The Good Shapers

Last week, I asked you guys to list the players who had been the subject of the great spring training cliche – reporting in the “best shape of their life.” It is remarkable how many times this story has been written. Here’s the list.

Jonathan Sanchez – San Francisco
Carlos Zambrano – Chicago
Geovany Soto – Chicago
Daisuke Matsuzaka – Boston
Mike Pelfrey – New York
Brian McCann – Atlanta
Tim Hudson – Atlanta
Bobby Jenks – Chicago
Delmon Young – Minnesota
David Price – Tampa Bay
Andruw Jones – Chicago
Russell Martin – Los Angeles
Matt Stairs (!) – San Diego
Oliver Perez – New York
Corey Hart – Milwaukee
Aaron Rowand – San Francisco
Jonathan Albaladejo – New York
Ricky Romero – Toronto
Aaron Cook – Colorado
Kyle Blanks – San Diego
Matt Harrison – Texas
Aaron Harang – Cincinnati
Miguel Cabrera – Detroit
Kyle Kendrick – Philadelphia
Nick Swisher – New York
David Wright – New York
David Ortiz – Boston
Martin Prado – Atlanta

That’s 28 guys, and there were a few in the comments that I omitted, because the cited articles were more about rehabbing from an injury than getting in better shape. Needless to say, that’s a big list. The most notable changes seem to belong to Delmon Young, Jonathan Albaladejo, Matt Stairs (hilariously), and Matt Harrison, who were each reported to have dropped 30 pounds.

Of all the guys on the list, perhaps those four best serve as examples of when this story should be written. Someone drops 30 pounds in a winter, well, that’s newsworthy. A lot of the rest of it, though… it’s just filler. Not that you guys need to be reminded of this, of course.

It will be interesting to look back at this list at the end of the year and see how many of these guys beat their projections. If I don’t do that post by November, someone remind me.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

34 Responses to “The Good Shapers”

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  1. Melkmizzle says:

    “Matt Stairs (!) – San Diego” – death rofl…

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  2. Nic says:

    Dave, what about Baker’s post on Junior?

    Maybe not best shape of life, but the rhetoric is there.

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  3. RonDom says:

    I think shaving would take care of the weight for Stairs.

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  4. Joe R says:

    The funniest part of all, Matt Stairs might actually be in his best shape ever.

    Aka he actually went to a gym and after staring in bewilderment at the treadmill for an hour, started his workout regime.

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    • gnomez says:

      I remember watching a Cardinals series against Milwaukee c. 2002 in which Matt Stairs made four diving catches in three games in LF. It was some weird mix of painful, hilarious, and Kafkaesque.

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  5. CJ says:

    What about “I learned a new pitch?” That’s a little bit less common, but still one of the story lines repeated each spring—usually with nothing coming from that new pitch when the season starts.

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  6. lincolndude says:

    I wrote about a related topic the other day in a post about Zobrist. I didn’t exactly reference the “best shape of his life,” but talked a little bit about the closely related story we hear every spring training: “he changed his approach.” This could be a new pitch, a different stance, changing the batting stride — whatever it is, there’s always a lot of emphasis on how it’s going to make the guy a better player, as if he’s going to unlearn all the habits he’s had since little league.

    Anyone have examples of that kind of story this preseason?

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  7. One favor says:


    If you don’t mind, going forward would you be able to distinguish between the Mets and the Yankees?

    When it comes to any and all things health/conditioning related, the Yankees don’t want to catch whatever it is the Mets are infected with by association.


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  8. Temo says:

    Does Jason Heyward putting on 20 lbs of muscle count? I mean, at his age it was forecast that he’d keep filling out, so I’m not sure where “best shape of his life” intersects with “age-related growth”.

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  9. alskor says:

    Holy crap… was just watching Hot Stove on MLBN and they showed Soto, claiming he lost 40 pounds. I believe it. He was unrecognizable. Looked like a completely different person.

