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How do the best-shape-of-their-life guys end up performing?

Jan 11, 2011, 8:49 AM EDT

Matt Stairs

Fun stuff from Dave Cameron, as he went back and tracked all of the players who were referred to as being “in the best shape of their lives” last February to see how they performed in 2010. The results:

So, what can we conclude from the position player side of “The Best Shape Of Their Lives” group? It’s just one season of 17 different players, so it is nothing like an exhaustive study, but there doesn’t appear to be strong evidence that it is a significant predictor of a strong season on the way. These guys did slightly better than expected, but the overall bump was small, and it almost entirely disappears if you remove Miguel Cabrera’s sobriety from the sample.

I’m torn. If these results become widely known, writers may stop describing players as being in the best shape of their life, and that would take away a good 20% of my posts between December and March.  On the other hand, to the extent a couple still continue to use the practice, it’s now-proven lack of merit renders the whole exercise even more hilarious than it used to be when the matter was uncertain.

(thanks to Lukeheart80 for the heads up)

  1. yankeesfanlen - Jan 11, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    Guess that Babe Ruth has be vindicated at long last. Giving up demon rum makes a “bump”. Not worth it.

  2. markfrednubble - Jan 11, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    Hey, I still like it because it forces some accountability on the player who puts it out there. Removes an excuse.

    I, on the other hand, am not in the best shape of my life and haven’t been for decades.

    • Utley's Hair - Jan 11, 2011 at 11:00 AM

      Depending on how many decades you’ve been alive, it could be the best shape of your life.

  3. Lukehart80 - Jan 11, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    It would be fun to see a database not only of which players had this kind of thing said about them each spring and how they preformed, but also which sources were responsible for the claims. Maybe it’s basically a wash, but when Peter Gammons says something about a guy’s fitness level,…

    Baseball-Reference, get on it!

  4. Jonny 5 - Jan 11, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    Here is the most in depth study I have seen to date in regards to size and weight. In a nutshell fat dudes hit. And fat dudes pitch. Very interesting actually.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/does-size-matter-part-6/

  5. evanhartford - Jan 11, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    Being in the “best shape of your life” is description used when their is some kind of doubt cast upon a player. You usually hear a player use that description when they’re coming out of a serious injury and they want to assure fans (and potential GM suitors) that they’re even BETTER than before.

    I don’t really pay attention to that description. Its almost as cliche as descriping an undersized player as “scrappy” or a semi-successful team as “full of swagger”.

    The bottom line is, if you’re a professional athlete and you’re NOT in the best shape of your life, you’re probably not going to be a professional athlete much longer…

  6. sportsdrenched - Jan 11, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    And let’s not confuse “Best shape of their life” with. The best shape they could be in. If they lost 70 lbs, but still have 40 lbs to lose. They are in better shape, but they are not the “best” shape they could be in.

    If you’re making millions of dollars with your athletic talents. Have access to world class excersise equipment, trainers, doctors, and nutritionists…Then there is no excuse not to be in the best shape you could possibly be in.

    • BC - Jan 11, 2011 at 10:37 AM

      Tell that to CC Sabathia. Or David Wells for that matter – the guy pitched forever and was so fat he had to have flashing yellow lights on him when walking down the street.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 11, 2011 at 10:59 AM

        Or just look at the link I provided. Fat dudes can play ball. Apparently.

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 11, 2011 at 10:59 AM

        Fernando…El Sid…

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 11, 2011 at 11:25 AM

        Jonny, I refuse to read anything titled “Does Size Matter.” I’m afraid of the answer it may give….

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 11, 2011 at 11:38 AM

        Ut, You know it does…I mean that’s why my deck is sooo big.

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 11, 2011 at 11:42 AM

        Ah…so the size of your deck is totally reactionary? I see…

        (I was going to use purely instead of totally, but all purity has been sullied in these comments…)

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 11, 2011 at 12:13 PM

        Oh, Absolutely, the more people that can hang on your deck the better off you are I say… Ask your wife about the size of a man’s deck, if she’s honest she’ll come right out and say it. I bet I could have every HBT commenter hang on it at the same time and it would be just fine.

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 11, 2011 at 1:13 PM

        It’s not like bamboo, is it? ‘Cause if so, I would think twice about Panda Claus—he might get hungry and try to…oh, you know…

  7. Jack Marshall - Jan 11, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    It’s meaningless—except when it isn’t. All winter in 1967, Red Sox writers were buzzing in Boston about how single/double hitting Carl Yastrzemski had been working out like a demon, was seeking more power, and was “in the best shape of his life.” He won the Triple Crown, of course, and took the underdog Sox to the World Series. He WAS in the best shape of his life.

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