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.
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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)
1st half: 305 pa 18 HR .562 slg .384 obp .945 ops
2nd half: 301 pa 14 HR .498 slg .355 obp .854 opsHanley 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