See why pitchers like CC Sabathia never should have lost weight.
Studies have proven that weight gain and pitch velocity are positively correlated. In other words, if a pitcher gains weight, his fastball will inevitably be thrown harder. In my Junior year in high school, I was 6‘0” tall and weighed in at 155 lbs. I was determined to play college ball, and I knew that I needed to start to throw harder, and so, without prior knowledge of this study, I put on 25 lbs. Even though I decided against playing college baseball, I’m still living proof of the fact that a bit of weight gain can go a long way for a pitcher’s velocity.
In the MLB, it’s not uncommon to find overweight pitchers trying to lose weight in the hopes of getting into better shape, and improving their health and performance. Unfortunately, however, for most guys this strategy does not work with respect to their performance.
CC Sabathia is a great example of this. Prior to 2013, Sabathia was an elite pitcher. An All-Star in three of his first four years as a Yankee, he was proving to be worth his contract. Slowly, however, his performance started to suffer when he began to lose weight following the 2011 season. Here it is nicely laid out for us:
Weight- 315 lbs.
Fastball Average Velocity- 93.9 MPH
Weight- 290 lbs.
Fastball Average Velocity- 92.4 MPH
Weight- 275 lbs.
Fastball Average Velocity- 91.3 MPH
2014 *Injured, only pitched in 8 games
Weight- 270 lbs.
Fastball Average Velocity- 89.6 MPH
This weight-loss effect has not only been seen in Sabathia but in others as well. For example, Tim Lincecum weighed 197 lbs. in 2011 in his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance. In 2012, weighing in at 175 lbs., however, his ERA spiked 2.44 points up to 5.18.
For some players, weight loss actually does the trick. R.A. Dickey lost 10 lbs. between 2011 and his 2012 Cy Young season. Without a big enough sample size and too many other variables (i.e. contract-year seasons, injuries, age, etc.) to account for, it’s almost impossible to definitively state whether or not weight loss and pitching performance are directly related—although, we can say that weight and velocity are directly related. We can, however, certainly see some trends.
After putting some weight back on, Sabathia checked-in to Spring Training in 2015 at 305 pounds, stating that he felt a bit light the past few seasons. He has a lot to prove, and it will be interesting to see whether or not he bounces back with a few extra pounds on him.
Edited by Alan Carabes.
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