New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge put on a show during the first half of the season and kept it going at the 2017 Home Run Derby. But will competing in the Derby affect his swing the rest of the season?
Verdict: Yes, Judge and the other contestants are in for a second-half drop-off.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that players are typically selected to compete in the Home Run Derby because they were having an incredible first half -- well above their career baseline, in many instances. So, in some instances, these second-half drop-offs could simply be a matter of coming back down to earth, so to speak. Either way, the data certainly seems to suggest that a decline is in order, for one reason or another.
Exhibit A: OPS will take a hit
There have been a total of 42 participants in the previous five Home Run Derbies (2012-16), not including the 2017 event. Of those 42, only two had a second-half OPS at least 100 points higher than their first-half OPS. On the other hand, 19 of those 42 participants saw their OPS decrease by at least 100 points following the All-Star break.
Overall, 32 of the 42 participants had a decrease in OPS in the second half, while only 10 increased their OPS following the break. For reference, the league average has stayed almost exactly the same from the first half to the second half. From 2012-16, the league-average OPS actually increased in the second half in two of the five seasons -- and dropped an average of just .002 overall.
Exhibit B: Expect more at-bats between HRs
Focusing solely on the rate at which these players hit home runs, HR Derby participants have also experienced a drop-off in that category. Of the 42 participants in the previous five HR Derbies, 30 had a worse AB per HR rate in the second half than in the first half, and only 10 had a better AB per HR rate (two players did not hit another HR after the All-Star break due to injury-shortened seasons).
On average, players that competed in the HR Derby needed an extra 5.6 AB per HR in the second half than they did in the first half. By comparison, the league average actually improved ever so slightly following the break.
Exhibit C: All those extra swings will hurt Judge and Sano
What about Judge and Minnesota Twins slugger Miguel Sanó, who took more swings at the 2017 HR Derby than the other seven participants?
If the finalists from the last three HR Derbies are any indication, you can expect a noticeable dip in their frequency of home runs following the All-Star break.
Will Judge be an exception to the norm? We'll have to wait and see what happens in the second half of the season.