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.”

Batting champion Luis Arraez beats Marlins in salary arbitration

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — AL batting champion Luis Arraez won his arbitration case and will get a $6.1 million salary from the Miami Marlins, who acquired the All-Star infielder from the Minnesota Twins last month.

Miami argued for $5 million during a hearing before John Stout, Mark Burstein and Scott Buchheit. Arraez received a raise from $2.2 million.

Marlins pitcher Jesus Luzardo went to a hearing and asked for a raise from $715,000 to $2.45 million, while Miami proposed $2.1 million. The case was heard by Stout, Melinda Gordon and Richard Bloch, who were expected to issue their decision.

Arraez hit .316 with eight homers, 49 RBIs and a .795 OPS last year for Minnesota, starting 61 games at first base, 34 at designated hitter and 31 at second. The 25-year-old was traded on Jan. 20 for starting pitcher Pablo Lopez and a pair of prospects: infielder Jose Salas and outfielder Byron Chourio.

Arraez is eligible for free agency after the 2026 season.

Luzardo, a 25-year-old left-hander, was 4-7 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts last year, striking out 120 and walking 35 in 100 1/3 innings. He is 13-18 with a 3.59 ERA in 45 starts and 16 relief appearances over four big league seasons.

Luzardo also is eligible for free agency after the 2026 season.

Seattle defeated Diego Castillo in the first salary arbitration decision this year, and the relief pitcher will get a raise to $2.95 million rather than his request of $3,225,000.

A decision is being held for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Twenty-two players remain scheduled for hearings, to take place through Feb. 17. Among them, utilityman Dylan Moore and the Seattle Mariners have a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.