By Jack Kennedy
Ever since Jayson Werth dawned his Chewbacca-esque beard, players have been growing them in droves. Players like Jake Arrieta and Jose Bautista come to mind when I think of those with the most powerful facial hair in the game, but does it matter in terms of ability? Does having a beard make you better at hitting a baseball?
In order for someone to answer that, they would have to look over nearly every MLB team’s active roster and handpick the important stats for comparison, but who has that kind of time? Lucky for you, I do. After spending a strenuous seven hours looking through major league players, I have determined the average stats, both regular and advanced, that each group of hitters produces. (maybe determining pitching stats will come later?) For qualification, I considered the size of the beard… and that’s basically it. If you have to look at it and think “does this count as facial hair?” the answer is no. Let me put it this way…
If it looks like it’s just a weird shadow or possibly leftover food, then no. If it looks like a high schooler doing his best, I’ll give it to ‘em.
Now that we have the very rigid qualifications out of the way, let’s get into some speculation. Personally, as a bearded individual myself, I believe that having a beard will marginally improve one’s play. My theory goes beyond personal bias. Those with facial hair have more testosterone, and the thicker the hair the more the testosterone. Because testosterone is associated with muscle growth and even competitive nature, it would not be far fetched to assume that facial hair as a result of more testosterone would lead to a more driven and athletic ball player. While obviously, nearly all ballplayers can grow a beard, the ones who truly embrace it are the subjects of my test. Below I have compiled the results of my findings.
For the most part, it’s about even between the two, but the clean-shaven players have a slight advantage in games played, home runs, RBIs, runs, and a decently substantial advantage in WAR coming in .3 above their bearded peers. The averages table breaks down below:
However, this does not tell a complete story due to a 6 game difference in games played. Because of this, it is important to factor in the stats for a full season over 162 games:
While there is still an advantage in RBI’s, the other season-long stats seem to normalize themselves a lot closer to each other, and the two types of hitters seem to be a lot closer in value until you get to WAR. In terms of WAR, there is still a large lead for the clean-shaven players. While conventional numbers show they are roughly the same an entire .3 lead in WAR is enough for me to say that players who are clean-shaven are in fact better ball players.
So yes, contrary to my original opinion and hope, having a beard most certainly hinders one’s ability to play baseball, and K Zone Creator Mike Duffy says, “That’s why the Yankees always win,” although maybe the reason the clean-shaven players had an advantage is that the Yankees players are shaven and due to the level of talent they have they skew the data. Perhaps maybe bearded players are more precise in the way they carry out their daily lives, and baseball is a precision sport, but this is difficult to speculate on. It may be impossible to determine the reason for the advantage, but either way I know I will be shaving before my season starts.