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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: Angels to acquire Ian Kinsler from the Tigers

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Update (7:51 PM ET): ESPN’s Buster Olney says the deal isn’t final yet. Rosenthal says that any delay on this trade is due to Kinsler’s no-trade clause, but he still expects the deal to happen.

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Angels will acquire second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers. It is not known yet what the Tigers will receive in return. Kinsler had to waive his no-trade clause in order for the deal to happen.

Kinsler, 35, hit .236/.313/.412 with 22 home runs, 52 RBI, 90 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 613 plate appearances for the Tigers this past season. He’s in the final year of his contract and will earn $10 million for the 2018 season.

The Angels were certainly looking to upgrade at second base and did so with Kinsler. They were also reportedly interested in Cesar Hernandez of the Phillies.