As the second half begins, a PSA about the Home Run Derby “curse”

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I don’t mean to alarm you, but during the second half of the baseball season, you will come across articles citing the Home Run Derby as the sole reason for a player’s second-half struggles. It happens every year. It will happen again this year, and it will continue until the universe experiences heat death. By simple probability, at least one participant in the Derby (but often half) will have pronounced difficulty in the second half, which causes writers to go scrambling for explanations. Rarely is that explanation “regression after an unsustainable first half”.

In the Fall 2010 Baseball Research Journal, Joseph McCollum and Marcus Jaiclin studied the effect of the Home Run Derby on participants and found no statistically significant results.

Home Run Derby curse, fact or fiction? We have no choice but to conclude that it’s fiction. If we consider all the ways that the statistics should behave if there is no curse, we find that they consistently match that model. Certainly, some players will have a decline in power-hitting statistics from the first half of the season to the second after participating in the Derby, but it is clear from the analysis that this would have occurred for those players regardless of whether they chose to participate or not.

McCollum and Jaiclin are not the only ones. Derek Carty looked at the numbers at The Hardball Times in 2009 and also found no reason to think the Derby is a saboteur. A study posted yesterday at FanGraphs reached the same conclusion.

Friends don’t let friends make wildly unsubstantiated claims about the coolest baseball event of the summer.

Felix Hernandez will miss 3-4 weeks with shoulder bursitis

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Mariners’ right-hander Felix Hernandez is looking at a 3-4 week recovery period, the team announced on Friday. Hernandez has been officially diagnosed with bursitis in his right shoulder after getting pulled from his last start against the Tigers on Tuesday.

It’s not the first shoulder issue the 31-year-old righty has dealt with during his career. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times notes that Hernandez was previously diagnosed with bursitis during a minor league stint in 2005, several weeks prior to making his major league start for Seattle. This time around, however, the injury is coupled with a few years of not-so-sharp stuff, waning velocity and career-low numbers, and while it’s certainly not a worst-case diagnosis, it seems like greater cause for concern.

Without Felix, the Mariners will keep rolling with James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ariel Miranda, Yovani Gallardo and Chase De Jong in their rotation. They’ll also keep Ben Gamel in right field, with starting right fielder Mitch Haniger expected to miss 3-4 weeks after sustaining a Grade 2 strain in his right oblique on Tuesday.

Rays acquire RHP Drew Smith from Tigers

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The Rays acquired minor league reliever Drew Smith from the Tigers on Friday, per a team announcement. The move will close the loop on the trade the two teams began in January for backup outfielder Mikie Mahtook.

Smith, 23, pitched his first full season in Single-A West Michigan in 2016, turning in a 2.96 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 11.5 SO/9 in 48 2/3 innings. The right-hander is still several levels away from making any impact on the Rays’ major league roster, but appears to be progressing steadily in two seasons of pro ball and has delivered two runs, four walks and 12 strikeouts in his first 11 2/3 innings at High-A Lakeland this season. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that he’ll be reassigned to the Rays’ High-A Charlotte this week.