14, 2009 at 12:07 AM (#3252338)
No. LA players are either the same size or bigger than the players they replaced.

US born players are getting bigger every year which means the LA players are primarily taking the jobs away from the smaller US born players. The LA players are as big or bigger than them on average.
I don't believe that Rey Ordonez took a job away from someone smaller than he.
   152. Chris Dial Posted: July 14, 2009 at 12:12 AM (#3252346)
There's an inch gap between US players and LA players. You are saying that all the minor leaguers are under the LA size?
   153. Chris Dial Posted: July 14, 2009 at 12:14 AM (#3252350)
Some of the evidence for this is that MLB hitters on the whole contain a disproportionately high number of guys over 6'3", 6'4", and 6'5" relative to the US population as a whole. This is despite the increasing influx of foreign players, who slow this growth.
There's a huge jump (0.3 inches in 4 years) in 2005-8, after a flatline for seven years. There was a very small change from 1984-2004 (0.1 inches over 20 years. LA players have been flat for 11 years.
   154. Dr. I likes his panda steak medium rare Posted: July 14, 2009 at 12:38 AM (#3252395)
At no time has the size of MLB players decreased over any sizeable amount of time.

What would constitute "sizable" to you?


Based on the graph you posted there are a couple of points where the average height decreases from its previous high for a few years, only to recover eventually and continue to climb. Just eyeballing the plot, there is a dip in the early 1990's, a dip in the late 60's to early 70's, and maybe a brief dip in the early 60's. There are some fairly long stretches of time where heights plateau. But the overall trend is up. We can find some selected endpoints where the trend looks slightly down, but this requires pretty selective endpoints.

No. LA players are either the same size or bigger than the players they replaced.

US born players are getting bigger every year which means the LA players are primarily taking the jobs away from the smaller US born players. The LA players are as big or bigger than them on average.

I don't believe that Rey Ordonez took a job away from someone smaller than he.


Well, Rey Ordonez is 5'9", which in fact means that the percentage of MLB players who preceded him that were shorter than he was is pretty low. So chances are pretty decent that Rey Ordonez replaced a player who was taller.

But so what? David Eckstein is 5'6", and almost certainly replaced a taller player. Joe Mauer and Adam Dunn probably replaced guys who are shorter than they are. There are always going to be some shorter guys taking away jobs from some taller guys. It happens in the NBA, too. On average the trends indicate that there are more tall guys coming in as time goes on. I really don't understand how that could be up for dispute.
As for projecting into the future? Well, I have no idea.
   155. Dr. I likes his panda steak medium rare Posted: July 14, 2009 at 12:43 AM (#3252406)
There's a huge jump (0.3 inches in 4 years) in 2005-8, after a flatline for seven years. There was a very small change from 1984-2004 (0.1 inches over 20 years. LA players have been flat for 11 years.


This is accurate. The basic average trends are things go flat, then things go up. But we don't see prolonged downward trends that are as large in magnitude as the large upward trends in: 2004-present, 1994-98, early 70's to mid 80's, 40's to 60's. The rest of the graph of the average is basically made up of plateaus with brief downward blips.
   156. Dr. I likes his panda steak medium rare Posted: July 14, 2009 at 12:54 AM (#3252431)
Oh, and now that I have discovered the baseball groupie thread (and message board!), I doubt I will have time to post in this one anymore.
   157. Jeff K. Posted: July 14, 2009 at 02:29 AM (#3252590)
LA players have been flat for 11 years.

Hey, they're saving up for the surgery, but that's a lot of money and they don't let you buy one at a time.
   158. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: July 20, 2009 at 09:31 AM (#3259678)
This is a pretty interesting take on the continued growth in the size of the typical Olympian. It seems pertinent to this conversation.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090717090829.htm
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