19 July 2012
He hasn’t hit a home run since the All-Star break, but we’re six games into the season’s second-half and Prince Fielder shows no ill-effects of participating in (and winning) the Home Run Derby. So far he’s hitting for a slash line of .391/.500/.435 in the second half. It’s a small sample size, surely, but if it was the Derby that was going to be the culprit for a post-break numbers downturn, it would show up in the stat line right away, wouldn’t it?
It’s pretty much been shown that the derby doesn’t affect a players second-half production, but we’re still burdened with writers pointing to anecdotes of players seeing a second-half numbers dip.I mean, honestly:
In Detroit, of course, the first name brought up when it comes to the Home Run Derby ruining swings is Brandon Inge. In 2009, Inge has played himself onto the All-Star team with the best first half of his career. By the time the Home Run Derby rolled around, he was hitting .268 with a .876 OPS and 21 home runs. He then famously went 0-for-the-Derby and didn't do much better in the second half of the season. As the Tigers blew the AL Central and lost game 163 to the Twins, Inge hit .186 with a .542 OPS and six homers.
What’s more surprising, that a .237/.304/.392 hitter (through the 2008 season) had a second-half with only a .542 OPS (while injured), or that he had a first-half OPS of .876 in the first place? Inge performed poorly in the second-half of 2009 because he was a 32 year-old (with two bad knees) that wasn’t all that good of a hitter in the first place, not because he participated in the home run derby.
I think this is why we seem to see a lot of post-derby dips. Guys have career years in the first half, get selected for the Home Run Derby, and then fall back toward their career norms. Some guys, like Inge, fall well below their career lines, but if you took the collective group of HRD participants over time, you’d see that the peaks and valleys would pretty much line up with our expectations given random variation.