By: Noah Wright
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports
The Home Run Derby is MLB’s way of showing the game’s best power hitters, like with Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, and Prince Fielder. However, if you’ve noticed the past few years, there’s been a trend. Less and less star players are doing The Home Run Derby. I think the main culprits of this trend are 2 things.
The first thing that started this trend is coaches and players do not want to risk injury. An example of this is when Giants’ Bruce Bochy didn’t want ace Madison Bumgarner in 2016. While it may be a different situation with your pitcher, the reason is still there. Some may say that injury is rare on swinging, and it is, but no team is willing to risk their star player on a swing, and on a freak injury like the time Adam Wainwright swung, and hurt himself after the swing. You could also say that ‘well they could hurt themself in the all star game on a swing, so then should they not go to the all-star game?’ However, it is a way different situation. A player in an all-star game will likely only see one at bat, and only swing at a 3-5 pitches at most. In the derby, they’re swinging for the fences, at dozens of pitches, for up to 10+ minutes. With that, let's get into the second point.
The next point I want to get into is a player going into a slump because of the homerun derby. While there are always a handful of players that go into a slump after the all-star break, but there is always at least one guy who goes into a huge slump post-break. Last season, Aaron Judge entered the break with a .329/.448/.691 with 30 homers, and 66 RBI’s, and looked like A Triple-Crown candidate. After Judge participated in, and won the derby, Judge batted .228/.391/.548 with 22 home runs and 48 RBI’s. While his second half was still really good, it’s clear that he took a step down in the second half. Mark Trumbo, a 2016 home run derby participant, batted a good .288/.341/.582 with 28 longballs, and 68 RBI’s before The All-Star break. However, Trumbo fell off a cliff in the second half with .214/.284/.470 line, and 19 home runs. Maybe it’s fatigue, but whatever it is, players don’t want to be one that suffers from derby fatigue.
In the end, we’ve already seen Aaron Judge turn down doing the derby this season. Bryce Harper, while he hasn’t done that great this season, has still hit 22 home runs, and is considered a current star, was reluctant to do the derby, only if he made the All-Star Game, which he has. With Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, and Max Muncy the only 4 that are confirmed going to do the derby, with Schwarber and Baez just being announced to do the derby, it won’t be a surprise if players with star names J.D. Martinez, Nelson Cruz, Paul Goldschmidt, and Giancarlo Stanton don’t do the derby when the bracket is announced on later today.