The MLB All-Star Game and all of the festivities that surround it are headed our way next week. My favorite event of the break is the Home Run Derby. It’s been my favorite since I was a kid. It’s the one chance in the season to see normally focused and restrained players break out of their shells and have some fun. There’s sweaty man hugs with David Ortiz, there’s houses to be won, there’s backwards caps, and grown men falling over in fits of laughter.
Not to mention the multitude of towering home runs.
But, what effect do those myriad home runs on the players. You see them sweating and panting after Round 2, and damn near dead if they make it into the finals.
Well, that got me thinking about the power drop offs we saw after the break from Garrett Anderson in 2003, Bobby Abreu in 2005, David Wright and Miguel Tejada in 2006, and Alex Rios and Justin Morneau in 2007. Could the Home Run Derby have a longer lasting effect on players than we previously thought?
I did some number crunching from the past five seasons comparing Home Run Derby participants and their pre-All Star and post-All Star numbers. What I found was somewhat surprising.
Among the players participating in the Home Run Derby, we see their home run numbers drop from .248 home runs per game to .217 home runs per game. That’s a drop off of 12.5%. But, if you look a little deeper, things get weird.
Of the players who went out in the first round, we see them fall from .268 HRPG to .223 HRPG (16.9% drop off). We also see the finalists fall from .210 HRPG to .180 HRPG (14.3% drop off). However, the players who went out in the second round only dropped from .245 HRPG to .242 HRPG (a 1.4% drop off).
Here’s some other interesting stuff from the past five years. You’ll notice that the players who made it to the final round of the Derby were only hitting .210 HRPG before falling to .180. That’s only around 17-18 HRs before the break on average. The guys who went out in the first round were the pre-All Star sluggers by comparison, hitting around 22-23 HRs before the break. The guys going out in the second round would fall around 20-21 HRs.
Why is that? Well, if you throw coincidence out the window, my theory is this: You’ve got power hitters going out in the first round, hitting only 2-3 home runs. They question their ability, maybe even try to overcompensate.
The “less powerful” guys who make it to the finals and drop off, well let me equate it to this: You are a social smoker. You smoke at parties or at the bar. On your birthday, you go out and get WASTED and smoke a whole pack in one night. You feel sick the next day, just awful. Well, the day after that, now you’re trying to smoke during coffee breaks, you’re smoking in the car on the way to work. But, it doesn’t feel right and you just end up choking.
The guys who go out in the second round, well, they made it far enough, their ego is neither inflated or deflated by the situation. They can walk out with their heads held high and not change anything about their style.
Now, let’s use this information and see if we can’t come up with some unofficial pronostications? So far, we have six confirmed participants: Ryan Braun (22 HR/.250 HRPG), Lance Berkman (22 HR/.244 HRPG), Josh Hamilton (20 HR/.225 HRPG), Grady Sizemore (22 HR/.253 HRPG), Dan Uggla (23 HR/.299 HRPG), and Chase Utley (25 HR/.275 HRPG).
Looking at these numbers, it would appear that Josh Hamilton and Lance Berkman would fall into the “Finalists” category. Ryan Braun and Grady Sizemore fall into the 2nd Rounders, and Uggla and Utley will be out by the first round. But, without knowing the other two participants, it’s hard to say. Especially since Berkman has been to the derby twice before and went to the finals in 2004 and went out in the 1st Round in 2006.
The interesting thing with Berkman (for those of you who are concerned Berkman owners) is that he hasn’t experienced a drop off in either year. As a matter of fact, looking back over the past 5 seasons, Berkman has yet to experience a power drop off in the second half. So, look for more of that.
However, judging historically, it would seem that Josh Hamilton is almost a lock to win the Home Run Derby from it’s current participants. But, if this happens, can we expect his HRPG to drop to .143 as history demands? That would only allow for 10 more home runs this season.
So, if what I’m saying turns out to be true and Josh Hamilton ends up running the Derby, you might have to seriously consider selling high on him in your fantasy league. Sell high, get the star, and let the other guy deal with his 10 remaining home runs.
One other anomaly from my number crunching: After the Home Run Derby, participants stolen bases per game go up 12%. I guess it’s kind of a situation where frustration brings out the “Run, Forrest, Run!” in them.
Just thought you should know…