The Home Run Derby Curse Revisited

Hey everyone,

Last year, I posted an entry on this blog where I examined the well-known theory of the “Home Run Derby curse.”  On the day after we witnessed the greatest ever single round derby performance, as Josh Hamilton clubbed 28 out of the park, I thought this was a subject worth revisiting.  Here you’ll find my post from a year ago with some changes, including the addition of the 2007 results as yet another data point.  Hope this adds some insight into what has been a popular topic for discussion!

Zach Steinhorn

Is the “Home Run Derby Curse” real?  David Wright (2006) and Bobby Abreu (2005) both experienced major second half power outages after impressive performances in the Home Run Derby (Abreu won the event while Wright finished second to Ryan Howard).  The post All-Star break home run struggles of Wright and Abreu led many to question whether success in the Derby has an adverse effect on a player’s power stroke once he returns to regular game action, as he would be trying too hard to hit homers rather than relying on his natural swing.  Alex Rios, last year’s second place finisher, continued the trend.  Here’s a closer look.  Below you’ll find pre and post All Star break stats for both the Home Run Derby winners and runner ups over the past six years.  Keep in mind that the break is slightly more than halfway into the season, so first half HR and RBI numbers will often be greater regardless of any “curse.”

2007

Vladimir Guerrero

Pre ASB:    .325 AVG  14 HR  75 RBI
Post ASB:  .323 AVG  13 HR  50 RBI

Alex Rios

Pre ASB:    .294 AVG  17 HR  53 RBI
Post ASB:  .300 AVG  7 HR  32 RBI

2006

Ryan Howard

Pre ASB:   .278 AVG  28 HR  71 RBI
Post ASB: .355 AVG  30 HR  78 RBI

David Wright

Pre ASB:   .316 AVG  20 HR  74 RBI
Post ASB: .305 AVG   6 HR   42 RBI

2005

Bobby Abreu

Pre ASB:    .307 AVG  18 HR  58 RBI
Post ASB:  .260 AVG   6 HR   44 RBI

Ivan Rodriguez

Pre ASB:    .292 AVG  6 HR  32 RBI
Post ASB:  .252 AVG  8 HR  18 RBI

2004

Miguel Tejada

Pre ASB:   .311 AVG  15 HR  75 RBI
Post ASB: .311 AVG  19 HR  75 RBI

Lance Berkman

Pre ASB:   .299 AVG  16 HR  59 RBI
Post ASB: .335 AVG  14 HR  47 RBI

2003

Garrett Anderson

Pre ASB:    .316 AVG  22 HR  78 RBI
Post ASB:  .313 AVG  7 HR    38 RBI

Albert Pujols

Pre ASB:    .368 AVG  27 HR  86 RBI
Post ASB:  .346 AVG  16 HR  38 RBI

2002

Jason Giambi

Pre ASB:    .318 AVG  22 HR  71 RBI
Post ASB:  .309 AVG  19 HR  51 RBI

Sammy Sosa

Pre ASB:    .307 AVG  28 HR  58 RBI
Post ASB:  .264 AVG  21 HR  50 RBI

Of these 12 players, Rios, Wright, Abreu, Anderson, and Pujols are the examples of significant second half decline.  Pujols is the only one who at the time was known as an elite power hitter.  Wright, Abreu, and Anderson were all excellent hitters the year they competed in the Derby, but homers were not their primary strength.  You can make a convincing argument that the high first half home run totals of Rios, Wright, Abreu, and Anderson were just as surprising as their second half home run drop.  But the drastic decrease in RBI specifically of Wright, Anderson, and Pujols do support the general trend of decreased offensive production.

What have we learned from all this?  There’s just not enough evidence for us to directly blame the Home Run Derby for our fantasy star’s second half plunge, as there are plenty of other factors involved.  And for every Rios, Wright and Abreu, there’s a Howard, who hit an amazing 30 homers AFTER the break in 2006, and a Tejada, who was a model of consistency in 2004.  So don’t panic, Morneau and Hamilton owners!  For now, it seems that the “Home Run Derby Curse” is just a myth.

8 Comments

Why not consider all of the players who made it through 2 rounds to make the sample size larger?

Why not consider all of the players who made it to the second round, increase the sample size.

sorry bout that.

One major error…. you keep making the assumption that the All-Star break is the half-way point. Its the 60% point – thus fewer second half at bats. Look at the RBI’s post all-star game: nearly everybody had significantly less RBI’s as well – because they played less games than the first “half”

Yeah, I mentioned that in the blurb. This is why I really only discussed guys with a very clear second half dropoff (i.e. second half numbers generally < 40% of total). Regardless, this point would even further negate the curse theory!

Everyone is always looking for a “curse” in pro sports. I know it all too well being a Cubs fan and our Billy Goat problem. The Red Sox had it… heck there is even a curse of Madden Football game covers. As long as people are failing and/or under-performing someone will always be there to point out some supernatural aspect of the trend.

I never like to go against my man Zach, but I did some basic research on this and it would appear that the “Curse” is real, although its effect is relatively limited. I will post on this later tonight.

Thanks,
Cory

Hmmmm, if I understand correctly the players selected for the derby are those that have the highest HR totals from the beginning of the season up to the point before the all-star break. Statistically speaking, this is a really small sample size and frankly even the best baseball players go through their entire career with a sample size that is extremely hard to quantify due to all the variables (age, diet, park effects, opposition, etc.)

So perhaps some of those that make it to the all-star break leading the league in HRs are just an aberration and aren’t the true sluggers of the league. Sure they have shown they have the ability to do something, but knowing how consistent they can do it is one of the great mysteries surrounding baseball statistics. Humans are unpredictable and it’s virtually impossible to quantify who is a slugger based on statistics alone.

On a psychological spin, perhaps these players that do well in the derby feel a need to “defend” their honor and try too hard to hit Homeruns instead of focusing on good solid contact.

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