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As the second half begins, a PSA about the Home Run Derby “curse”

Jul 19, 2013, 7:05 PM EDT

Chevrolet Home Run Derby Getty Images

I don’t mean to alarm you, but during the second half of the baseball season, you will come across articles citing the Home Run Derby as the sole reason for a player’s second-half struggles. It happens every year. It will happen again this year, and it will continue until the universe experiences heat death. By simple probability, at least one participant in the Derby (but often half) will have pronounced difficulty in the second half, which causes writers to go scrambling for explanations. Rarely is that explanation “regression after an unsustainable first half”.

In the Fall 2010 Baseball Research Journal, Joseph McCollum and Marcus Jaiclin studied the effect of the Home Run Derby on participants and found no statistically significant results.

Home Run Derby curse, fact or fiction? We have no choice but to conclude that it’s fiction. If we consider all the ways that the statistics should behave if there is no curse, we find that they consistently match that model. Certainly, some players will have a decline in power-hitting statistics from the first half of the season to the second after participating in the Derby, but it is clear from the analysis that this would have occurred for those players regardless of whether they chose to participate or not.

McCollum and Jaiclin are not the only ones. Derek Carty looked at the numbers at The Hardball Times in 2009 and also found no reason to think the Derby is a saboteur. A study posted yesterday at FanGraphs reached the same conclusion.

Friends don’t let friends make wildly unsubstantiated claims about the coolest baseball event of the summer.

  1. brewcrewfan54 - Jul 19, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    Coolest event of the summer? I dont’t know about that. The first round is usually pretty fun but by about hour 2 its getting kinda boring.

  2. scotttheskeptic - Jul 19, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    Far, far, far from the coolest event of the summer.

  3. rbj1 - Jul 19, 2013 at 7:41 PM

    Killjoy. It’s the one thing A-Rod doesn’t get blamed for.

  4. paperlions - Jul 19, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    I would rather watch a regular season game between the Astros and Marlins than the HR derby…and it really isn’t close. One is an activity that resembles actual baseball, whereas the other is an activity that resembles batting practice…only, it’s longer and more tedious.

    • historiophiliac - Jul 19, 2013 at 10:33 PM

      Booooo!!!!

    • nbjays - Jul 20, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      “One is an activity that resembles actual baseball,”

      Little league or high school baseball, perhaps, but baseball nonetheless.

      • paperlions - Jul 20, 2013 at 9:18 AM

        Yep. Still better than watching endless batting practice. I honestly have no idea why people are so mesmerized by the home run derby. The activity itself isn’t that interesting, and the format is about as bad as it could possibly be.

  5. Reflex - Jul 19, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    Next up can they dispel the myth of the Sophomore Slump?

  6. moogro - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    I won’t make claims about it, but that Puig throw still has quibbering.

  7. APBA Guy - Jul 20, 2013 at 12:33 AM

    Except that Cespedes is out tonight’s game with “wrist soreness”…da dum…

  8. missingdiz - Jul 20, 2013 at 2:55 AM

    If Chris Davis doesn’t hit a home run in the first three games after the break, there will be microphones in his face and a crowd of reporters wanting to know why. And that will continue as long as he fails to meet their expectations. That’s the curse.

  9. yahmule - Jul 20, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    This is primarily discussed because Bobby Abreu destroyed the existing HR derby record with 41 back in 2005, then he proceeded to hit only six home runs in the second half. He never topped 20 again in a season.

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