Robinson Cano, Statistical Regression, and the HR Derby

I wanted to talk about the Home Run Derby. Everyone seems to think that it really messes a player up, but I’m not so sure about that. Typically the players picked in the derby are the hottest hitters in baseball at the time. I know a lot of people don’t like math, but there is a thing called statistical regression. It simply means that really hot players will eventually cool off.

The nature of the Home Run Derby is directly connected to statistical regression as Major League Baseball tends to ask the hottest players in the league to participate. To date Robinson Cano has 16 homers, Miguel Cabrera has 21, Corey Hart and Vernon Wells have 19, David Ortiz has 17, and Matt Holliday is the only one not at the top of the home run leader boards with 12 homers.

The thing is that even though we’re halfway through the season those players won’t necessarily be doubling their home run production. Cabrera could hit 42 and Cano is certainly capable of 32, but are Hart and Wells locks for 38? I doubt it. Just look at Hart, he has averaged only 18 homers a year over the last three years. He has 19 right now so the chances are pretty good that he’s going to be experiencing some hard statistical regression. Some will undoubtedly point to the derby as the reason for his drop off, but in reality he’s way hotter than he has any business being and won’t be able to sustain that. He’ll be lucky to reach 28.

So take a player like Bobby Abreu. He hit 18 homers in the first half in 2005, won the derby, and then only hit 8 more homers the rest of the year. Everyone blamed the Home Run Derby. The problem with this is that Abreu is not a home run hitter. He had 18 by the All-Star break that year, but in his 12 full seasons in the majors he averages just 21 homers a year. His first half pace was ridiculous for him and thanks to statistical regression impossible for him to keep up.

I’m not saying that there isn’t some truth to the fact that the derby could mess up your swing to some extent, but I think it has been grossly overstated. I’m not worried about Cano in the derby at all and neither should you. The real worry here is all about statistical regression and that will happen whether or not a player takes part in the Home Run Derby.

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