Is there a Home Run Derby Curse?
Chris Davis enters Monday event with 37 homers
Toronto Blue Jays pitchers will have the pleasure of facing major league home run leader Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles six more times this season, starting in mid-September.
Davis swatted his 15th home run against the Jays since the start of last season in his team’s 7-4 victory on Sunday. His 37th homer of the 2013 tied Reggie Jackson for the most by an American League hitter prior to the all-star break.
But Davis, who has set career bests in home runs, runs batted in (93) and doubles (27) through the Orioles’ first 96 contests this season, told Baltimore reporters he isn’t sure what to expect at Monday’s Home Run Derby at Citi Field (8 p.m. ET), home of the National League’s New York Mets.
He’ll be joined by captain Robinson Cano, defending Derby champion Prince Fielder and Yoenis Cespedes on the AL side in facing captain David Wright and fellow NL participants Bryce Harper, Pedro Alvarez and Michael Cuddyer.
While Davis doesn’t know what to expect Monday, fans at the stadium and watching across the world will be wondering how the six-foot-three, 232-pound slugger will fare once the season resumes Friday.
Will he take a run at the first 60-homer campaign since 2001? Or, will he make like Bobby Abreu of the Los Angeles Angels in 2005? Abreu hit 18 home runs before the all-star break that season and socked another 41 in the Derby at Comerica Park in Detroit before going deep just six times in his final 73 games.
Recent history would suggest a dropoff for Davis in the unofficial second half of the season as, according to AccuScore, derby participants have averaged a .025-point decline in slugging percentage since 2001.
Wright’s post-Derby performance in 2006, in which he homered only six times after hitting 20 long balls in the first half, prompted discussion of a potential homer hangover.
Not much has changed in the past five years as only seven of the 40 participants in the Home Run Derby have raised their home run rates in the second half of the season.
One of them is Fielder, who won last year’s Derby in Kansas City with 28 home runs, eight more than the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista.
In the first half of last season, Fielder hit 15 home runs and followed with 15 the rest of the way with 61 fewer at-bats. In 2009, he clubbed 24 second-half homers after winning the Derby in St. Louis, compared to 22 in the first half when he had 25 more at-bats.
Critics may say competing in the Home Run Derby causes a player to alter his mechanics to put on a show for fans.
Competing in the event a year ago may have hurt Angels first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo. He had 22 pre-All-Star Game home runs and just 10 afterwards.
Perhaps more glaring was a significant drop in batting average (.306 to .227) but Trumbo has rebounded somewhat with a .245 average and 21 homers in 93 contests this season.
In 2008, Texas’ Josh Hamilton cleared the fence 35 times at the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, only to hit 11 homers the rest of the way.
And a year earlier in San Francisco, Toronto’s Alex Rios defeated Vladimir Guerrero to win the Home Run Derby by a count of 19-17. He went on to hit seven "second-half" home runs and two years later the Blue Jays placed him on waivers.
With his Orioles 1½ games back of the AL wild-card lead, is manager Buck Showalter worried about Davis messing up his swing or hurting himself in the Derby?
"You can get hurt walking through the parking lot," the veteran skipper said at Saturday’s "State of the Orioles" address. "You can get into a spell where you’re not swinging it well. That’s a lack of confidence in you and your abilities and your routine and things you do.
"To say that’s going to do this and do that, I’m proud of Chris and he’s representing the Orioles, and I hope he hits them seven hundred frickin’ feet."
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