Does the Derby hurt home run hitters such as Robinson Cano?

July 12, 2011|By Matt Castello

Ah, the Home Run Derby. It’s hard for me to think of many American traditions that top watching baseball’s best sluggers (cameos made by Vernon Wells in 2010 and Brandon Inge the year before) while listening to Chris Berman shriek NFL highlights on a warm July evening. (Wait, that wasn’t a new episode of NFL Primetime last night? Oh.)

Yesterday, two AL East rivals landed in the final round of the derby: Robinson Cano of the Yankees and the behemoth that goes by Adrian Gonzalez of theRed Sox.

Cano, teeing off on his dad, former major league pitcher Jose Cano, used his fiber-glass smooth swing to bash 12 home runs in the finals, one more than Gonzalez’s 11, to take down the 2011 Home Run Derby crown.

But don’t worry Orioles fans; your team could reap rewards from a Yank and Sock battling in the Derby finals. 

The Derby has featured a “Finals round” since 1996, when Brady Anderson* made his first and only appearance in the contest. I preferred to only dip my toes into the steroid era, rather than jump in full button-down, so the comparison begins with the 2001 contest. Since that year, I examined the performance of the two players to make the finals and how their power numbers fared after the All-Star break.

*Lest we forget the prodigious power Brady flexed in 1996, booming 50 home runs, a mere 29 more than his previous career high, and 26 more than he would hit in any other single-season.

The results follow**:

**Obviously, there are myriad variables to take into account when examining a player’s performance before and after the All-Star break. Injuries, weather, fatigue (should that be clumped in with injuries), steroids, greenies, guys being slow starters or strong finishers all factor into the equation. Still, the effect of taking a multitude of upper-cut home run swings can impact a player’s performance.  Alex Rios (2007), David Wright (2006), Bobby Abreu (2005), and Garret Anderson (2003) are the most notable examples of players to struggle mightily, power-wise, after the break.

Of the 20 players:

  • 2nd half home run totals decreased for: 15 of 20 players
  • Decreased by 5 homers or more for: 11 of 15
  • Decreased by 10 homers or more: 8 of 11
  • Slugging % dropped for: 15/20
  • Decreased by at least 100 points for: 5/15
  • Most notable drops: Wright (2006), Rios (2007), Abreu (2005), Anderson (2003)

2010

David Ortiz

1st half:   305 pa     18 HR     .562 slg     .384 obp     .945 ops

2nd half:   301 pa     14 HR     .498 slg     .355 obp     .854 ops

Hanley Ramirez

1st half:   373 pa     13 HR     .485 slg     .381 obp     .865 ops

2nd half:   246 pa     8 HR      .461 slg     .374 obp     .835 ops

2009

Prince Fielder

1st half:   387 pa     22 HR     .614 slg     .442 obp     1.055 ops

2nd half:   332 pa     24 HR     .590 slg     .377 obp     .967 ops

Nelson Cruz

1st half:   328 pa     22 HR     .539 slg     .326 obp     .865 ops

2nd half:   187 pa    11 HR     ,497 slg     .342 obp     .839 ops

2008

Justin Morneau

1st half:     412 pa     14 HR     .512 slg     .391 obp     .903 ops

2nd half:     300 pa      9 HR     .481 slg     .350 obp     .831 ops

Josh Hamilton

1st half:     425 pa     21 HR     .552 slg     .367 obp     .919 ops

2nd half:     279 pa     11 HR     .498 slg     .376 obp     .874 ops

2007

Vladimir Guerrero

1st half:     368 pa     14 HR     .547 slg     .416 obp     .962 ops

2nd half:     292 pa     13 HR     .548 slg     .387 obp     .935 ops

Alex Rios

1st half:     389 pa     17 HR     .520 slg    .350 obp     .870 ops

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