Hit Me with Your Best Shot

Baltimore Orioles vs Los Angeles Dodgers
Corey Seager–Los Angeles Dodgers during game against the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2016

“Well you’re a real tough cookie with a long history
Of breaking little hearts like the one in me
That’s okay, let’s see how you do it
Put up you dukes, let’s get down to it”

~Pat Benatar

Here we are, coming up on another “Midsummer Classic.” And, as a side show to the All-Star game, the Home Run Derby. This will be the third straight year that the Dodgers have had a participant. In 2014, Yasiel Puig did not hit a single home run. In 2015, Joc Pederson made it all the way to the finals before losing by one to winner Todd Frazier, then with the Cincinnati Reds. This year, the Dodgers’ participant is rookie extraordinaire Corey Seager. Seager is the seventh rookie to appear in the Derby, as well as the eighth Dodger player.

Participants are seeded in brackets, based on their home run totals entering the All-Star break. Seager has 17 home runs so far among rookies, second only to Trevor Story of Colorado who has 21. He is the eighth seed of eight participants, pitted against Mark Trumbo of the Orioles. Trumbo leads all of the MLB in homers with 26. The six other participants are Frazier, now with the White Sox, Adam Duvall from the Reds, Robinson Cano of the Mariners, Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, Wil Myers of the host team San Diego Padres, and Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies.

Petco Park, home of the Padres, will the be the host park. How this plays for the Home Run Derby will be interesting. Petco is a very pitcher friendly park, as highlighted in an ESPN piece from earlier this year:

(Park factors are for 2013-15 seasons only, under current measurements)

“Once the most pitching-friendly ballpark in baseball, Petco’s fence adjustments following the 2012 season helped bring it closer to the pack. That was especially true for left-handed hitters, who scarcely stood a chance in the venue’s early days; this is actually now a neutral to slightly hitter-friendly ballpark in terms of home runs, and it’s almost league average in terms of hits (0.964 factor) and extra-base hits (0.956). But the main reason that Petco is still regarded an extreme pitchers’ park is its strikeout potential; its 1.058 factor is sixth-highest in the game.”

Many Dodgers fans might be rooting for Trumbo. There is a long held notion that being part of a Home Run Derby ruins your swing for the rest of the year. Corey Seager is not worried about such a thing. If the Derby ruins his swing, he will just “fix it.” Easy peasy! Of course, it may not be that easy. Several players have regressed after having participated in the Home Run Derby. But that could be from any number of things. Normal second half regression. First half was just an anomaly as to how hot a certain player was. Injury. General wear and tear as the season goes on.

However, not all players see their season ruined due to being in the Derby. Craig Calcaterra has a great piece this morning about how being in the Home Run Derby does not hurt its participants. In it, among other things, he cites how nine players’ season actually were better, after having participated.

Also, in a piece by Bill Plaschke of the LA Times, Dodgers’ first baseman Adrian Gonzalez says that the Home Run Derby is not all that different from batting practice. Gonzalez should know, as he has participated in Derby twice himself. While I’m not trying to get people at actually read Plaschke, he seems to ignore all the info against the Derby actually harming your swing and instead focusing on the bad. (Surprise!)

Whether Seager being selected to be in the Home Run Derby is a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen. Other than Pederson last year, Dodger players traditionally do not have a very good track record in the Derby. Consequently, Pederson did not end up having a great second half after participating in it. Maybe Seager is just the Dodger player we need to fix this.

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