Jack Of All Trades: Baseball’s Roundest

They are the men who made you question the aspect ratio of your television. They are the men who cried out in the night about the cruel, one-size-fits-all nature of per diem meal money. They are the men who convinced your Uncle Al he was in shape, because he was thinner than a professional athlete.

These are some of baseball's most rotund individuals, and the trades that shaped their careers as surely as those Spanx for Men failed them. I have avoided simply going by weight. After all, Jon Rauch tips the scales at 290, but he's 6'11". Any skinnier, and hordes of mothers would pour out of the stands, Morganna-style, armed with soup.

But Jumbo Brown tipped the scales at 295, stood just 6'4", and stands as the weightiest pitcher ever traded. Brown was sold twice and traded at the end of his career. Near the end of a strong 1941 season out of the bullpen for the Giants – a 113 ERA+ in 57 innings – the Cardinals acquired Brown and a player to be named later for Lefty Sunkel. Sunkel was, you guessed it, a lefty pitcher. He pitched sporadically for the Giants over the next few years, while Brown went on to serve honorably in the United States Navy. I certainly won't judge this trade a failure for St. Louis simply because the team failed to anticipate the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Another player who's been profitable for big and tall shops is C.C. Sabathia, who continues to ply his trade for the New York Yankees. Sabathia was traded just once, by the Cleveland Indians, for Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Rob Bryson and Zach Jackson. While it is too early to completely judge this trade – Brantley and LaPorta still have bright futures, despite rocky early major league careers – no one would claim that Milwaukee erred by trading for Sabathia. If the Brewers made a mistake, it was letting Sabathia leave as a free agent.

Among portly pitchers, I would be remiss not to mention Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons, of course. Based on his listed measurements, it looks like Fat Freddie got a bad rap – he was just 5'11", 185 pounds. Put it this way – to measure up to the weightiest man in baseball history, he would have to have eaten Freddie Patek.

Fitzsimmons was traded in the midst of his 13th season with the New York Giants, a successful run of 111 ERA+ over 2514 1/3 innings. The Dodgers acquired him for Tom Baker, who had the nickname "Rattlesnake", suggesting Baker cut a very different figure. While Baker soon fizzled, Fitzsimmons actually pitched better with the Dodgers – an ERA+ of 116 over seven seasons – than he did with the Giants. The Dodgers certainly never regretted that deal.

Among hitters, one man casts a shadow over his peers when it comes to sheer tonnage – and it seems fair to wonder if his weight cost him major league jobs he could have filled. Walter Young, all 6'5", 320 pounds of him, did nothing but hit everywhere he went. At age 21, he posted a .953 OPS in Single-A. Still, the Pirates waived him, and Baltimore picked him up. He hit 33 home runs for Baltimore's Double-A team in 2004, and when he got the big league call in 2005, he put up a 115 OPS+ over 37 plate appearances. The Padres picked him up on waivers from Baltimore, however, and Young lost the first base job in the spring of 2006 to some guy named Adrian Gonzalez.

Sure, there have been the Calvin Pickerings, the Joey Meyers, the generations of Fielders… but no one weighed in within 30 pounds of Walter Young among position players. And far lesser hitters got more opportunities to show teams what they could do.

Rounding out the everyday players, I have to mention John Kruk, listed at 5'10", 170, but, well, clearly not. Kruk penned the epic autobiography "I Ain't An Athlete, Lady", but he sure hit like an athlete. The Padres traded Kruk, along with utilityman Randy Ready, to the Phillies for outfielder Chris James during the 1989 season. While James provided value as a fourth outfielder for an array of teams, Kruk was a middle-of-the-order bat for Philadelphia, hitting at a 138 OPS+ clip over six seasons with the Phillies.

Again and again, the men who know plenty about seconds did plenty to help their teams finish first. When evaluating trades in the future, stats like WAR are useful, to be sure. But it may be best to simply use a deli scale.


Leave a Reply

47 Comments on "Jack Of All Trades: Baseball’s Roundest"


4 years 6 months ago

A guy in my fantasy league once had a rotation of Sabathia, Sidney Ponson and Bartolo Colon….

4 years 6 months ago

I just think of Rich “El Guapo” Garces when it comes to big guys in baseball.

Chris Solberg
4 years 6 months ago

First player I thought of.

4 years 6 months ago

How can this article not talk about Bartolo Colon?

Bonesaw McGraw
4 years 6 months ago

….or Prince Fielder. He’s sorta box-shaped though.

s8n666
4 years 6 months ago
Lunchbox45
4 years 6 months ago

Any skinnier, and hordes of mothers would pour out of the stands, Morganna-style, armed with soup.

Howard….well done my friend, well done

xcfan
4 years 6 months ago

Carlos Silva?????

4 years 6 months ago

What about Terry Forster, made famous when David Letterman referred to him as a “fat tub of goo”? Or Hector Villanueva, Bob “the Hammer” Hamelin, “Kung Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval, Charley Kerfeld, Rick “Big Daddy” Reuschel (and his fatter, less-talented brother Paul), and the late, great Rod Beck?

BlueSkyLA
4 years 6 months ago

Darn, you beat me to the tub of goo. So what about Tony Gwynn? The Babe?

MrTriandos
4 years 6 months ago

The Molina boys, especially Bengie and Jose, aren’t exactly slim.

Ricardo Elorza
4 years 6 months ago

This article needs more Sidney Ponson

Mick_In_Ithaca
4 years 6 months ago

Sid Fernandez? The amazing size of his butt during his delivery. It was always astonishing to see him pitch.

massage_1953
4 years 6 months ago

Mickey Lolich was not skinny

4 years 6 months ago

Mo Vaughn! Baseball-Reference has him listed as only 225 pounds but he was obviously way, way heavier than that.

4 years 6 months ago

Tub of goo….. Terry Forster.

4 years 6 months ago

This article isn’t complete without a reference to Heath Bell. Yeah, not quite the same physique as Krukker, but the man’s known for wearing T-shirts that say “I’m in shape. Round is a shape.” That’s got to count for something.

ironnat
4 years 6 months ago

David Wells also comes to mind. I remember seeing Sidney Ponson in street clothes once and thinking I have never seen a more unathletic looking Major League player in my life.

4 years 6 months ago

What about fat Joba Chamberlain? Derek Jeter better get to the pre-game meal early or he will look as if he is from ethiopia. Imagine the rush of CC, Colon and Joba running to the buffet !!!

Scott Houlihan
4 years 6 months ago

Dennys Reyes anyone? The dude is named after a restaurant and his nickname is “the big sweat” come on.

ZeroZeroZero
4 years 6 months ago

What, no love for Ray King?
Anybody remember Terry ‘Big Tub Of Goo’ Forester and his “Fat Is In” rap?

KennyLoftonsBottom
4 years 6 months ago

Glad somebody mentioned Ray King. I always liked the guy, for some reason, but he did look pregnant.

wkkortas
4 years 6 months ago

Ray King should have had a “Stay Back 500 Feet” sign on the back of his pants.

4 years 6 months ago

Why has no body mentioned guys named FIELDER?

maddog12
4 years 6 months ago

Fernando Valenzuela

02waster
4 years 6 months ago

it’s mentioned in the article

4 years 6 months ago

First player I think of is Mo Vaughn, that guy was huge.