The Curse Of The Derby

It seems like we go through this every year—particularly since Jim Edmonds's ugly performance in the second half of 2003—but this year's Home Run Derby-related concern is that Matt Holliday, who finally appears to be hitting like our collective idea of Matt Holliday, has agreed to participate in this year's derby in Anaheim. 

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I'm not going to revoke anybody's right to freak out about the derby, though excessive concern has always seemed unnecessary to me; they do this every afternoon at batting practice, and Mark McGwire did it before Derby-sized crowds for a while. 

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But here's the good news: Matt Holliday has already participated in a Home Run Derby. In 2007 he took the field at AT&T Park and tied with Albert Pujols for third place. Holliday had been hitting .341/.392/.573 heading into the All-Star Game, while Pujols was hitting an un-Pujolsian .310/.411/.516. 

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And both of them improved following the break; Holliday, in the midst of the best season of his career, hit .338/.422/.651 in the second half, with six more home runs in 16 fewer games. Pujols went back into ELIMINATE mode and hit .349/.450/.631 in the second half, with 46 walks and just 19 strikeouts. 

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It's batting practice. If players do worse in the second half than they do in the first it's because for many derby contestants it took the best three months of their baseball life to make it onto the roster in the first place; nobody should be surprised that Brandon Inge didn't hit 20 more home runs in the second half, or that Vernon Wells and Robinson Cano probably won't, either. 

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