Margin of Success Determined by Length of Hair

Tim Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young winner. After his second award in 2009, three years into the Major Leagues, the San Francisco Giants’ pitcher was known for his high leg kick, devastating 97-mph fastball and the nickname ‘The Freak’.

Oh, and of course, his somewhat greasy, tucked behind his ears, shoulder length hair.

Fast forward to six years in the big time, and Lincecum’s hair is gone. But so are the numbers that earned him his recognition. From 2011 to 2012, his 66 earned runs turned into more like 107 and his earned run average soared to 4.18. So he made the cut, earning a look that compared him to the likes of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Sure, celebrities alter their hair all the time. Taylor Swift held a viewing party when she chopped off her locks, and Miley Cyrus’s pixie cut trended on twitter after its public appearance. For them, it was a fresh new direction of their career.

For baseball players, especially pitchers, the hair holds powers in their statistics, their wins, and their post-season play. If you’re going to be at the World Series, better have the facial hair to prove it. You don’t just win to get there, you grow out your facial hair just to make sure everyone knows how far you’ve really made it.

And these Giants we mentioned, in the past five years, they’ve won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Each time, their hair stands out as they let it grow till they lose. And each World Series, every viewer realizes how terrorizing Hunter Pence’s facial hair can be, how physically large Bruce Bochy’s features are, and how Buster Posey still doesn’t have enough scruff to purchase a razor. The players chuck the blades and let loose, cutting out everything in their lives but the hair: losses, errors, strikeouts and their wives’ respect.

Let’s shift out of the Lincecum era and into Clayton Kershaw’s, the dominating Los Angeles pitcher who has won three Cy Youngs in the past four years with even more dominating sideburns. The one year he didn’t win? In 2012, when another hair-worthy peer won the award with a knuckle ball and a middle parted flow: R.A. Dickey.

Can’t grow a beard? Don’t try to pitch in the big leagues. Your lack of facial hair paired with thin, sweaty locks will halt your career. It’s all in the genes—not the build that will allow you to overpower batters with an upper 90’s fastball, or the mentality that teaches you to make batters chase on an 0-2 count. It’s in the hair.

Need more proof? Go back to last year’s 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Jacob DeGrom. The kid’s got an afro. Long limbs and auburn hair that pops out underneath his New York Mets’ jersey. Rewind even further and entertain Goose Gossage and his wild facial hair—some scruff perfectly shaved to the only the sides of his mouth. Gossage was a closer with a 22-year big league career who retired with 310 saves.

Or even to this year’s 2015 World Series – the Mets had some hair, dominated by DeGrom and Noah Syndegaurd, the two young starters who led the Mets through the post-season.

There is a case to be made for hair representing success in baseball. Maybe it’s the distraction, maybe it’s the aerodynamics, maybe it’s the secret. Maybe it should be the strategy for the 2016 World Series champion or the Cy Young winner.

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