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  1. Yao is 7′ 5″, definitely not 7′ 9″

    Comment by whardt — June 22, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

  2. Whoopsies. After 7’2″, everything’s kind of cloud-covered anyway.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — June 22, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

  3. “No modern player under 6’0? has hit a .400 wOBA (using modern linear weights).”

    Prince Fielder in 2009 had a wOBA well above .400.

    Comment by brett — June 22, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

  4. Thanks for taking some time to address the questions raised by your last article, Bradley.

    Comment by Andrew — June 22, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

  5. I was looking at career numbers.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — June 22, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

  6. Hey, no problem, Andrew! I’m a big fan of discovery, so it was a pleasure.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — June 22, 2011 @ 4:27 pm

  7. How does [redacted] size factor in?

    Comment by Shawn — June 22, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  8. Well written article, but I don’t really think it was necessary… I didn’t get all the way through the comments of those threads, but I think it’s pretty obvious that you don’t need to be 6’3″ to play in the majors.

    Comment by PatsNats28 — June 22, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

  9. It depends on how you measure your TMI.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — June 22, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

  10. “It never hurts to double check.”

    -Lucille Bluth

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — June 22, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

  11. Just from reading the title, I suspected I’d see a David Eckstein reference. I am not disappointed.

    Comment by scout1222 — June 22, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

  12. I’d be remiss to forget the Great White Hope.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — June 22, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

  13. Why was [redacted] redacted? It’s not like I said [redacted] or [redacted] or [redacted] or anything.

    Comment by Shawn — June 22, 2011 @ 4:43 pm


    Comment by Shawn — June 22, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  15. I like this post, and honestly I think the perception that height makes a big difference is very common in the baseball world in spite of no obvious conceptual reason it should matter (other than in the opposite direction that short people are a little harder to pitch to due to strike zones). What I wonder here is whether or not you get an effect of on base percentage if you control for batting average. I’m not sure statistically this would work because it might cause co-linearity, but I’m curious whether or not height matters for on base percentage if we somehow control for how well a batter hits. In other words, if a short player is an equal raw hitter to a tall player, does height make any marginal difference in on base percentage?

    Comment by corey — June 22, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

  16. “So, China’s population has — undoubtedly — some talent worth finding, and as the nation becomes taller, the benefits of Chinese academies only increase. MLB teams need to get into the PRC while it is still inexpensive, or else they may miss that first great PRC star — and the first big PRC media contract.”

    I think you still don’t grasp the concept many posters tried to bring up in your original piece. Here’s another go at it.

    In terms of pure genetics, there are some small biases and benefits to being one race over another (speaking in terms of the general population of a given race). You can see this in the ratio of Samoans in Football, or African Americans in basketball. It’s just physiology. Forget all of that for a second, and let’s assume that the Chinese people have a totally fair shot, genetically speaking, at having the god given ability to play baseball.

    While the science is imperfect, one thing we know is that children learn well, and the earlier skills are developed, the more ingrained they become. In the Dominican Republic children play baseball all day. All of them, all the time, day and night. (This is only a slight exaggeration.) For every child (anywhere) who plays baseball for 5 hours a day every day of his life since he could pick up a glove is worth 100, maybe 1000 children who play the game only at recess once or twice week, then goes out to join his middle school team.

    The point is, it isn’t magic and it isn’t genetics that produces so many DR ball players, it’s the insane (and awesome) baseball culture the leads to millions of kid/baseball hours every year. This is exactly what China does NOT have. The massive urban population doesn’t have access to fields, and the poor rural farming community is too sparse and impoverished to care about baseball. (Yes, the DR is poor, but they hold baseball higher than anything.)

    Are there Carl Crawfords, humans who are simply blessed with every possible natural athletic gift, in China waiting to be found? Of course there are. Forget the fact most of them would likely be snatched up by another sport that would give them more personal glory among their people, or a sport they simply enjoy more – there are certainly a few diamonds in the rough. But the number is far, far less than you would make it seem from your recent articles.

    Comment by Telo — June 22, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

  17. Hmm, maybe looking at BB% can add some light in this regard. Good thoughts!

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — June 22, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

  18. I believe I understand these criticisms. To the physiology argument: Tosh. There are indeed physiological differences between Chinese athletes and America, Latin American, and Japanese athletes, but not sufficiently enough to render the entire country incapable of playing professional baseball.

    Moreover, as I attempted to make clear in this present article, the MLB only wants/needs exceptional individuals. Most of the athletes from America have exceptional physiques, the same would be true for any Chinese athletes.