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  10. Millsy says:

    I actually did this for the 2008 and 2009 seasons over at Fantasy Ball Junkie. My model was very crude, but it ended up showing nothing. I used simple Marcel projections, and because of the data I had, I had to do an adjusted RC for the true season data (which made most guys underperform their RC projections…nonetheless, that shouldn’t matter much since it’s a relative difference for each player). In general, it seems that the players who are mentioend in the media are different to begin with, but that once controlling for the projection, the projection confidence we have, and the players’ age, any difference we see pretty much goes away. Here’s the link:

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  11. Megary says:

    Charlie Manuel hooked up with NutriSystem or something. He looked good in that blue suit.

    Don’t know if that will increase his Zips projection for mound visits, however…

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  12. chinocochino says:

    Sadly, many baseball players are way out of shape. In terms of conditioning, they can’t even approach physically-demanding activities/sports such as soccer, basketball, and running. Their sport is more skill than athletic ability.

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  13. stormhit says:

    Cabrera taking serious steps to deal with an alcohol problem sounds more like a legitimate story to me than a “wow, he’s in great shape” take.

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  14. Basil Ganglia says:

    In addition to the “best shape of his life” story, there’s the story about how past season the player was concentrating on the wrong. The variant is how the old team/old coach emphasized things that were unimportant and now the player is with a new team/new coach who is a better fit/understands what is really important.

    Which now brings us to Carlos Silva, where he is now happily separated from the Seattle Mariners and their overemphasis on conditioning and fitness.

    Cubs fans can only hope that he is now in shape to eat innings.

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  15. Glanzer says:

    I’m really surprised more players don’t drop 20 pounds or more over the course of a grueling 162-game season + 32 spring training games and hours of daily pre-game workouts and all. Baseball isn’t the most physically demanding sport, but there’s plenty of running and sweating.

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  16. adohaj says:

    When I saw that Delmon Young had reportedly lost 30 pounds I laughed for a long time. Why do you wonder? I laugh because last season an article came out that reported he had lost 20-30 pounds.

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  17. BATTLETANK says:

    Howard has probably lost 50 pounds over the past two years.
    this is a picture taken this week


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  18. Eddie says:

    Can you also do a series on the players in awful shape? I nominate Silva the Hutt.

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  19. Chase says:

    Randy Ruiz of the Blue Jays…

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  20. airlifting says:

    fwiw, soto does look considerably smaller. he’s the only dude on the list that i saw and said “holy shit.” looks half the size he did last year.

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  21. ToddSm66 says:

    Evan Meek added 8 pounds of muscle and says he will hit 100 MPH this year:

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  22. gandriole says:

    Yadier Molina and David Freese need to be added for the Cardinals.

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  23. Big Steve says:

    I’ve heard interviews on the radio about Freese being in the best shape of his life, but I couldn’t find an article on it.

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  24. Chase says:

    Blaine Boyer of Arizona dropped 22 pounds in the offseason…That automatically makes him the early favorite for NL Cy Young

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  25. JayZ says:

    One more, Travis Hafner, an intriguing one, but one I don’t buy:

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  26. I have been to your site several times now, and this time I am adding it to my bookmarks :) Your posts are always relevant, unlike the same-old stuff on other sites (which are coming off my bookmarks!) Two thumbs up!

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  27. Dick says:

    That really is something. Baseball is the only sport where you can have big belly and still earn millions from it. Some of the pitchers are really strong but I really doubt if they can move even just a little bit quickly.

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  28. redsock says:

    Miguel Cabrera is already on the list, but … here’s Jim Leyland:

    “I think Miguel Cabrera is probably going to have the biggest year of his life. And I know for a fact — without getting into this situation — I know for a fact that Miguel Cabrera is in the best shape of his life. He’s stronger than he’s ever been and he’s quicker than he’s ever been.”

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  29. JoeIQ says:

    You did a follow up on the hitters, but haven’t seen one on the pitchers yet.

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