18 February 2010

Hey Hey Kids, It's Matt Hobgood

Steve Melewski put out a couple posts yesterday that were focused on an interview with Matt Hobgood. As mentioned here and elsewhere earlier, Hobgood spent the winter at API getting in shape and working on nutrition. He mentioned that he is becoming more comfortable throwing a changeup, but it certainly sounds like a work in progress. That is to be expected. Early reports last year from Baseball America suggested that his repertoire flashed plus potential, but it is becoming more apparent that they misspoke or that they were focusing on his fastball and curveball. It makes sense as most high school pitchers are facing a level of competition where two excellent pitches can result in dominance. The biggest knock on Hobgood was that it did not appear that he had all that high of a potential and that his body and mechanics were so that there did not appear to be much more velocity he could add to his pitches.

What people have focused on though was this comment:

"About a week into API, I went with a company that delivers your food and was on an 1800-calorie per day plan. I did that plan for about a month."

Hobgood said he reduced his body fat from 22 to 17 percent, a nice reduction for about three months of work. Hobgood is 6'4", 245 pounds and he'll likely play at a similar weight this year.

"I didn't get to where they wanted me weight wise. I lost about 17 pounds of body fat and gained nine pounds of muscle. That's 26 pounds total if I had taken off that muscle.

I guess first off, I am very much confused by that last passage. Based on his statements it sounds like he was at 253 lbs and 22% body fat (56lbs of fat) and is now at 245 lbs and 17% body fat (42lbs of fat). I'm not sure you can just add and subtract fat and muscle like he did . . . but that really does not matter. What is noted is that at the end of last season Matt Hobgood was 22% body fat. That is news to me. Last summer, in response to fans concerns about Hobgood's conditioning, Orioles Hangout founder Tony Pente said that he was told that Hobgood's percent body fat was under ten percent. It was a suspicious statement as one could see from pictures that Hobgood was nowhere near showing off a six-pack, but I think most translated that to be slight hyperbole and that the true value was about 15% or so. It is also noted that he was able to slim down to 17%, which is a major drop. Or it sounds like a major drop.

Needless to say, Hobgood was not a popular pick by many. Although the Orioles say differently, it appears he was a signability pick that enabled Joe Jordan to go overslot for guys like Cameron Coffey and Micheal Ohlman as opposed to spending a couple million more on a talent that higher consensus appeal (i.e. Ryan Wheeler, Tyler Matzek). Hobgood then showed up to Bluefield out of shape, pitched relatively poorly, and spent time working on a changeup than showing off what he does best. Now, the current revelation fuels people's concern about his conditioning although the article appears fairly positive about his condition. Hobgood does appear to be taking nutrition and working out seriously. His one month on the 1800 calorie a day diet maybe taught him how to change his meals.

So what do all of these percentages mean? What is considered normal for an average person or an average baseball player?

Find out after the jump.

To remind you, Hobgood was at 22% at the beginning of the offseason and was able to reduce that to 17%. Here are the recommendations by the The American Council on Exercise for males:

Basal Fat: 2-4%
Athletes: 6-13%
Fitness: 14-17%
Acceptable: 18-26%
Overweight: 27-35%
Obese: >36%

Based on these values, Hobgood was in the mid-range for acceptable and slimmed down to the upper limit of fitness. Here is another scale, the United States Army has a program where "unfit" soldiers are required to change their lifestyle and diet if they are measured as having a fat percentage that is greater than what is permitted. It is age based and again these are the numbers for males:

Ages 17-20: 20%
Ages 21-27: 22%
Ages 28-39: 24%
Ages >39: 26%

If Hobgood had enlisted, he would have had to have undergone personal counseling to change his habits. He no longer qualifies at those levels anymore. The US Army would consider him fit. The Marine Corps is a bit more stringent and requires for Hobgood's age group to be below 18% and to never exceed 22%.

