Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Home Run Derby Hangover

Ryan Braun is heading to the Home Run Derby. He will be the seventh player to represent the Brewers in the event.

"If I'm invited, I'll do it for sure," Braun said on Wednesday. "I think you owe it to the fans. If you're lucky enough to be invited, I think you should do it."
By contrast, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez will sit out the Home Run Derby, despite being the Major League home run leader last year and despite the game being played in his home stadium. He prefers to protect his swing.

In 2005, Bobby Abreu hit a record 41 home runs in the Home Run Derby. The rest of the season he hit only 6 in 265 at bats. Last Year David Wright of the Mets hit 20 homers before participating in the Derby and only 6 after. Do we need to worry about Ryan Braun ruining his swing and jepordizing his second half production by participating in the Home Run Derby this year?

I compiled the pre- and post- All-Star Game stats of every player who has participated in the Home Run Derby in the last 5 years. In terms of raw numbers, yes there has been a drop off in home run production from those who participated:


HR
1st half 839
2nd half 604
(Stats represent 40 players and over 25,000 plate appearances.)

However, those numbers don't tell the entire story. If you convert all of their stats to averages, a drop off is much less apparent:


BA SLG HR/PA
1st half 0.301 0.570 0.066
2nd half 0.297 0.550 0.061

Consider a couple of things. The All-Star Game is played slightly after the mid-way point of the season. It stands to reason that there would be more of anything before the break than after. Also, the players selected to participate in the Home Run Derby are players who likely are having high power production first halfs - often way above their career norms. The Derby has featured such non-sluggers as Bret Boone (24 1st half homers), Hank Blaylock (23), and Hee-Seop Choi (13). It shouldn't be surprising if these players come back to earth after the All-Star Game and see lower home run numbers.

For every player who has had a drop off in home run production in the second half, there's another who clearly did not. Last year Matt Holiday hit 15 before the break and 21 after. Prince Fielder was 29 and 21. Ryan Howard had 21 before and 26 after.

I think the Home Run Derby hangover is a myth. Ryan Braun should participate and Brewers fans should have nothing to worry about when he does so. Alex Rodriguez should stop snubbing his fans and participate too. By all indications, his swing is just fine.

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