Home Run Derby: Can it hurt your game?

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Every July brings us the Home Run Derby, baseball’s beautiful sideshow. Each year a group of the biggest sluggers from the American and National league go at it to see who can put up the most dingers in one night. Of course there are several controversies that have surrounded the event in recent years, one of which is that many of the games top home run hitters are bowing out of the competition despite the prestigious invite.

The most common reason or excuse for backing out or passing on the derby is that the competition hurts your approach and can mess with your swing. Well I am here to tell you that I have statistical evidence that the claim is true. I have compiled the Home Runs and OPS before and after the All-Star Break for all 48 Home Run Derby participants since 2008. All but 3 players hit less home runs after the home run derby than before it.

Of course, there are less games after the All-Star break than before it, but one look at the OPS and you will see that there is a definite downward trend after a Home Run Derby. 12 players increased their OPS, while 36 players decreased their OPS, with the average difference in OPS from the first to second half of the season being -.08875.

Obviously there are some exceptions to the trends, such as Prince Fielder in 2012 who hit 15 home runs before and after the derby while putting up a second half OPS .121 points higher than his first half.  Ryan Howard similarly hit 23 HR in the second half of 2009 after hitting 22 in the first half, while putting up an OPS .133 points higher than his pre-derby numbers.

Though I must say that those 2 are the big exceptions, 14 of the 48 participants had a difference in OPS smaller than .050 in either direction. Of the rest of the remaining 32 participants, 17 saw a decrease in OPS of .100 points or more after the the derby, 13 saw a decrease of .150 points or more, 9 saw a decrease of .200 points or more, and 7 saw a decrease of .250 points or more.

Now I am not saying  that they should do away with the Home Run Derby or anything like that. It is a great event that will continue to be great. But sluggers beware, there is a good chance it may hurt your game…

  Player Team HR Pre-ASG HR Post-ASG OPS Pre OPS Post
2008 Justin Morneau Twins 14 9 .903 .831
  Josh Hamilton Rangers 21 11 .919 .875
  Lance Berkman Astros 22 7 1.096 .821
  Ryan Braun Brewers 23 14 .873 .911
  Dan Uggla Marlins 23 9 .978 .739
  Grady Sizemore Indians 23 10 .915 .827
  Chase Utley Phillies 25 8 .955 .855
  Evan Longoria Rays 16 11 .861 .902
2009 Player Team HR Pre-ASG HR Post-ASG OPS Pre OPS Post
  Prince Fielder Brewers 22 24 1.055 .967
  Nelson Cruz Rangers 22 11 .865 .839
  Ryan Howard Phillies 22 23 .870 1.003
  Albert Pujols Cardinals 32 15 1.179 1.009
  Carlos Peña Rays 24 15 .891 .897
  Joe Mauer Twins 15 13 1.069 .998
  Adrian Gonzalez Padres 24 16 .910 1.018
  Brandon Inge Tigers 21 6 .876 .542
2010 Player Team HR Pre-ASG HR Post-ASG OPS Pre OPS Post
  David Ortiz Red Sox 18 14 .945 .854
  Hanley Ramírez Marlins 13 8 .865 .835
  Corey Hart Brewers 21 10 .918 .802
  Miguel Cabrera Tigers 22 16 1.074 1.000
  Matt Holliday Cardinals 16 12 .902 .944
  Nick Swisher Yankees 15 14 .901 .830
  Vernon Wells Blue Jays 19 12 .844 .850
  Chris Young Diamondbacks 15 12 .798 .786
2011 Player Team HR Pre-ASG HR Post-ASG OPS Pre OPS Post
  Robinson Canó Yankees 15 13 .863 .905
  Adrian Gonzalez Red Sox 13 13 1.006 .893
  Prince Fielder Brewers 22 16 .990 .968
  David Ortiz Red Sox 19 10 .965 .936
  Matt Holliday Cardinals 14 8 .995 .815
  José Bautista Blue Jays 31 12 1.17 .896
  Rickie Weeks Brewers 17 3* .837 .781
  Matt Kemp Dodgers 22 17 .982 .990
2012 Player Team HR Pre-ASG HR Post-ASG OPS Pre OPS Post
  Prince Fielder Tigers 15 15 .885 1.006
  José Bautista Blue Jays 27 0* .889 .627*
  Mark Trumbo Angels 22 10 .965 .630
  Carlos Beltrán Cardinals 20 12 .924 .742
  Carlos González Rockies 17 5 .967 .749
  Andrew McCutchen Pirates 18 13 1.039 .860
  Matt Kemp Dodgers 12 11 1.163 .792
  Robinson Canó Yankees 20 13 .953 .902
2013 Player Team HR Pre-ASG HR Post-ASG OPS Pre OPS Post
  Yoenis Céspedes Athletics 15 11 .713 .769
  Bryce Harper Nationals 13 7 .893 .819
  Michael Cuddyer Rockies 16 4 .960 .861
  Chris Davis Orioles 37 16 1.109 .854
  Pedro Alvarez Pirates 24 12 .828 .700
  Prince Fielder Tigers 16 9 .820 .818
  David Wright Mets 13 5 .903 .907
  Robinson Canó Yankees 21 6 .917 .873
2014 Player Team HR Pre-ASG HR Post-ASG OPS Pre OPS Post
  Troy Tulowitzki Rockies 18 1.071
  José Bautista Blue Jays 17 .926
  Todd Frazier Reds 17 .844
  Brian Dozier Twins 16 .748
  Yasiel Puig Dodgers 12 .902
  Adam Jones Orioles 16 .825
  Giancarlo Stanton Marlins 21 .955
  Yoenis Cespedes Athletics 14 .780

Statistics Courtesy of BaseballAnalytics.org, Created 7/9/2014