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The Home Run Derby Curse: A Reality or Fantasy?

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The Home Run Derby Curse: A Reality or Fantasy?
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COMMENTARY | The best power hitters throughout Major League Baseball take center stage Monday night at Citi Field for the 2013 Home Run Derby.

It's an anticipated event among baseball fans, as the most exciting part of the game is on display for just one night.

Even with all the glory surrounding the event, there is, however, the one thing that makes fans cringe -- the Home Run Derby curse.

Everyone knows about the curse. It's become a part of baseball culture ever since Bobby Abreu slugged a derby-record 41 long balls back in 2005, and then mustered up a mere six home runs in the second half.

It's been eight years since that occurrence. Times and players have all changed in that span.

Is the curse baseball's fearful reality, or just a stat-geek's fantasy?

Since 2008, 10 players have hit 20 or more homers during the derby, all managing to advance to the finals in their respective years.

Let's take a look at the pre- and post-Home Run Derby statistics of said participants:

Josh Hamilton - 2008

Pre: .310 AVG, 21 HR, 95 RBIs, .367 OBP, .552 SLG, .919 OPS

Post: .296 AVG, 11 HR, 35 RBIs, .376 OBP, .498 SLG, .874 OPS

Justin Morneau - 2008

Pre: .323 AVG, 14 HR, 68 RBIs, .391 OBP, .512 SLG, .903 OPS

Post: .267 AVG, 9 HR, 61 RBIs, .350 OBP, .481 SLG, .831 OPS

Nelson Cruz - 2009

Pre: .263 AVG, 22 HR, 53 RBIs, .326 OBP, .539 SLG, .865 OPS

Post: .255 AVG, 11 HR, 23 RBIs, .342 OBP, .497 SLG, .839 OPS

Prince Fielder - 2009

Pre: .315 AVG, 22 HR, 78 RBIs, .442 OBP, .614 SLG, 1.055 OPS

Post: .283 AVG, 24 HR, 63 RBIs, .377 OBP, .590 SLG, .967 OPS

Hanley Ramirez - 2010

Pre: .301 AVG, 13 HR, 53 RBIs, .381 OBP, .485 SLG, .865 OPS

Post: .300 AVG, 8 HR, 23 RBIs, .374 OBP, .461 SLG, .835 OPS

David Ortiz - 2010

Pre: .263 AVG, 18 HR, 57 RBIs, .384 OBP, .562 SLG, .945 OPS

Post: .277 AVG, 14 HR, 45 RBIs, .355 OBP, .498 SLG, .854 OPS

Adrian Gonzalez - 2011

Pre: .354 AVG, 17 HR, 77 RBIs, .414 OBP, .591 SLG, 1.006 OPS

Post: .317 AVG, 10 HR, 40 RBIs, .404 OBP, .489 SLG, .893 OPS

Robinson Cano - 2011

Pre: .296 AVG, 15 HR, 57 RBIs, .342 OBP, .521 SLG, .863 OPS

Post: .309 AVG, 13 HR, 61 RBIs, .358 OBP, .547 SLG, .905 OPS

Jose Bautista - 2012

Pre: .244 AVG, 27 HR, 65 RBIs, .360 OBP, .540 SLG, .899 OPS

Post: .174 AVG, 0 HR, 4 RBIs, .333 OBP, .294 SLG, .627 OPS

Prince Fielder - 2012

Pre: .299 AVG, 15 HR, 63 RBIs, .380 OBP, .505 SLG, .885 OPS

Post: .331 AVG, 15 HR, 45 RBIs, .448 OBP, .558 SLG, 1.006 OPS

Of the 10 participants, Prince Fielder (2012) and Robinson Cano (2008) were the only players to see an increase in their batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS during the second half. Fielder also matched his home run total in both halves with 15.

On the other hand, Jose Bautista (2012), Adrian Gonzalez (2011), Hanley Ramirez (2010), Fielder (2009), and Justin Morneau (2008) all experienced second-half dips in their batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Unfortunately, for Bautista, he managed to play in only six games after the derby due to an injury, dooming his second-half statistics regardless.

Even the most consistent player in baseball, Miguel Cabrera, experienced a decline across the board after participating in the Home Run Derby back in 2010.

When he's not swinging for the fences, however, Cabrera, has seen an increase in his batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS each season during that period, but also consider the fact that he's superhuman at this point.

For believers in the curse, their main argument is that hitters participating in the event take so many swings in the contest that they wind up tiring themselves out once the second half arrives. It's fair to say that the sluggers do wing up swinging the bat more during the contest than their average day at the ballpark.

The overexertion from swinging for the fences in the derby didn't seem to have any effect on Fielder in 2012 and Cano in 2011, though. Fielder was fourth on the list with 28 homers hit during the contest, while Cano hit 32, the second highest -- and that's not even counting outs and practice swings beforehand.

Josh Hamilton hit the most derby home runs out of the group with 35. He posted monstrous numbers in the first half, ones that equate a full season for most players. Except for his on-base percentage, Hamilton wasn't able to match them after the contest, and rightfully so. Could any player even touch 95 RBIs in the second half?

Bautista's 2012 numbers are ineffective when comparing at bats per home runs since he was injured during the second half. The other nine competitors averaged 19.5 ab/hr in the first-half, compared to 21.3 in the second half.

Since Cabrera also consistently puts up large home run totals, let's take a look at his at-bat per home run rates during that time frame.

The slugger competed in the 2010 derby, so his numbers that season are comparable. Cabrera's 14.2 first-half and 18.2 second-half ab/hr rates that season are lower than the ones those nine competitors combined for.

During seasons in which he's not participated in the event -- such as 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 -- Cabrera's first-half at-bat per home run rates are much more similar to those of the nine competitors. He combined to average a 19.05 first-half ab/hr rate, compared to a ridiculous 15.75 one in the second half.

We've seen all the numbers, but what does the curse really come down to? Two factors, actually.

In 2008, Major League Baseball's first half consisted of an average 95.1 games, compared to a second half of 66.9 games. This season's first-half average is 94.3 games, while the second-half is 67.7. The unevenness of the baseball schedule plays a role in the home run and RBI totals being divided but doesn't factor into a player's batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage or OPS.

Another factor is a hot start. If a player bursts onto the power scene during baseball's first half, it's likely that he'll launch himselfinto the Home Run Derby. Just look at Chris Davis and his now career-high 37 home runs this season.

Eventually, those numbers will even out when a player cools off. Players that started slow will experience the opposite effect to achieve their regular numbers.

The Home Run Derby curse isn't a matter of exhaustion or bad karma, but rather an unevenness of games between halves and a player falling back to earth after an explosive start.

Ricky Lindsay has followed the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball with a close eye from Metro Detroit for several years. He's the sports editor for his college newspaper, The Michigan Journal, and broadcasts games for the Michigan Lightning, a semi-professional football team.

You can find him on Twitter @RLindz35.

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