    To the second point: Yes, there is no baseball culture in China. That is why America does not passively receive airplane-fuls of Chinese talent; it IS why building an academy would pay dividends.

    The idea of building an academy is that the team offers free education in exchange for training potential baseball stars. It’s not a public institution, it’s private. The students won’t have to share a baseball field with the community, it would be private. The lack of urban parks wouldn’t be a problem because the team would purchase property and build their own stadium. The students won’t haphazardly play ball, they study it.

    Yes, the DR produces a lot of talent and is steeped in baseball culture. This, however, does not preclude China from producing baseball talent, or baseball from becoming a national frenzy in China. In truth, baseball does not need to become a national frenzy, just a local frenzy. If the MLB can get just two or three cities excited about baseball, teaching baseball in school, and showing it on TV, then China goes from an inefficiency to a hotbed of talent overnight.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — June 22, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

  19. “No modern player under 6’0? has hit a .400 wOBA (using modern linear weights). ”

    Joe Morgan was 5-7 and he had multiple seasons with wOBA’s above .400. Craig Biggio’s height is below 6-0, and he had several seasons with wOBA’s above .400. Do you mean a career wOBA?

    Also, as an added note, the Astros have a AA second baseman, Jose Altuve, who may make it to the majors by next season. Altuve started the season with a reported height of 5-5. The Astros recently revised his reported height to 5-7. I don’t know if he had a legitimate growth spurt or if the Astros wanted to put a better light on his height.

    In any event, Altuve’s offense has been phenomonal. Altuve’s slash line in A+ to start the year: .399, .437, .592, 1.029 with 18 stolen bases. He was promoted to AA Texas League about a month ago. His slash line in AA so far: .366, .379, .634, 1.013.

    Comment by CJ — June 22, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  20. I found that batter height had very little effect on the size of the strike zone. It affected how far the strike zone was above the ground, but not its size (or only to a very small extent).

    Comment by Mike Fast — June 22, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

  21. I think he made it clear in the comments that he was using career numbers.

    Comment by A guy from PA — June 22, 2011 @ 6:18 pm

  22. Brian Roberts, Tim Raines, Dustin Pedroia, Rafael Furcal, Kirby Puckett, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Danny Herrera, Ivan Rodriguez, Brett Gardener ect.

    ^^^ All 5’9″ or shorter and has had or had either a HOF career, a very good career, or a good career so far.

    Wait until MLB starts scouting India or the Middle East.

    Comment by Dave in GB — June 22, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

  23. Thanks, Dwight.

    Comment by Max — June 22, 2011 @ 7:23 pm

  24. Yeah, I didn’t clarify in the text, but I was referring to career wOBA. But it was my own calculations, so there may be an error or two.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — June 22, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

  25. Can we graph of height vs. grittiness? The R squared on that has to be pretty high.

    Comment by BK — June 22, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

  26. I’d like to see a study on height with pitchers. I think it is a much larger misconception that taller pitchers are a) more effective and b) less likely to break down

    Comment by Andrew — June 22, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

  27. I suspect that about pitcher height as well. I don’t know if there is any research on it. If anybody knows of research that supports or refutes the notion that taller pitchers are more effective and/or less susceptible to injury, a link to it would be awfully swell. Or, research that shows the opposite for shorter pitchers.

    Comment by Mcneildon — June 22, 2011 @ 8:48 pm

  28. Excellent article. There are so many misconceptions regarding biology and race/ethnicity. Racism in sport squeaks by because people believe that there are “natural,” or biological, causes for what are in fact social phenomena.

    Incidentally, this article forms a good foundation for why prohibiting and/or discouraging women from playing the same professional sports that men do and the pervasive coercive gender segregation we observe in the world of sport are total nonsense. Average physical differences, if they in fact exist, between groups of people (e.g., women and men) do not mean that individuals from a “disadvantaged” group of people cannot compete. Just because women are on average shorter than men does not mean that the entire population of women should be disallowed from competing, since there will always be people who exceed the average.

    Comment by Jonathan — June 22, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

  29. If what Buck and McCarver have told me about Dustin Pedroia is correct, Heart and Grit>>>>>>>>>>>>Height

    Comment by Jerome S. — June 22, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

  30. The height issue is one that has been explored quite a bit.

    Bill James has written some ideas about it as well using Hack Wilson, Yogi Berra, Kirby Puckett, etc as examples of how, in general shorter athletes need to be better than taller players to get a real shot. That does not encompass everything as Eckstein and Aaron Miles illustrate.

    From my experience, scouts put a lot of weight in height, and in the amatuer levels heights are often exaggerated to compensate for this.

