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The Home Run Derby is already being blamed for Aaron Judge’s struggles

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about how every year the Home Run Derby is made the scapegoat for players’ second-half struggles. Scores of studies have found inconclusive evidence that the Derby has any meaningful influence on a player in the second half of the season. The most reasonable explanation is simple regression toward the mean.

Aaron Judge, by way of being baseball’s most productive hitter and winning the Derby, had the most eyes on him to begin the second half of the 2017 season. In four games since the All-Star break, Judge has one measly hit — an infield single — with three walks and six strikeouts in 21 plate appearances.

Already, the Derby is being blamed for Judge’s impotent bat. At the end of his column on the subject, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes:

He looked far fresher in Game 2, and Girardi said he planned to rest Judge either Tuesday or Wednesday in Minnesota. Nevertheless, to dismiss the Derby Jinx outright is to ignore both history and common sense. The Phillies’ Bobby Abreu in 2005 (18 homers in 323 at-bats pre-Derby, six homers in 265 at-bats afterward) and the Mets’ David Wright in 2006 (20 homers in 339 at-bats pre-Derby, six homers in 243 at-bats post-Derby) both struggled greatly.

To his credit, Davidoff also mentioned that Judge also hit into some bad luck, particularly in the second game of Sunday’s double-header against the Red Sox. Judge hit a line drive right to Mookie Betts in right field, and he crushed a baseball 411 feet to center field that was caught at the wall by center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. If the ball had gone one foot further, however, the column probably doesn’t get written and the Derby doesn’t become the scapegoat.

Judge appears to be the most level-headed about his performance. He said, “You’re going to have your ups and downs. You’re going to have your times when you do everything right and you still get out. It’s just part of it. I’m happy with the swing. I’m happy with a lot of the swings I took the last couple of days. But you don’t get any results from it. That’s baseball. That’s the game we play.”

Report: A’s trying to finish deal for Jeurys Familia

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The Athletics appear to be closing in on a deal for Mets’ right-hander Jeurys Familia, according to reports from ESPN’s Buster Olney. Nothing has been finalized just yet, however, as the Mets confirmed that they would not be announcing a trade tonight and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic points out that other teams may still be in the mix for Familia’s services. It’s not clear what the A’s would be giving up in any potential deal for the reliever.

Familia, 28, has been pitching well this season. He currently sports a 2.88 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and 9.5 SO/9 through 40 2/3 innings — across-the-board improvements from his last run with the Mets in 2017 — and has racked up 17 saves to boot. He’s due another $3 million for the remainder of 2018, and Rosenthal adds that the club is willing to throw some cash in the deal in order to guarantee a better return for the closer.

While the A’s have one of the better bullpens in the American League, sitting seventh-best with a 3.50 ERA and 2.8 fWAR, they still have a ways to go in order to overtake the Mariners and Astros for a postseason berth by season’s end. Familia’s contract expires at the end of the year, but he should provide enough short-term value to give the A’s the boost they need.