Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Impact of the Home Run Derby (from 6/7/12)

by Dustin Copening

[Editor's Note: The Following was an article written 6/7/12 following the Home Run Derby. The research is still sound, but it is interesting to see how different the thoughts on the Rangers outlook is just one year ago]

How bout your Texas Rangers folks? What a wonderful exhibition of baseball we have been witness to over the last month. Note the hint of sarcasm.

Well I will attempt to distract you for the next few minutes with a quasi-scientific study of the effects of participating in the Home Run Derby on the second half performance of the sluggers who take place in the Chris Berman love fest.

Josh Hamilton made a little news by announcing that he would not participate in the Derby yet again.
In the grand scheme of things this announcement means nothing more than you the fans won't get a chance to see Hambone follow up on his amazing 2008 performance.

In fairness to Hamilton, there is absolutely no way that you could expect that he would repeat that phenomenal feat if he were to participate again. That being said, I have always wondered if there is any statistical evidence to back up his stated reason for not participating.

Josh feels that participating in the Derby could have a negative effect on his second half performance or even lead to injury. While it's hard to question how a player feels mentally about participating in something as fluff as the Derby, I did decide to take a look at if players have a drop off in their post-Derby performance or are more prone to injury.

I went back as far as 1997, and looked at the two sluggers who made it to the final round. Prior to '97 the records I could find got a little sketchy, and I figured 15 years was a fairly nice sample size.
The first thing I will note is that I could not find or do not recall from my watching of the Derby each year (yes, I am a sucker for the event) any player ever injuring themselves in the actual event. I also found that only three of the players I looked at spent time on the DL in the second half of the season, and none of those injuries appeared to be related to their participation in the Derby.

I looked at the performance of the players in batting average and AB per home run in the first and second half of the season (as determined by the All-Star Break). I'm sure you could dig deeper, but to me this seemed like the two things that would show a negative effect due to a player getting out of rhythm with his swing.

In short, the top two finalists in the derby hit .310 with a home run every 14.8 AB prior to participating in the Derby. In the second half of the season, those players .298 with a home run every 16.5 AB coming off of their appearance in the Derby.
Is that data evidence of a significant drop off in performance due to a player swinging for the fences? I don't see it.

Keep in mind that over 162 game season players will tend to see a drop in performance as the season progresses. It's just human nature, and I would think that that would account for the drop off in the numbers more than anything else.

I will note that Hamilton went from hitting .310 with a homer every 18 AB to .296 with a homer every 22.5 AB in the year that he took place. While I don't see the overall evidence to support that the Derby has a noticeable effect on second half performance, you can't discount how a player personally feels about it.

If Josh thinks that sitting out the event will help him and his team produce better results down the stretch, then I have no problem with it.

Prince Fielder:
  • 1st Half BA - .299
  • 2nd Half BA - .331
  • 1st Half AB per HR - 21.4
  • 2nd Half AB per HR - 17.3

Jose Bautista:
  • Missed almost all in the 2nd half after injuring his wrist on July 16th on a swing in the 8th inning of a game against the Yankees. The injury was not linked to any All Star activities, although it occurred only a week after the Derby took place.

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