Monday, July 10, 2006

Curse of the Home Run Derby? [J. Mark English]

Jayson Stark, ESPN --

Here in this modern sports world, where we'd much rather believe in supernatural forces than reality, we love our curses. So it's time to ask a question we know you've all been wondering about pretty much 24/7:
Is there any such thing as a Home Run Derby Curse?
We pose this momentous question in honor of last year's Derby winner, Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu.
In case you lost track somewhere around the moment Abreu bungeed his 41st home run in last July's Derby, several reliable witnesses report that he is not still standing at the plate in Detroit, launching BP shots off the Montgomery Inn's rib smoker.
In fact, he has resumed his normal life, as a mild-mannered on-base machine in Philadelphia.
What he hasn't resumed doing since that Derby, however, is hitting home runs.
He still collects his walks and his doubles and his stolen bases, pretty much the way he always did. He still piles up those OBP numbers in insanely massive abundance.
But he has hit fewer baseballs over the fence in the past 12 months than he did in the first 12 minutes of that Derby. Which has produced some staggering facts that all Derby Curse conspiracists should have committed to memory by now:
• Abreu rolled into last year's All-Star break with 18 home runs in 323 at-bats -- a ratio of one bomb every 17.9 AB. Since then, he has hit just 14 homers in 557 at-bats -- a ratio of one every 39.8 AB.
• At the time of last year's Derby, Abreu ranked ninth in the National League in homers. Since then, he has been outhomered by more than 100 different men -- a cast that includes Damon Hollins, Emil Brown, Felipe Lopez and Tadahito Iguchi. None of whom have been mistaken lately for David Ortiz.
• And Abreu's six second-half homers last year, in 270 at-bats (a ratio of one every 45.0), represented the fewest ever hit by a Derby winner after the break, since the Derby went to anything even remotely resembling its current format.