For the game's best sluggers, Home Run Derby is no concern

By Chris Towers |

Yoenis Cespedes was one player whose swing wasn't hurt by the Derby. (USATSI)
Yoenis Cespedes was one player whose swing wasn't hurt by the Derby. (USATSI)

It isn't clear when it happened, but at some point, the Home Run Derby went from an interesting All-Star weekend distraction to something baseball fans everywhere dread. Our own Chris Cwik took to twitter Wednesday to voice his concerns:

White Sox slugging rookie Jose Abreu gave those concerns a bit more legitimacy Tuesday, while telling the Chicago Sun-Times he has no interest in taking part in this year's event, set to take place at Minneapolis' Target Field.

"The first thing it does is affect you mentally," he continued. "You go out and try to hit home runs. I'm not a guy who tries to hit homers. I let them come when they come. Sometimes it messes with your mechanics."

Coming from a player talented enough to rank third in the majors in home runs as a rookie, it is hard to dismiss those concerns. Especially when we have seen some high profile Home Run Derby participants fall apart following the mid-season exhibition. Bobby Abreu famously cranked out 41 home runs in his 2005 derby win, only to see his home run total drop from 18 to 6 from the first to second half of the season.

With Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki already locked into their spots as the derby captains, do their Fantasy owners have any reason to be concerned about their studs? Should potential participants like Giancarlo Stanton and Yoenis Cespedes be looked at as sell-high candidates, with their swings about to under irreparable damage?

In the table below, I looked at the home run production for Home Run Derby winners over the last 15 years, to see if there was any noticeable difference after they took down the field:

Name, YearPre-ASB AB/HRPost-ASB AB/HRCareer AB/HR
Yoenis Cespedes , 201320.520.220.7
Prince Fielder, 201221.417.316.9
Robinson Cano, 201122.521.927.0
David Ortiz, 201013.919.116.4
Prince Fielder, 200914.011.816.9
Justin Morneau, 200826.128.721.8
Vladimir Guerrero, 200722.220.218.2
Ryan Howard, 200611.38.814.2
Bobby Abreu, 200517.944.229.3
Miguel Tejada, 200422.916.327.5
Garret Anderson, 200316.838.330.1
Jason Giambi, 200214.312.916.5
Luis Gonzalez, 20019.412.425.9
Sammy Sosa, 200014.79.914.5
Ken Griffy, Jr., 199911.414.415.6

On average, Home Run Derby winners do tend to hit home runs less frequently after the All-Star break than before, though that is heavily weighted by the presence of two outliers; Bobby Abreu and Garret Anderson. That duo rode career-best home run rates to their Derby spots before falling back to Earth afterwards.

If you remove Anderson and Abreu from the data, the average rate of at-bats per home run actually decreases. That is generally to be expected, with home run numbers generally climbing along with the warmer weather of the season's second half.

On the whole, there doesn't seem to be much of a correlation between winning a Home Run Derby and a player losing his swing. The presence of relatively light hitters like Abreu and Anderson were outliers in the derby, so their inability to maintain their strong first halves should not come as much of a surprise.

If Stanton finds his way into the Derby, then, you can probably rest assured that he isn't going to go into an unexpected power outage from July on. He has the type of swing and natural power that is unlikely to be impacted by this format. The same likely goes for Cespedes and Bautista, along with Bautista's teammate Edwin Encarnacion, another likely attendee.

Among the home run leaders, Fantasy owners should eye a guy like Victor Martinez as a regression candidate given his sudden, unexpected resurgence at the age of 35. That holds true regardless of whether he ends up participating in the Derby.

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