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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.

Report: Blue Jays and Marco Estrada nearing agreement on contract extension

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Jon Morosi reports that the Blue Jays and starter Marco Estrada are nearing an agreement on a contract extension. The deal is expected to be for one guaranteed year, Morosi adds.

Estrada, 34, was set to become a free agent after the season. He earned $26 million on a two-year contract signed with the Jays in November 2015. While the right-hander has a subpar 4.84 ERA on the season, he has a solid 170/67 K/BB ratio in 176 2/3 innings and has looked much better since the end of July. Between July 31 and his most recent start on Saturday, Estrada owns a 3.75 ERA.

J.A. Happ is the only other starter technically under contract with the Jays next season. Marcus Stroman will be eligible for his second year of arbitration and the Jays will certainly agree to give him a raise on his $3.4 million salary for the 2017 season. The Jays will likely be active this offseason in adding rotation help and they’re starting early by locking up Estrada.

Video: Jackie Bradley, Jr. robs Chris Davis of a home run

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Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. robbed Orioles first baseman Chris Davis of his 25th home run on Tuesday evening, leaping at the fence in center field to make the catch and keep the game scoreless in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Davis swung at the first pitch he saw from Drew Pomeranz, a slider that crossed the middle of the plate.

This game has potential playoff implications, as the first-place Red Sox hold a three-game lead over the Yankees in the NL East. Meanwhile, the Orioles are still in the AL Wild Card race, trailing the Twins by 5.5 games for the second Wild Card slot.