A recent study commissioned by a men’s grooming company confirmed for baseball players what comedians already know. The beard has incredible power. Zach Galifiankis has a beard. Louis CK, Wyatt Cenac, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Posehn all sport a range of stubble. George Carlin went beard and ponytail. Conan is better on his gloomy days, unshaven with a loosened tie. Nick Offerman has a ‘stache of steel and fellow P&R man Aziz Ansari just hasn’t been the same since he shaved his fah-che for a damn movie. God. God has a beard.
The study, commissioned by Wahl and run by STATS.com, links All Star Game performance to facial hair. And while you may not care, your boyfriend does. He’s in three fantasy leagues and tomorrow’s game in Queens is the only baseball he’ll have for a few days. The last six MVP trophies belong to mustachioed and bearded ball players. And in the Home Run Derby, baby faces are taking a lickin’ too, according to the study.
The MVP streak dates back to 2007 when Ichiro Suzuki – pre-Yankees, of course – sparked the trend by going three for three, and yard, to lead the AL to glory. One of baseball’s leading sartorialists accepted the award in a black suit with a perfect five-o-clock shadow. Last year, Melky Cabrera and his drug-enhanced chinstrap went 2-for-3 with two RBI, two runs and a homer off Ranger pitcher Matt Harrison. In 2011, Prince Fielder drove in three off one CJ Wilson pitch. His short dreads and woodsy Wisconsin beard were enough to distract any pitcher, weren’t they? A year before that: Brian McCann’s ginger goatee single-handedly pinch-hit a three-run double in the seventh. JD Drew’s billy goat patch helped him turn on an Edison Volquez pitch to tie up the National League’s 2-0 lead en route to the ALs 4-3 victory in 2009.
The only MVP without a homer was Carl Crawford, who kept the streak alive in 2008 by the scraggly hairs on his chinny chin chin. He went 1-3 with no RBIs or runs but chased down and then stole a Brad Hawpe home run off the top of the center field wall. The catch saved a one-run victory for the AL, their last Midsummer Classic W.
Including Crawford’s mediocre day at the plate, the grizzly MVPs hit .589 with four homers and 12 RBI, leading the way for a facial-haired onslaught. In the past ten years, the STATS/Wahl study says, bearded, ‘stached, goateed and mutton-chopped batters hit .287 with a .780 OPS compared to clean-shaven batters at .226 and .655.
The Home Run Derby favors the stubbly, too. David Ortiz (chinstrap) has 77 HR over the past decade, while Fielder 63 and Pujols (goatee) 50 are second and third overall. Ryan Howard and Bobby Abreau tie for 41, meanwhile, to lead the baby-faced brigade. Four players over that period entered the derby but completely whiffed on hitting a home run. Their faces? You guessed it: Smooth as a goose egg.
SO Note: Follow Greg @gregtspielberg, and check out the Home Run Derby tonight on EPSN at 8pmEST and the All-Star game tomorrow on FOX at 7:30pmEST.