    I may not be recalling this correctly but I thought that there is no pitcher under 6’0 in the HoF. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have been good pitchers, but more likely that strong armed short guys were moved to SS. There was also a time when the perception was that tall guys couldn’t play SS. Ripken paved the way for guys like ARod, Tulo, and Hanley.

    Certaily there are positions where height could be a negative if it results in less range, agility, etc.

    My primary curiosity was what niche the Chinese player would fill to warrant the investment into creating a baseball culture in China. Baseball does have a tendency to follow stereotypes and self-fulfilling prophecies. Tall lefties pitch, there was a time when Latin and shortstops were synonyms, etc. We see (or saw) similar things in the NFL.

    I don’t think people we’re operating on the belief that men’s stores in China only sell “adult medium” clothing, but rather there were enough men playing baseball that “fit the profile” in order for the top 1-3% have major league in their future.

    I don’t doubt that if China decided to make baseball a priority that they could turn out major league players. But that’s a big if, and it’s going to take a lot of work and investments.

    The NBA didn’t exactly find a ton of 7’0 Africans to play professionally, even though that looked to be an untapped market for awhile.

    I would say that, in general, scouts are the ones that are most hung up on height, not fans, coaches, etc.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — June 22, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

  31. You mean comma line?

    Comment by Fred — June 22, 2011 @ 10:22 pm

  32. Well, I mean, there have only been ten .400+ wOBA hitters in the period 2000-2010.

    Comment by Oscar — June 23, 2011 @ 12:30 am

  33. …make that since 1970. Anyway, that’s a pretty small sample. It doesn’t show much. No player with a last name starting with a vowel in that group either.

    Comment by Oscar — June 23, 2011 @ 12:32 am

  34. if true it is not fair. Either big players are getting smaller strike zones than they deserve or smallish guys are getting more than they deserve.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — June 23, 2011 @ 12:55 am

  35. I made a point to acknowledge the physiology argument, but purposely did NOT actually claim that there is disadvantage, as I have no proof or reason to strongly believe it. However, you’d be foolish to dismiss it out of hand as you do, since you have less proof to do so than I do. (by virtue of the fact there are zero Chinese, and very few Asians in baseball.) But let’s ignore that entire aspect, as I tried to do from the onset.

    You still aren’t grasping the concept: How many young Chinese boys wake up wanting to spend their entire day at the baseball academy? How many run to the baseball academy after dinner to play for 3 more hours before the sun goes down. Every day. How many Chinese boys look around and see every single one of their peers with the same goal of one day playing in pro ball. Do you realize how powerful that is? How much drive and determination play a factor into the equation of becoming a professional athlete?

    The DR is living breathing proof of the power of culture in athlete development. China is the antithesis of the DR (with respect to baseball). There is almost no avenue to and even less drive for young Chinese children to develop baseball skills at a young age. Whatever you think you can accomplish with a baseball academy is nothing compared to an empty field, a stick, and a tattered ball in the DR. The difference? Time and drive. You can’t speed train someone to learn baseball. The rules, the strategy, sure. But not how to throw or pitch and certainly not how to hit. This is a learned, practiced skill. And the younger and more often the practice the better.

    This is not a numbers game. The Chinese are not an untapped well. Unless something actually changes within the country and the culture, we will continue to see little to no representation. You need to check your bias and actually evaluate the situation. There is no culture. And culture is everything. This is not finding math geniuses. That you set up checkpoints for and just filter the exceptionally gifted kids. This is living and breathing a sport every second of your life since you could walk, and having everyone and everything around you telling you that’s the right thing to do. Imagine the opposite of that. That’s China.

    Comment by Telo — June 23, 2011 @ 1:01 am

  36. forget un-tall people… i want to know how weight corresponds to crushing a baseball (after all: who doesn’t enjoy watching wily mo pena run the bases… or sumo wrestle rich garces)?!

    Comment by nate — June 23, 2011 @ 1:10 am

  37. I think MLB should have a draft for countries in which teams can develop talent and academies. Each country would have at least one academy if they have a population of over 10 million. China and India could have maybe 10-12 academies each. The league decides how many academies for each country, then you have a draft. Teams would then be able to sign without drafting any players from countries in which they own an academy. That way the incentive to grow and develop the academies are there.

    This system allows for a fairer distribution of foreign talent provided the teams develop their markets.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — June 23, 2011 @ 1:18 am

  38. There are studies that show most people percieve white players as more gritty and technical. Black players as more athletic and showy. I’d like to see height too. Pedroia has a lot of “grittiness going for him”. White, middle infielder, short, plays with a lot of other white players.

