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.

Orioles “have begun fielding calls of interest” on Manny Machado

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports Thursday that the Orioles “are said to have begun fielding calls of interest” on superstar Manny Machado and “are close to the point of seriously weighing whether to trade him.”

You’d think it would be a no-brainer for the last-place O’s to flip Machado — an impending free agent — for prospects, but Heyman notes there is “still a question whether or not longtime Orioles owner Peter Angelos” will give the go-ahead. One person familiar with the situation put it a “50-50” likelihood. Another suggested that it would take a massive return, which, sure.

Machado entered play Thursday with a sensational .328/.405/.635 batting line, 15 home runs, and an MLB-leading 43 RBI in 49 games. It’d be a real shock if he’s still wearing an O’s uniform by the end of July.

Heyman reported previously that at least nine teams made aggressive plays for Machado this winter, including the Cubs, Phillies, Dodgers, Indians, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, and Cardinals. A whole lot of those teams still make sense here in late May — maybe all of them except the White Sox.