Home Run Derby Curse?

I doubt it’s anywhere near as strong as the Madden video game cover curse, but it seems that some home run derby participants in recent years have prolonged power outages immediately following the event. My study that follows wasn’t terribly in-depth or scientific. It was spurred because the Tigers are playing losing to the Toronto Blue Jays this week and I thought about Alex Rios‘ lack of home runs since participating in last year’s contest. Those memories also called to mind the first real collapse I remember and that was of Bobby Abreu. He not only participated in the 2005 event at Comerica Park, but he owned the sucker. He hasn’t been the same power threat since.

The problem with the instances is that they are too few to represent a trend yet and there is no way of figuring out who it might get next. Lance Berkman was in his 4th derby this year, but he never collapsed following the derby as he has this season. Did he collapse because of the derby this year? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer on that front.

At any rate, Berkman and fellow competitor Dan Uggla are in the throes of a potential home run derby-induced power outage with a combined five home runs between them since the All-Star Break after mashing 55 prior to the Midsummer Classic. Below, I look at five other recent cases of Post-Home Run Derby Syndrome (PHRDS—pronounced “Freds”):

Garret Anderson, 2003 – While Abreu is who I remember first noticing the syndrome impacting, it looks like Anderson was his predecessor! In that 2003 season, Anderson hit 29 home runs. He hasn’t topped 20 in the five seasons since, coming no closer than within 12 to that 2003 mark. The 2003 season was the fifth season in a row with 21+ home runs including a 35-home run campaign and back-to-back 29s. Granted, Anderson has battled injuries and of course, Father Time since that Home Run Derby victory, but power is an old-person skill and he has topped 500 at-bats twice.

Bobby Abreu, 2005 – The year he won that Home Run Derby in Detroit marked his seventh straight season of 20+ home runs. He even mixed in seasons of 30 and 31. He was a bona fide superstar with his 5-category production. If you played on-base percentage in your league, he was worth even more as he routinely topped .400 bolstered by 100+ walks in each of those aforementioned seven seasons. Since that fateful night, he has 52 home runs over 3.5 seasons (about 15 per). He, like Anderson, is obviously getting older, but still power is a skill you usually carry until retirement if it’s something you displayed prominently during your prime. Plus he has continue to run, hit for high average and draw tons of walks so he isn’t battling injury and his skills haven’t just left him. PHRDS claims another!

David Wright, 2006 – Wright struggled after the break of that 2006 season and then went homer-less in April to open 2007, but after that he was pretty much back on track. As a superstar still awaiting his prime, he beat PHRDS, but it’s as rare as Magic Johnson and his AIDS. I include Wright mainly to give hope to the Rios owners out there worried about their wannabe star, who is now in his prime and could struggle to reach double-digit home runs this season.

Alex Rios, 2007 – This case of PHRDS just snuck up on me! I saw Rios fizzle after the break last year, it impacted several of my teams since I absolutely love the guy. Instead of diagnose a case of chronic PHRDS, I attributed it to Alex being Alex as he perennially fades after the break (his OPS is 112 points lower after the All-Star Break from 2005-2007). No he didn’t have a staph infection to fall back on and it briefly crossed my mind that it might be PHRDS, but as an avid Rios supporter, I was in sheer denial. Even this past winter, as I prepared my lists and forecasts, it again crossed my mind that perhaps Rios was in the clutches of PHRDS and might not be the 25+ homer breakout I wanted him to be in 2008. I shouldn’t have ignored that little voice that was screaming at me.

To you Berkman and Uggla owners that have dropped points in home runs and RBIs since the break, I feel for you. Watching a family member suffer from PHRDS as it controls their central power system is heartbreaking. You just want to go out to that mound and lob one in there for them to send 400 feet the other way, but you can’t. You just have to hope and pray that it will go into remission. Berkman is no spring chicken at 32 while Uggla is 30 raising the same age concerns that plagued the first two sufferers of chronic PHRDS. I do believe that both can pull themselves out the proverbial fire; Berkman because he is an amazing hitter that can & will make necessary adjustments when he not going right and Uggla because he corkscrews himself into the batters box about three inches on nearly every swing… but honestly, who knows. We’ll just have to visit daily and monitor their vitals. PHRDS is a cruel, cruel bitch and takes away fantasy titles and gobs of cash along with your favorite player’s power.

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