    Come to think of it, I can’t think of a single black player in any sport who’s ever been consistently considered gritty.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — June 23, 2011 @ 4:18 am

  39. What MLB may want to do is create like a Dominican Summer League only in China. Get all the best players, put them on like 8 teams. Each team also has little camps in their city. That way you can better gauge this sort of thing. Over time maybe it’ll develop into something.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — June 23, 2011 @ 4:20 am

  40. 6 foot or under 500 hr club hitters, off the top of my head: Aaron, Mantle, Mays, Killebrew, Sosa, Man Ram, Foxx, Ott, Jackson, Sheffield, Palmeiro

    want to go to 601 (listed–which usually means an added inch or two–or measured in spikes,) and you can add Robinson, Matthews, Banks,

    Over half the club.

    Don’t have time to do the 50 HR year guys, but I suspect that there will be quite a few on the shorter end.

    Recent HOF hitters, and 3000 hit club, and you get more short players (yount, molitor, gwynn, biggio, soon to be ichiro, etc.)

    Interesting that the best cricket batsmen are short. Many of them are very short.

    Comment by adam smith — June 23, 2011 @ 8:28 am

  41. Hey, Buster. Hasn’t everything sort of already been found? You know, by, like, Magellan, Columbus? NASA?

    Comment by TrickTickler — June 23, 2011 @ 9:04 am

  42. @ GO NATS

    Why is that unfair? I propose it’s unfair that the rules force taller players to cover a larger strike zone.

    The strike zone should be an area fixed in space, above home plate, and exactly THE SAME for all players.

    Comment by Dave S — June 23, 2011 @ 10:19 am

  43. Whitey Ford, right off the top of my head.

    Comment by Dave S — June 23, 2011 @ 10:23 am

  44. Size of Dominican Republic: 18,000 square miles.
    Size of China: 3,700,000 square miles.

    Comment by Dave S — June 23, 2011 @ 10:33 am

  45. But in general, you are correct. The majority of HOF pitchers are 6’+. Nearly all of them since the deadball era.

    So, knowing the great majority of recent HOF pichers (and players too) are 6’+… why would it surprise anyone that scouts focus on tall players? It makes absolute sense to weed out the shorter players.

    Comment by Dave S — June 23, 2011 @ 11:12 am

  46. Telo,
    How many young Chinese girls 30 years ago thought they were going to be Olympic swimmers? Despite having a population that has shorter arms, narrower shoulders, and narrower chests, the PRC was able to manufacture an international powerhouse in only a decade. With 1.6 billion people, mainland China has plenty of “exceptions” that, when combined with a communist sports ministry, can be compelled to developed into world-class athletes.

    Comment by Liem — June 23, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

  47. How many all time great baseball players played and excelled in other sports at a high level? The fact of the matter is that skills required in baseball our not unique to that sport. A truly gifted athlete can be taught to play baseball. He does not need to be steeped in it his entire life. I believe China has a strong badminton tradition (well, they always win in the Olympics). I could see skills used here translating well into baseball skills. I think the biggest problem would be in convincing the best athletes to take up baseballl. In the DR it’s baseball or dirt farming. China’s a much wealthier nation. Their athletes could make plenty of money succeeding in their own sports.

    Comment by Bill — June 23, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  48. This kind of article is exactly why FanGraphs is my first read every morning. Awesome stuff Bradley.

    Comment by Chris — June 23, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

  49. Holy shit, Liem… you are an idiot. Did you even read the words I wrote?



    Comment by Telo — June 23, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  50. “I… purposely did NOT actually claim that there is disadvantage” – Telo
    “I… purposely did NOT actually claim that there is disadvantage” – Telo
    “I… purposely did NOT actually claim that there is disadvantage” – Telo
    “I… purposely did NOT actually claim that there is disadvantage” – Telo
    “I… purposely did NOT actually claim that there is disadvantage” – Telo
    “I… purposely did NOT actually claim that there is disadvantage” – Telo

    Comment by Telo — June 23, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

  51. Most professional athletes’ listed heights are exaggerated a bit, so there are probably some HOF pitchers that were really under six foot. Are they measured with their shoes (cleats) on?
    Go on IMBD and you can automatically subtract at least two inches off the listed heights for the actors. . .

    Comment by flyingelbowsmash — June 23, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

  52. Yeah, I saw Brian Dennehy in a grocery store once (I think he was in Chicago for Belly Of An Architect), and he must’ve been about 5′ 6″—bit of a letdown somehow.

    Good article, and real good comments, too. Go Altuve!

    Comment by Bob — June 24, 2011 @ 3:11 am

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