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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.

Brewers reliever Josh Hader in hot water over racist, homophobic tweets from 2011-12

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Brewers reliever Josh Hader didn’t have a good night. He gave up four hits and a three-run homer to put the National League in a big hole in the All-Star Game. That’s the kind of thing that has to stick with you.

Oh, and he was also revealed to be a SUPER BIG racist, misogynist and homophobe. That’s gonna stick with him too, and may land him in trouble with Major League Baseball.

Someone decided to dig through Hader’s Twitter history this evening and when they did they found some ugly, ugly stuff in there from back in 2011-12.* Hader was found to have used the n-word, liberally. He said “I hate gay people.” He said some super misogynistic stuff about wanting a woman who will cook and clean for him, among other pretty damn vile things. There were multiple references to cocaine. He said “I’ll murder your family” to one person and made some total non-sequitur tweet simply saying “KKK.” You name a social media etiquette line that one can cross and Hader not only crossed it, but he totally and gleefully trampled over. If you want to see that vile stuff you can see it over at The Big Lead, which screen-capped it. I presume Hader has deleted them by now.

The news of Hader’s old, unearthed tweets bubbled out as the All-Star Game was going on, and reporters met Hader in the locker room right afterward for comment. Hader owned up to them — there was no “I was hacked” excuses offered here — saying that the tweets were a sign of immaturity when he was 17 years-old. He said he plans to apologize to his teammates, saying they don’t reflect on him as a person now. His quote: “No excuses. I was dumb and stupid.” Which, well, yes, obviously.

That may not be the end of it, however:

These tweets are old, Hader may be a different person now and people can do a lot of growing up between 17 and 24. But Major League Baseball is not happy tonight, I can assure you, that an ugly social media incident blew up during its biggest showcase of the regular season.

Will Hader be disciplined? Hard to say, given that Hader wasn’t even drafted yet when those tweets were made and given that MLB’s social media policy was not even in place then. But it would not shock me at all if more comes of this than Hader merely apologizing to his teammates. Stay tuned.

*There are several putative Hader tweets floating around Twitter right now of a more recent vintage. Hader has locked his account, however, and they cannot be confirmed, and many people who were able to access his account before it was locked said those tweets were not there before, with the suggestion that they were Photoshopped. We are neither in the position to — nor do we have the inclination to — verify which of Hader’s tweets are legitimate and which are fabricated. We know, however, that there is more than ample, awful stuff that he has owned up to and we’ll leave it at that for now.