Debunking The Derby

by George on July 20, 2008

The second half of the baseball season is underway, and memories of All-Star Weekend are still quasi-fresh in our minds. The game itself was great, but vastly overshadowing it was the Home Run Derby and more notably, the show that Josh Hamilton put on. Hamilton belted a record 28 homers in one round – although he lost in the finals to Justin Morneau, it was still probably the greatest display ever at the event.

In recent years, balls have been jumping out of the park quicker and more frequently than ever, with hitters adjusting their swings and solely focusing on the long ball to try and one-up each other and give the fans something to remember. Bobby Abreu hit a whopping 41 total homers when he won in 2005, but then had a horrible 2nd half of the season.

The theory now goes that altering one’s swing for the Derby is a death blow to 2nd half hopes. Apparently you just get in the mindset of hitting homers and forget about the gaping hole in the infield through which you can safely bounce one through to get to 1st.

I’ve decided to look back to Derbies since 2000 (since this is when our juiced up boys really upped the homer pace – unlike years past when beanpoles like Ryne Sandberg could win it with 3 jacks) to see whether or not big-time home run hitters really do adversely affect themselves by putting on a show and winning the Derby.

Here come the numbers:

2000 – Sammy Sosa, 26 total homers

Coming into the Derby, Sosa was hitting .305 with 23 HR and 74 RBI. After the break, he hit .338 with 27 HR and 64 RBI. Slammin’ Sammy’s a beast – this type of thing wasn’t gonna affect him.

2001 – Luis Gonzalez, 16 total homers

Ahh yes – the year Gonzo went gonzo and hit 35 first half homers along with a .335 avg and 86 RBI. Ridiculous. No mortal could sustain such a pace, so I don’t think the Derby would be to blame for his “drop off” to a mere .290-22-66 in the second half.

2002 – Jason Giambi, 24 total homers

From .318-22-71 to .309-19-51 in 17 less games. Stashe is a meathead who hurls his entire roided being towards the stands on every pitch. He had nothing to change for the Derby.

2003 – Garret Anderson, 22 total homers

The onset of injuries in the 2nd half caused a substantial drop in stats. Is it due to a Derby-related malady? Nah – dude just got old.

2004 – Miguel Tejada, 27 total homers

Here is where it starts to get interesting. Yes, Tejada always put up numbers, but few thought of him as an over-the-top slugger who could just mash. You would think that out of anyone, it would be a guy like this who would fade in the second half after a big performance. However, Tejada had nearly identical numbers in the second half, from .311-15-75 to .311-19-75 – creepy.

2005 – Bobby Abreu, 41 total homers

And here we are. Yikes. Abreu went from a formidable .304-15-58 first half to a mere .268-9-44 in the second. Same amount of games played, with a few more at-bats in the second half. It definitely got to Abreu, and he’s been somewhat sapped of power ever since.

2006 – Ryan Howard, 23 total homers

To me, Howard’s performance was the best I’ve ever seen (no offense, Josh). A walk-off blast that finds the “Hit It Here” sign? Amazing. Oh yeah – stats. Howard turned it up in the second half, going from .278-28-71 to .355-30-78. He’s a power hitter tried and true. He didn’t need to change a thing.

2007 – Vladimir Guerrero, 17 total homers

Vladdy’s run production dipped a bit in the second half due to some missed games, but otherwise he was on par, even hitting more homers after the break than he did before. He swings at anything anyways, so its not like he was operating outside of his comfort zone during the Derby.

Conclusion

There is no Home Run Derby curse. Bobby Abreu just sucks. Let’s move on now and start talking up the Madden curse in anticipation of next month’s release. Brett Favre is on the cover. Weird.

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