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No, the Home Run Derby isn’t responsible for second-half swoons

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Around this time every year, you’ll hear and read from people who think players should avoid participating in the Home Run Derby because it leads to second-half swoons. Chris Davis is a common example. In the first half of the 2013 season, he had a 1.109 OPS with 37 home runs in 95 games (an average of one homer per 2.6 games). He participated in the Derby, getting eliminated after the second round. In the second half of the season, he had a comparatively meager .854 OPS with 16 home runs in 65 games (an average of one homer per 4.1 games).

A tweet circulated on my timeline earlier today which compiled the triple-slash lines of all Derby contestants over the past three years, comparing their first-half numbers to their second-half numbers. As a group, the second-half numbers were noticeably lower.

Maybe there were two or three players whose mechanics suffered as a result of participating in glorified batting practice. Maybe Davis is even one of them. But Derby contestants are players putting up some of the best numbers among their peers in the first half. Simple mean regression is a much better explanation for the disparity in production. You could take, for example, All-Stars whose first names begin with a certain letter and compare their first- and second-half production. My money would be on the first-half numbers being much higher than those of the second half. And that’s just because they belong to a group of first-half overperformers: All-Stars.

Indeed, there were 18 Derby participants since 2000 whose first name has started with J. 11 of them saw their OPS decline in the second half, including six players by more than 140 points. Only two participants saw their second-half OPS rise by more than 80 points. This simply proves the old adage, correlation does not imply causation.

Player Year 1st Half 2nd Half Diff
Jose Bautista 2011 1.170 .896 .274
Jose Bautista 2012 .899 .627 .272
Joc Pederson 2015 .851 .617 .234
Jim Edmonds 2003 1.066 .864 .202
Jim Thome 2004 1.059 .868 .191
Justin Morneau 2007 .844 .702 .142
Jermaine Dye 2006 1.043 .965 .078
Justin Morneau 2008 .903 .831 .072
Joe Mauer 2009 1.069 .998 .071
Jason Giambi 2003 .966 .898 .068
Josh Hamilton 2008 .919 .874 .045
Jason Giambi 2002 1.032 1.035 -.003
Justin Morneau 2014 .847 .883 -.036
Jose Bautista 2014 .910 .951 -.041
Jason Bay 2005 .930 .998 -.068
Josh Donaldson 2014 .766 .844 -.078
Jason Giambi 2001 1.082 1.202 -.120
Josh Donaldson 2015 .884 1.011 -.127

The Derby-as-swing-ruiner hypothesis has been thoroughly debunked over the years, so I am not breaking new ground here. But it’s good to have a reminder that your favorite player’s second-half swoon is almost certainly due to good old fashioned mean regression and the Home Run Derby shouldn’t be made the scapegoat.

Video: Jaime Garcia hits a 399-foot grand slam

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Jaime Garcia has been at the center of trade talks for several days now, but on Friday night, he commanded center stage for an entirely different reason. The Braves’ southpaw went head-to-head with Dodgers’ lefty Alex Wood and mashed his first career grand slam: a two-out, 399-foot blast that cleared the wall in right field and put the Braves up 9-0 in the fifth inning.

The bases-loaded knock was the third career home run for Garcia, whose contributions at the plate have been few and far between over his nine-year track in the major leagues. Not only did the homer mark an impressive career first for the 30-year-old, but it was just the second pitcher grand slam in Braves’ history and the first since 1966.

Garcia looked almost as impressive on the mound during Friday’s series opener, issuing one run, four hits and three strikeouts through his first six innings. The Braves currently lead the Dodgers 12-1 in the top of the seventh inning.

As for whether the slam will affect negotiations between the Braves and Twins? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello put it best:

Ryon Healy exits game after taking a ground ball to the face

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Athletics’ first baseman Ryon Healy had a scary moment during Friday’s loss to the Mets. Lucas Duda smacked a single to the first base side, where the ball took a high hop and caught Healy in the left temple. He crumpled to the ground after getting struck by the one-hopper, but was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with assistance from a trainer.

Prior to the injury, Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was replaced by Yonder Alonso, who finished off the rest of the night’s 7-5 loss with a walk in two plate appearances.

Following the game, manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Healy did not appear to have sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. Healy said he thinks he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s game, though a final decision likely won’t be made until tomorrow.