So all of this is interesting, but what about baseball players? Baseball players and their fitness is different than the average person or today's war fighter. The best I could find was Coleman and Lansky's 1992 paper Assessing Running Speed and Body Composition in Professional Baseball Players. This document present that average percent body fat with respect to different positions around the diamond. One would expect that fitness levels have improved since 1992, so these numbers may be different 18 years later. The averages are as follows:

Catchers: 9.7%
Infielders: 9.3%
Outfielders: 8.4%
Pitchers: 10.4%

Now, this looks incredibly dated to me. Baseball players back then were incredibly lean, so I hit the University Library and found Hoffman et al's 2009 paper: Anthropometric and performance comparisons in professional baseball players. Here are the averages separated by level:

Rookie: 12.0 +/- 3.5 %
A Ball: 12.4 +/- 3.6 %
AA Ball: 12.8 +/- 2.9 %
AAA Ball: 13.7 +/- 3.4 %
MLB Ball: 13.8 +/- 3.0 % (which is similar to Coleman's 1998 study on a smaller population of MLB players which found 12.5 +/- 5.5 %)

What is interesting about these two papers is this. We can assume that the distribution of body fat amongst positions is the same as it was. Using this approach, we can modify % body fat by position and league. By doing this, we acknowledge that putting one percent body fat for all infielders and another for all outfielders is problematic as there are significant differences in body type and leanness between these positions. For use as an average and being interested in pitchers though, we think this is a fine approach. The limit of this approach then is obviously useful for pitchers and catchers . . . no other positions. So, the coefficient for use here would be 1.09 for pitchers. This would make the percent body fat chart look like this assuming the same standard deviation:

Rookie: 13.1 +/- 3.5 %
A Ball: 13.5 +/- 3.6 %
AA Ball: 14.0 +/- 2.9 %
AAA Ball: 14.9 +/- 3.4 %
MLB Ball: 15.0 +/- 3.0 %

So what does this all mean?

Hobgood probably should be identified as a Rookie level pitcher even though he will most likely be in A Ball this year. Rookie level is the most conservative estimate here, so this is what we will use. This gives us the following table assuming normal distribution.

2.2 % (-2 standard deviations) of Rookie level pitchers below 6.1% body fat
15.8 % (-1 sd) below 9.6% body fat
50 % below 13.1% body fat
84.1% below 16.6% body fat
97.7% below 19.7% body fat
99.8% below 23.2% body fat

Hobgood's weight appears to have been somewhat deviant based on what you would expect. It still is. If you count him as an A ball pitcher, about 84% of pitchers at his level have lower body fat. Count in his age, which is about a year or two younger than the others . . . and it looks a little worse for him. At 22% he would have been in the 99th percentile, which is great for the SATs . . . not so great for this metric.

That being said, he could be a player who has been largely ignorant of proper heath and fitness approaches. The Orioles and Hobgood both have it in their best interests to change his past behavior and this past offseason bodes well for him. He currently is not in a good position, but he is certainly much better off than he was. Conditioning is probably still a concern for him, but it is an issue that he is improving quite rapidly.


DempseysArmy said...

re: Signability pick...While a lot of scouting and scouting press say they probably wouldn't have picked him where the Orioles did, they all seem to agree it wasn't a horrible pick. I think that needs to be noted.

Jon Shepherd said...

Right this was not a Matt Bush selection. I think the consensus now is that he is probably around the 7th or 8th best pitching prospect in the draft last year. Given that not every group scouts like the others, it is certainly possible that Jordan felt that Hobgood was the best pitcher available at that slot. Jordan does tend to go his own way quite often.

Anonymous said...

Just curious how you came up with the title to this article. It sounds an awful lot like a spin on the famous line from an old Bill Cosby show.

Jon Shepherd said...

It is sort of a sarcastic remark about how some are worrying, in my opinion, too much about Hobgood's conditioning.

Conditioning will be a concern, but I do not think it is a determining factor in how far Matt makes it.

Northwood said...

Do we Knight him now or wait for him to break our hearts a few times first?