PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JULY 06: Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on July 06, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Yesterday it was announced Kyle Schwarber will compete in the HR Derby. And while having a Phillies player in the Derby will undoubtedly be a good thing for the team’s image, it was met with potentially valid concerns. There is a running theory that participating in the HR Derby hurts a player’s swing. But is that true? Is the curse a real thing, or is it fiction? I, having no life and too much time on my hands, spent way too much time seeing how players have fared after competing in the All-Star Game. Here are the stats before, and after the All-Star break, from the last 4 years of HR Derby Participants.

The Numbers

The first number in each box is what they did before the derby. The second is what they did after competing.

2021 Homeruns BA OBP SLG OPS
Pete Alonso 17/20 .249/.275 .326/.361 .477/.560 .802/.921
Trey Mancini 16/5 .256/.254 .332/.319 .460/.390 .791/.711
Juan Soto 11/18 .283/.348 .407/.525 .445/.639 .852/1.164
Trevor Story 11/13 .249/.253 .323/.337 .442/.506 .765/.843
Salvador Perez 21/27 .275/.269 .300/.334 .501/.598 .802/.932
Shohei Ohtani 33/13 .279/.229 .364/.382 .698/.458 1.062/ .839
Matt Olson 23/16 .282/.257 .371/.372 .567/.506 .938/.878
Joey Gallo 24/14 .203/.198 .369/.334 .517/.406 .886/.740
.513/.509
2019 Homeruns BA OBP SLG OPS
Pete Alonso 30/23 .280/.235 .372/.341 .634/.522 1.006/.863
Vlad Guerrero 8/7 .249/.293 .328/.349 .413/.452 .741/.801
Joc Pederson 20/16 .239/.262 .333/.346 .521/.560 .855/.906
Ronald Acuna 21/20 .292/.263 .377/.350 .506/.534 .882/.884
Josh Bell 27/10 .302/.233 .376/.351 .648/.429 1.024/.780
Alex Bregman 23/18 .265/.338 .393/.463 .533/.671 .927/1.134
Carlos Santana 19/15 .297/.262 .418/.370 .540/.485 .958/.855
Matt Chapman 21/15 .268/.222 .535/.324 .535/.465 .890/.789
.541/.515
2018 Homeruns BA OBP SLG OPS
Bryce Harper 23/11 .214/.300 .365/.434 .468/.538 .833/.972
Kyle Schwarber 18/8 .249/.221 .375/.323 .498/.417 .873/.740
Rhys Hoskins 14/20 .252/.237 .363/.341 ..456/.546 .819/.888
Max Muncy 22/13 .271/.253 .409/.366 .604/.553 1.013/.919
Javier Baez 19/15 .292/.289 .326/.326 .566/.540 .892/.866
Alex Bregman 20/11 .288/.283 .389/.402 .539/.520 .929/.922
Jesus Aguilar 24/11 .298/.246 .373/.324 .621/.436 .995/.760
Freddie Freeman 16/7 .315/.301 .405/.362 .533/.465 .938/.827
.536/.502
2017 Homeruns BA OBP SLG OPS
Aaron Judge 30/22 .329/.228 .448/.391 .691/.548 1.139/.939
Miguel Sano 21/7 .276/.236 .368/.312 .538/.431 .906/.743
Cody Bellinger 25/14 .261/.274 .,343/.363 .619/.538 .961/.901
Gary Sanchez 13/20 .276/.280 .360/.332 .491/.564 .850/.896
Justin Bour 14/11 .287/.292 .361/..370 .567/.508 .929/.878
Giancarlo Stanton 26/33 .277/.287 .360/.393 .572/.702 .933/1.095
Charlie Blackmon 20/17 .316/.370 .370/.436 .580/.628 .950/1.064
Mike Moustakas 25/13 .270/.275 .304/.327 .560/.471 .864/.798
.577/.549

What Does it Mean?

That is a lot of data to sort through. Homerun totals are not the fairest stat to go by, because the player may have played fewer games in the 2nd half. I think the best stat to go by is slugging percentage. It is a good measure of power production and accounts for the disparity of games played in each half of the season.

