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A Dinger Dilemma: Will David Ortiz’s Home Run Derby Success Lead To a Second-Half Slump?

Mon, Jul 12, 2010

Player Projections, Strategy

Most baseball fans believe success in the Home Run Derby translates to a power outage in the second half of the season. Josh Hamilton in 2008 comes to mind, but it would be foolish to make assumptions based on that one particular instance.

To answer this presumption, I tallied the first and second half home run totals of each Home Run Derby winner since 2000. The results may surprise you.

The following table shows the pre and post All-Star Break at-bat per home run rate (AB/HR) of each player in the season they won the Home Run Derby. (Note: an AB/HR rate of 14.0 simply means the player hit a home run once every 14 at-bats.)

YEAR PLAYER PRE-ASB POST-ASB
2009 Prince Fielder 14.0 11.8
2008 Justin Morneau 26.1 28.7
2007 Vladimir Guerrero 22.2 20.2
2006 Ryan Howard 11.3 8.8
2005 Bobby Abreu 17.9 44.2
2004 Miguel Tejada 24.6 15.6
2003 Garret Anderson 17.2 40.5
2002 Jason Giambi 14.3 12.9
2001 Luis Gonzalez 9.4 12.7
2000 Sammy Sosa 14.7 9.9

 

Of the last 10 Home Run Derby winners, six of them went yard more frequently after winning the contest.

While most of the AB/HR rates didn’t change all that much, there were three major outliers.

In 2005, Bobby Abreu hit a homer once every 17.9 at-bats before the All-Star Break. In the second half, that number ballooned to 44.2.

Garret Anderson displayed a similar regression after his Home Run Derby success in 2003. After going yard once every 17.2 at-bats in the first half, his AB/HR rate sky rocketed to 40.5 following the Mid Summer Classic.

Miguel Tejada’s Home Run Derby title in 2004 translated to big time power, as his AB/HR rate dropped from 24.6 in the season’s first half to 15.6 after the All-Star Break.

After averaging the totals over the last 10 years, the data revealed that winning the Home Run Derby generally had very little effect on a player’s AB/HR rate.

If anything, the success rendered a slightly better AB/HR rate, as the 10 Home Run Derby champions combined to average one home run per 15.7 at-bats prior to the All-Star Break, while posting a 15.3 rate following it.

If we count only the players who hit the most homers in each Home Run Derby (opposed to the actual winner), the results are very similar. Despite Josh Hamilton’s power drop-off (17.9 AB/HR pre ASB, 22.5 post) following his 35-HR show in 2008, the average AB/HR rate dropped from 15.6 (pre ASB) to 14.9 (post ASB).

So what does this all mean?

Well, despite what some people may tell you, David Ortiz’s success in the 2010 Home Run Derby isn’t a good reason to trade him in your fantasy league. In fact, Papi’s highest home run totals by month are September, August and July, and his career AB/HR rate following the All-Star Break (15.2) is better than his first half total (17.3).

Bottom line: Big Papi could be in for a big second half, and his success at the Home Run Derby isn’t going to change that.

Image courtesy of: Dennis Adair

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