Small Frame, Big Game: Why Size Doesn't Matter In The MLB
The bigger the better, right?
Baseball has always been a game where any talented individual could pick up a bat or glove and show off his skills - despite his size.
Bigger men generally have an advantage in the Major Leagues. They can throw harder, run faster, and hit more powerful. They are unique physical specimen, and people marvel at their strength.
Take Prince Fielder, for example. People are awestruck not only by his size, but his tremendous amount of power. He can hit a baseball just as far as any in the league, and probably farther. His size definitely contributes to why he's a good ball player.
But size really doesn't matter. Just look at the careers of these three men who have been gracing the diamond for the past several years, despite their lack of size.
David Eckstein is currently listed at 5'7" and 175 pounds. I've never stood next to the guy, but I have a feeling that those numbers are pretty generous. Eckstein has been a thorn in the sides of pitchers ever since he came up in 2001, but it's not because he can hit the long ball.
It's because he's a ball player.
Eckstein has just 35 home runs in his career (if Albert Pujols had that in a single season he would consider it a down year), and has never hit more than 26 doubles in a season. What makes him so special then?
Here's your answer: the guy never strikes out and is great at doing the little things in the game.
He's struck out just 418 times in his career (Mark Reynolds would get that in two seasons), and can be counted on in any situation to lay down a bunt or make a tough defensive catch.
Despite not having a very strong arm, he releases the ball quickly and almost always gets the out.
An All-Star in 2005 and 2006, Eckstein also won the World Series MVP Award in 2006 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Big award for such a little guy.
Next, we'll look at the 5'9'', 175 pound Brian Roberts.
Roberts has been a constant on the Orioles since 2003, and owns a career .283/.355/.419 slash line. He has proved that he can hit over his career.
He led the league in doubles in 2004 and 2009, hitting 50 and 56, respectively. His best hitting season came in 2005 when he hit 18 home runs with 73 RBI's and hit an above average .314.
Despite the nice productivity at the plate, its Roberts' speed and hustle that makes him such a huge asset to the Orioles. He stole a league leading 50 bases in 2007 and has 268 in his career. Add in the fact that he's only been caught 66 times, and you've got yourself a reliable base stealer.
Roberts sports a very respectable .987 fielding percentage, and has never made more than 11 errors in a full season (he made 16 errors in 63 games in 2001).
He has scored over 90 runs in his career five times, and he was an All-Star in 2005 and 2007.
Despite the great numbers, Roberts may not be the best small guy in the game today.
The Red Sox' 5'9'', 180 pounds Dustin Pedroia really packs a punch despite his smaller frame. His career slash line is .305/.369/.460, and has 54 home runs in his four full seasons in the league.
He led the league in runs in 2008 and 2009, with 118 and 115, respectively. He also led the league in hits in 2008 with 213 and doubles with 54.
Pedroia is difficult to strike out, he's never had more than 52 strikeouts in a season, and has more walks in his career (215) than strikeouts (184).
The infielder is also a superb defender, making only 24 errors over his five year career. His Gold Glove Award in 2008 recognized his defensive skill.
He's won more awards than just that Gold Glove. He was an All-Star in 2008, 2009, and 2010, he was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2007, the AL MVP in 2008, and the winner of the AL Silver Slugger Award for second basemen in 2008.
The man can flat out play, even though he's a little on the small side.
Baseball really is a game for everyone, and anybody can succeed with a little bit of talent. Eckstein, Roberts, and Pedroia have clearly been able to harness that talent and compete with the likes of big men Prince Fielder, Pablo Sandoval, and Adam Dunn for spots on Major League rosters.
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