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So how much did participating in the derby impact each player’s slugging percentage? 19 of the 40 players saw their slugging percentage drop. That may not seem so bad when you realize that it means 21 players saw their slugging percentage go up or stay the same. But when you account for how much those players slugging percentages dropped, it looks worse. 16 players saw their SLG% drop by more than .05. 7 saw their slugging percentage drop by .100. Compared to only 9 who saw it go up by .050.  And when you take the 40 players as a total, they averaged a Slugging % of .542 before the Derby, and .518 after it.

That may seem like a major difference. But to put it into context Albert Pujols’s career SLG % is .542. and Jason Giambi’s is .516. Giambi is a good player, and Pujols is an All-Time great. That .024 difference is bigger than it looks.

Schwarber’s First Derby

But we can’t ignore that there is a non-zero amount of players who saw their production increase after the derby. Some even saw it go up by a large amount. So first let’s specifically look at what Kyle Schwarber did the last time he competed. In 2018 he finished second in the derby behind Bryce Harper. Before the break, his slash line was .249/.375/.498/.873. After, it fell to .221/.323/.417/.740. So not great. Kyle Schwarber has even spoken to feeling fatigued after the derby.

“The biggest thing is you’re going to get sore, after the fact. You’re taking almost 13, 14, and 15 minutes of just full swings. You don’t ever do that in a day in your routine in baseball. That’s just torturing yourself. It’s definitely taxing on the body.”- Kyle Schwarber last year after turning down an invite to the 2021 HR Derby.

Second Time Participants

So should we be concerned about how the derby will impact him? Well, there was one more thing I looked into, that is specific to Schwarber. I went and looked at the last 5 guys who participated in the Derby multiple times, to see how it affected them.

SLG Before/After
Bryce Harper 1st derby 2013 .522/.453
Bryce Harper 2nd Derby 2018 .468/.538
Pete Alonso 1st Derby 2019 .634/.522
Pete Alonso 2nd Derby 2021 .477/.560
Alex Bregman 1st Derby 2018 .539/.520
Alex Bregman 2nd Derby 2019 .533/.671
Giancarlo Stanton 1st Derby 2014 .538/.586
Giancarlo Stanton 2nd Derby 2016 .495/.478
Giancarlo Stanton 3rd Derby 2017 .572/.702
Joc Pederson 1st Derby 2015 .487/.300
Joc Pederson 2nd Derby 2019 .521/.560
Jose Bautista 1st Derby 2011 .720/.477
Jose Bautista 3rd Derby 2014* .502/.556
*Jose Bautista Competed in the Derby a 2nd time in 2012, but I didn’t use those numbers because he was injured shortly after the All-Star Break, and he didn’t have enough at-bats to make it a valid sample size. But for reference, his SLG% fell from .540 to .294 in the 6 games he played.

What we can take from this, is players seem to learn from their first time competing. Whether it is that they conserve their energy better, or learn to not overswing. I don’t really know. But the data doesn’t lie. Apart from Giancarlo Stanton in his 2nd appearance, all of these guys saw wild improvements after participating in subsequent HR Derbies. And Stanton saw a huge improvement the third time he participated, so even he doesn’t disprove the theory that players fare better after competing in the derby multiple times.

These 6 players had an average slugging percentage of .573 before their first time and followed that up with an average slugging percentage of .476. A drop of .097. For reference .573 is Joe DiMaggio’s career slugging percentage. And .476 is Matt Stairs’ career slugging percentage. But those slugging percentages improve to .510 before the break. and .580 after it in each of their other derbies. So it goes from a drop of .097 to a gain of .070.

Conclusion

So should we be concerned about Schwarber? Maybe a little. But the numbers are on his side. Players who compete a 2nd time don’t regress nearly as bad as first-timers. In fact, many get better. Schwarber is aware of what the derby did to him the last time. He knows that he overtaxed himself, and his production suffered. I have a hard time imagining he would make that mistake a 2nd time. It will be something to keep an eye on. But if you are holding your breath out of concern that this will tank the back half of the season for him, you can relax a bit. The numbers say he should be fine. So enjoy Schwarber being in the Derby. If he puts up a performance like last time, it should be fun to watch.