Monday, July 14, 2008

A-Rod and the Home Run Derby

Ken Rosenthal thinks A-Rod needs to be in the home run derby:
Barry Bonds was heavily criticized for declining to participate in last year's Derby at his home park. A-Rod deserves the same heat for the same offense, and let's not hear about how the Derby might disrupt his precious swing.

Yes, several recent Derby participants — Bobby Abreu, David Wright, Alex Rios — had their home-run production decline after they competed in the event. But those dropoffs might have occurred anyway. These are the best hitters in the game. They can't adjust?

I'm not following. Abreu, pre-derby, was considered one of the best hitters in the game. Wright and Rios are certainly still thought of that way. All three had power problems following the derby. Is Rosenthal saying that they simply chose not to adjust? Because obviously they didn't, and right or wrong, people attribute that to the derby.

And what's with the sarcasm on the "precious swing" line? It is precious. The Yankees are relying on it like they're relying on nothin' else to get back in the race. If Rodriguez were to do the derby and started out on a 3-29 slump in the second half, don't you think he'd catch hell for it?

I have no idea if the derby actually does cause problems for its participants, but to believe that it does is something more than mere superstition. It's simply not natural or typical for a guy to take power hacks at 100 (or however many) BP pitches in the space of an hour or two. I get tired just watching it, and I'm sure the players get tired doing it. If I'm a Yankees fan, I have no problem not seeing A-Rod taking his hacks tonight.

13 comments:

Mark Runsvold said...

I've just been surprised I haven't heard more about this. It seemed like perfect A-Rod-is-a-prima-donna-who-hates-fans fodder, so well done, Mr. Rosenthal.

It's always unsettled me in that seeing your dad in a hospital bed way when I witness big league hitters visibly fatigued by all that swinging. I have some other issues with the derby too, which I voiced on my...er...blog.

Mr. Thursday said...

If Bobby Abreu, pre 2005 ASG, was not considered one of the very best hitters in all of baseball, then people just weren't paying attention. Lowest OPS+ from 1998-2004: 136. OPS+ going into 2005 ASG, 154.

That said, the post derby power outages are nonsense. If Abreu got wrecked in 2005, then, somehow, he's never recovered. David Wright, 23 at the time, was possibly hitting just a bit higher than he was then capable of, slugging wise, and came back down to Earth.

Of course, in 2006, during Wright's infamous power slippage, he was beaten in the home run derby by Ryan Howard, who went on to hit 30 more homers in the second half.

I imagine there is no relationship between actual game home run hitting, and home run derby mashing. That said, A-Rod shouldn't feel obligated to participate in nonsense.

Mark Runsvold said...

It doesn't take more than a cursory perusal of past participants to see that whatever negative effect can be generalized isn't a permanent one.

As I recall, Barry Bonds went on to enjoy continued power-hitting success after 1992.

Jason said...

Yanks fan here. I have no prob with ARod sitting it out. None whatsoever.

themarksmith said...

I think it would be nice to see A-Rod in there (like Mariano getting the start?), but I don't feel it's necessary. Honestly, I think the "power outages" have more to do with great starts to the season that get you into the All-Star Game, the fatigue of the second-half anyway, and just general variation. Those guys still had great years by the end.

Peter said...

Well, here it comes, courtesy of Jayson Stark:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/allstar08/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=3485597

Blah blah blah blah blah...trite, irrelevant garbage like this is the reason I basically pay attention to Neyer, Law, Gammons, and nobody else on ESPN.com.

Justin said...

Actually, Stark makes a pretty good point about the last time he participated in the Home Run Derby. 30 HRs in the second half is what happened. Now, I don't really care about the HR derby, so if you want to sit it out, fine. But don't be silly and think that it messes with your swing or that there's some kind of cures - that's just silly. Here's where I throw in this quote from Wright (one of the poor victims of the curse):

"It doesn't mess up your swing. Just ask Ryan Howard—it didn't affect his. If you're at this level, your ability to make adjustments has to be pretty high. Those guys in the Home Run Derby can make adjustments."

Yeah, so here's what's possibly going on - (1) A-Rod actually believes what he's saying, and is thus a lot duller than I've given him credit for (and considering the mess that his personal life is right now, this might actually be the reason), or (2) A-Rod just wants a day off and won't (or can't) nut-up and tell the media (and MLB) the real reason why he won't participate.

Honestly, if he just said something like "you know, I have a lot of personal issues going on right now because of my cougar hunting tendencies and could really use this extra day to help straighten my life out so I can come back in the second half with a clear head."

Or, alternatively, "Yeah, I need this extra day to do a little cougar hunting, he you see that foxy older chick over there... yeah, her - yeah, I'm gonna tap that tonight..."

Either way, I'd have a lot more respect for the guy.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

Let's be honest, Justin: No matter what ARod did, he would be bashed.

If he participates, he's trying to hog the spotlight, he's not focused on winning, he's not a team player, etc. And God forbid he get off to a slow start after the break (ARod's Selfishness Dooms Yankees).

If he sits out, he's no fun, he hates the fans, he's got no balls, he doesn't have any "Yankee Pride", etc.

Making a comment to explain his decision not to participate would only fuel the story, IMO.

I don't know whether or not the Home Run Derby messes up hitters' swings. Citing examples of guys have done well (or poorly) after competing in the Derby doesn't really prove anything. Regardless, ARod's making a ton of money and his team needs him to have a good second half if they're going to make the playoffs, so he should do whatever he feels is necessary for him to get ready for the second half.

Daniel said...

I certainly don't believe in any curse, but I also have no problem with guys sitting out because they think it messes them up. Sure, Ryan Howard and others have come back after the break and hit a ton of bombs, but for some guys, taking that many let-me-hit-it-as-hard-as-I-can swings is tough.

Vlad has come out and said that he was exhausted from swinging that many times last year. And he hit zero home runs in July. Of course, I think this type of thing would affect Vlad more than others, since Vlad tends to swing from his heels every pitch. Howard is a beast who generates easy power from his body, so I imagine he would be less affected. I would make the case that at the very least, the competition is tiring for the guys who get into the finals rounds. Further, this type of exertion is coming at a time when most guys are resting. Some guys' bodies and swings can handle it better than others, but I think it can definitely have a detrimental affect on a guy's hitting immediately after the break.

If I was a Yankees fan who was hopeful that my team was going to make it back into the playoffs, I'd be happy A-Rod was sitting out as well. I'm certainly glad Vlad's not going.

John Peterson said...

You don't think players take unrealistic power hacks in BP?

Ron Rollins said...

There's a difference between guys who swing for the fence and guys who go over the fence because of the type of swing they have.

Guess which are Bonds and Howard and guess which are Wright and Abreu.

This is the type of discussion where we actually do need to tell the statistics to shut up and people actually need to understand the mechanics of the game.

Maybe a little less fantasy baseball and a little bit more company softball team might help.

Eli said...

I agree completely with Peter. Everyone here knows that the focus of all ARod/Yankee "analysis" if they stumble out of the gate in the 2nd half and ARod participated in the HRDerby would be that he values individual awards and accolades more than his team's success. Then they would trot out all the stories of players saying that the Derby had messed up their swings and ignored all the players who had a good second half and think the hoax is ridiculous.

Anybody else think it would make the HRDerby better if all the participants were pitchers and we moved home plate to the mound? I would definitely watch that.