The Home Run Derby curse: It’s the topic that no one wants to talk about.
The Home Run Derby is one of the most exciting parts of the Major League Baseball season. But debate commences in the second half when those who participated are no longer as lethal from the batter’s box as they were to start the season. The argument is that trying to hit home runs will ruin a player’s swing.
Bobby Abreu is the perfect example.
In the first half of the 2005 season, the outfielder hit 18 home runs and was selected to participate in the Home Run Derby. There, he made history by slugging 41 home runs throughout the night. While all was good and well then, Abreu only hit six homers the remainder of the season.
Last summer, J.P. Breen of FanGraphs wrote a fine piece trying to crack the code that is the Home Run Derby curse. The scribe took a look at the numbers and concluded that while participants tend to hit for much less power in the second half than in the first, it’s tough to definitively say that the Home Run Derby was the main cause.
So, what should we expect in the second half from this year’s participants?
Here’s a look at the top contenders for Monday night’s All-Star competition, with analysis and predictions for how they’ll fare after the Home Run Derby.
Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
Prince Fielder is easily one of the top players in the game and is also one of the best Home Run Derby contenders of all time. Participating in the event four times in his career entering Monday, he’s hit 63 home runs at the competition. He’s 15 shy of breaking the all-time mark of 77, currently held by David Ortiz.
The Tigers slugger has won the Home Run Derby twice in his career and is the only player to win the competition in the American and National League. Fielder has the most experience at the Derby of any other participant this year and has never had a problem with his swing in the second half.
In the four years where Fielder has participated in the Home Run Derby, he’s hit 88 first-half home runs and 76 second-half home runs. While he’s hit more in the first, he’s also played in 62 more games. In fact, Fielder averages more home runs per game in the second half than in the first in seasons where he’s participated.
Through 93 games this season, the first baseman has hit 16 home runs in 93 games. He’s only entered the Home Run Derby with less than 20 once in his career, and that was last season. In 2012, he hit 15 in the first half and 15 in the second. Expect to see Fielder flirt with the 30-homer mark again this season.
Predicted Second-Half Home Runs (Yearly Total): 13 (29)
Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
Chris Davis has been on an absolute tear this season. On Sunday, he hit his 37th home run of the season. He’s already well past his career high for the entire season, which was set a year ago when he hit 33 long balls. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports provides us with a comparison of Davis and the Miami Marlins:
Everyone is going to be watching how Davis hits in the second half, as he could have the opportunity to do something very special. He’s on pace to hit the 60 home run mark, which would put him in some elite company.
But will the Home Run Derby ruin Davis’ chances of hitting like he has in the first half?
Throughout Davis’ career, he’s been better at hitting home runs in the second half of the year. He entered the 2013 season with 38 first-half home runs and 39 second-half home runs. He has, however, played in slightly more games in the second half. In general, he’s been relatively consistent all year long.
Davis has never participated in the Home Run Derby before, and it’ll be interesting to see if it affects him at all going forward. He’s basically been playing Home Run Derby all season long; he’s just faced faster pitching. If he doesn’t hit 60 home runs, people will rush to say that the competition affected his swing.
Predicted Second-Half Home Runs (Yearly Total): 27 (64)
Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Pedro Alvarez wasn’t originally selected to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby, but he’s still a worthy contender. Through 84 games, the third baseman has 24 home runs, which is six shy of his career high. Even if Alvarez slumps the rest of the year, it seems likely that he’ll hit at least seven more to set a new personal best.
The Pirates slugger has never participated in a Home Run Derby, and it should be interesting to see how he does. He has a ton of power and could definitely go on a big run. But the question everyone is asking is if he’ll be able to replicate his first-half success for the remainder of the season.
Even with Alvarez’s numbers from 2013, he still has a higher OPS in the second half than in the first. His ISO, however, is significantly higher in the first half, but that’s likely accredited to his good start to this season. In 2012, he hit 16 in the first half and 14 the rest of the year.
Expect Alvarez to put up a similar second-half total this season. He’s been very good to start the season, and I project him to hit around 40 by the time the postseason begins. It seems unlikely that he’ll be able to match his first-half total no matter how well he hits going forward. Hitting 40 is nothing to scoff at, though.
Predicted Second-Half Home Runs (Yearly Total): 15 (39)