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.

Red Sox place Rafael Devers back on the disabled list with a bum hamstring

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The Red Sox just got third baseman Rafael Devers back from the disabled list last week. Now he’s going back on, retroactive to yesterday, with a left hamstring strain.

It’s the same injury that put him on the shelf before, and he apparently aggravated it. In fact, it’s his third trip to the disabled list over the last five weeks. How much time he’ll miss this time around isn’t known. In the meantime, Eduardo Nunez should see the bulk of the starts at the hot corner.

Devers is hitting .242/.298/.422 with 16 homers and 55 RBI on the year.