Phillies second baseman Chase Utley will be making his Home Run Derby debut tonight, attempting to make it three Phillies in four years to win the Derby. Bobby Abreu won it in 2005 and Ryan Howard won it in ’06.
Utley’s 25 dingers is the third-most in the Majors, behind teammate Howard with 28 and Adam Dunn of the Cincinnati Reds with 26. Among the eight contestants (listed below), Utley arguably has the best swing.
For those of you who don’t want your team’s player in the Derby because it may mess up the swing, check out Ryan Howard’s first- and second-half splits in 2006:
First half: 28 HR/.341 OBP/.582 SLG
Second half: 30 HR/.509 OBP/.751 SLG
I think it can be reasonably stated that Howard has a swing that’s highly prone to bad habits, and he had a legendary second half after participating in the Home Run Derby. Granted, my citation of Howard is a cherry pick and you could just as easily cite Bobby Abreu’s second half of 2005 as a counter-point, the point is that a correlation between Derby participation and second-half success or failure has not been found.
Here’s the list of the eight contestants with their 2008 HR totals…
Chase Utley, 2B, PHI: 25 HR (3rd-most in MLB)
Dan Uggla, 2B, FLA: 23 HR (T4th-most in MLB)
Ryan Braun, OF, MIL: 23 HR (T4th-most in MLB)
Grady Sizemore, OF, CLE: 23 HR (T4th-most in MLB)
Lance Berkman, 1B, HOU: 22 HR (8th-most in MLB)
Josh Hamilton, OF, TEX: 21 HR (T11th-most in MLB)
Evan Longoria, 3B, TBR: 16 HR
Justin Morneau, 1B, MIN: 14 HR
Four of the hitters are left-handed and another (Berkman) is a switch-hitter who will probably hit lefty. Yankee Stadium is 314 feet down the right field line and 318 down the left field line, so there’s a very slight advantage to left-handed hitters. Due to how shallow it is down the lines, line drive hitters will have a bit of an advantage as well.
Here’s a look at the contestants’ LD% this season…
The LD% of past derby winners…
2007: Vladimir Guerrero, 15.6%
2006: Ryan Howard, 21.9%
2005: Bobby Abreu, 24.1%
2004: Miguel Tejada, 19.4%
2003: Garrett Anderson, 20.2%
2002: Jason Giambi, 25.4%
With an exception to Guerrero, it appears that there’s some correlation between LD% and winning the Derby. This is a huge over-analysis of a meaningless event where the hitters are essentially taking glorified batting practice, but it’s interesting to look at.
My prediction: Utley vs. Hamilton in the finals with Utley winning it.
Feel free to leave your predictions in the comments.