Stats Breakdown

Does the Home Run Derby cause slumps?

When Yankee youngsters Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez both announced their participation in the 2017 Home Run Derby, there was a split reaction among fans. At the same time their decisions were cheered, a group of fans could be heard derisively groaning.

There’s a not too uncommon thought around baseball that players lose their swing as they adjust to slug home runs during the derby, falling into slumps during the second half of the season. If that’s true, Yankees fans have a right to groan. Sanchez and Judge have been some of the only bright spots during the Yankees horrific slide since mid-June.

Past Derby Finalists

So is there really a derby hangover for participants? Let’s take a look at first and second half stats of Home Run Derby finalists from the last 4 years. The All-star Break isn’t actually halfway through the season, so it’s important to pay attention to how many games were in each half.

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2013 Bryce Harper
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
1st Half 58 57 242 201 38 53 9 2 13 29 6 3 36 44 .264 .371 .522 .893 105 3 0 2 3 2 0 .272 108 147
2nd Half 60 57 255 223 33 63 15 1 7 29 5 1 25 50 .283 .366 .453 .819 101 1 5 1 1 2 1 .335 93 131

First up is Bryce Harper. Harper’s HR and BB took a bit of a dip after the derby, but his batting average increased and he hit six more doubles. He had only four fewer total bases in the second half of the season. His slugging percentage and OPS, however, both took slight dips and those are arguably the more important stats.

2013 Yoenis Cespedes
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
1st Half 79 78 341 307 46 69 11 2 15 43 5 6 27 80 .225 .293 .420 .713 129 5 4 0 3 4 5 .251 95 97
2nd Half 56 55 233 222 28 58 10 2 11 37 2 1 10 57 .261 .296 .473 .769 105 3 1 0 0 1 1 .305 108 114
2014 Yoenis Cespedes
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
1st Half 90 87 384 353 53 87 21 3 14 56 1 2 27 73 .246 .299 .442 .741 156 8 1 0 3 3 5 .271 98 108
2nd Half 62 60 261 247 36 69 15 3 8 44 6 0 8 55 .279 .303 .462 .764 114 5 2 0 4 0 4 .324 103 119

Cespedes made it to the finals in both 2013 and 2014. With both cases his numbers actually improved in the second halves of each season. In 2013 he hit only four fewer home runs in 23 fewer games, hitting for a slugging percentage and OPS. In 2014 those stats improved as well. Worth noting is he was traded from cavernous Oakland to hitter-friendly Boston on July 31st, 2014. That may have helped his numbers slightly.

2014 Todd Frazier
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
1st Half 94 93 400 362 57 105 17 1 19 53 14 5 32 81 .290 .353 .500 .853 181 5 4 0 2 1 3 .326 114 140
2nd Half 63 62 260 235 31 58 5 0 10 27 6 3 20 58 .247 .312 .396 .707 93 4 3 0 2 1 4 .284 79 104
2015 Todd Frazier
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
1st Half 85 85 374 342 54 97 26 1 25 57 8 4 24 65 .284 .337 .585 .922 200 9 5 0 3 1 3 .282 126 155
2nd Half 72 70 304 277 28 61 17 0 10 32 5 4 20 72 .220 .274 .390 .664 108 10 2 1 4 2 3 .256 67 80
2016 Todd Frazier
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
1st Half 86 86 367 319 51 68 9 0 25 57 6 2 40 85 .213 .305 .476 .782 152 4 4 0 4 1 6 .202 104 108
2nd Half 72 72 299 271 38 65 12 0 15 41 9 3 24 78 .240 .299 .450 .749 122 7 0 1 3 0 2 .276 96 102
Most people probably forget that Todd Frazier has been in the finals of the last three derbies. Frazier had huge drop-offs in 2014 and 2015 after the derby with a slightly lesser drop-off in 2016. Makes you wonder why he keeps doing it. In 2014 his slugging percentage dropped a whopping .104. In 2015 it dropped an insane .195. Frazier’s OPS that year dropped from .922 to .664. Yikes. Even in 2016 his slugging OPS dropped a little by roughly 30 points. Frazier could just be more of a first half player, but his post-derby second halves have been pretty poor.
2016 Giancarlo Stanton
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
1st Half 76 73 321 279 40 65 11 1 20 50 0 0 38 107 .233 .328 .495 .823 138 3 2 0 1 2 3 .294 102 120
2nd Half 43 35 149 134 16 34 9 0 7 24 0 0 12 33 .254 .322 .478 .800 64 3 2 0 1 3 1 .284 96 116
Stanton’s power numbers dropped slightly after the derby last year, albeit in 33 fewer games thanks to a season-ending injury. Stanton had a strong July before slumping in August and getting hurt. His slugging percentage and OPS stayed fairly consistent throughout the season, though lower than his career stats.
2015 Joc Pederson
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
1st Half 89 83 366 300 46 69 15 1 20 40 2 5 58 107 .230 .364 .487 .851 146 2 6 1 1 4 1 .282 122 139
2nd Half 62 54 219 180 21 32 4 0 6 14 2 2 34 63 .178 .317 .300 .617 54 3 3 1 1 2 1 .232 64 71
Joc Pederson suffered a major slump after the derby in 2015. His slugging percentage dropped almost 200 points and his OPS dropped over 200 points. Not only that, his batting average sat below the Mendoza line and he hit just 6 home runs across 62 games.

Conclusion

It’s a small sample size but only Cespedes saw any improvement after the Home Run Derby. The rest of the derby finalists had downturns, ranging from slight to significant. Is it enough to conclude that the derby affects hitters? Probably not, but there is slight correlation. The truth is, whether or not his swing is affected, it’s unlikely Aaron Judge (and maybe even Sanchez) performs at his current level for the rest of the season. If he does he’ll be even further stamped into history than he already is in his young career.
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