Every time the Home Run Derby comes around, we hear about how players don't want to enter the Derby because it will ruin their swing. Players like Bobby Abreu have seen their home run production plummet after putting on amazing shows in the Derby. Is there really something to be said about a player avoiding the Derby to keep a strong season alive? Let's look at how players in the last six All Star Games have faired to find out. First, let's look at the supporting argument. Players who had severe drop offs in performance after the All Star Break.
|Player||AB/HR Pre||AB/HR Post||Diff|
These 10 players saw their home runs per at bat drop by eight or more after they participated in the derby. While it would be easy to say that participating in the derby hurt these players, consider a few things.
First, getting into the Home Run Derby at all requires that you hit a large amount of home runs. The people who get to the Derby probably over performed a bit in the first half. In most cases, this is just simply regression to the mean. In 2002, Lance Berkman was on pace to hit 55 home runs over a full season. Lance Berkman is not going to hit 55 home runs in a year. By the time the season was over, Berkman still had a career high home run rate, but his numbers were much more in line with what he had done for the rest of his career. Look at the home run rates of these 10 hitters the year before they made the game, the year of the game, and the year afterwards.
|AB/HR Before||AB/HR During||AB/HR After|
In almost every case, these players did not drop below their expected performance levels by the end of the year. All that happened was that they went from what would have been an overwhelming career year to an expected level of performance. It's not the Home Run Derby that set back their season, the player simply stopped playing way over their head.
Overall, twenty players showed some kind of improvement in their home run rate after the Derby and 28 players saw a decline. Since player who doesn't hit well in the first half won't make it into the Derby to begin with, this seems fairly phenomenal. 20 players went into the Derby hitting an elite amount of home runs, then proceeded to hit them at a faster rate in the second half.
The only player that you can possibly argue was broken by the Derby since 2001 is Bobby Abreu. Coming into the Derby, Abreu hit a home run every 19 at bats in 2004, then hit one every 18 at bats in the first half of 2005. Since then, his home run rate dropped to once every 41 at bats in 2005, and has stayed down since. However, one casualty out of 48 does not represent a trend, and it's just as likely that Abreu's power had simply peaked at age 31.
For all the talk about how the Home Run Derby can ruin a player's swing, it simply has not happened in the last six years. Players who enter the Home Run Derby tend to perform as expected afterwards. Fans need not fear if their star player decides to go out there and hit a few dingers.