## Home Run Derby: Does it ruin swings?December 15, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Earlier this year, there was a lot of discussion about the alleged home run derby curse. This post by Andy on Baseball-Reference.com asked if the Home Run Derby is bad for baseball, and this Hardball Times piece agrees with him that it is not. The standard explanation involves selection bias – sure, players tend to hit fewer home runs in the second half after they hit in the Derby, but that’s because the people who hit in the Derby get invited to do so because they had an abnormally high number of home runs in the first half.

Though this deserves a much more thorough macro-level treatment, let’s just take a look at the density of home runs in either half of the season for each player who participated in the Home Run Derby. Those players include David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Chris Young, Nick Swisher, Corey Hart, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Holliday, and Vernon Wells.

For each player, plus Robinson Cano (who was of interest to Andy in the Baseball-Reference.com post), I took the percentage of games before the Derby and compared it with the percentage of home runs before the Derby. If the Ruined Swing theory holds, then we’d expect

$g(HR) \equiv HR_{before}/HR_{Season} > g(Games) \equiv Games_{before}/162$

The table below shows that in almost every case, including Cano (who did not participate), the density of home runs in the pre-Derby games was much higher than the post-Derby games.

 Player HR Before HR Total g(Games) g(HR) Diff Ortiz 18 32 0.54321 0.5625 0.01929 Hanley 13 21 0.54321 0.619048 0.075838 Swisher 15 29 0.537037 0.517241 -0.0198 Wells 19 31 0.549383 0.612903 0.063521 Holliday 16 28 0.54321 0.571429 0.028219 Hart 21 31 0.549383 0.677419 0.128037 Cabrera 22 38 0.530864 0.578947 0.048083 Young 15 27 0.549383 0.555556 0.006173 Cano 16 29 0.537037 0.551724 0.014687

Is this evidence that the Derby causes home run percentages to drop off? Certainly not. There are some caveats:

• This should be normalized based on games the player played, instead of team games.
• It would probably even be better to look at a home run per plate appearance rate instead.
• It could stand to be corrected for deviation from the mean to explain selection bias.
• Cano’s numbers are almost identical to Swisher’s. They play for the same team. If there was an effect to be seen, it would probably show up here, and it doesn’t.

Once finals are up, I’ll dig into this a little more deeply.