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Should Luke Voit participate in the Home Run Derby?

The Home Run Derby curse, statistically speaking, is a myth. But should Yankees fans want Voit to risk it?

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Voit has inspired a number headlines over the last few days. To start, he led American League first baseman in the first wave of All-Star voting. On top of that, Voit made it clear he’s more than willing to participate in the Home Run Derby.

Voit has 16 home runs and a slugging percentage of .504 so far this year. Couple that with one of the better barrel percentages in baseball and his candidacy for the Derby is fairly strong. Not to mention he is a match made in heaven with Yankees fans. He would bring energy, passion, and unbuttoned shirt to the showdown. Voit participating in the Home Run Derby would be nothing short of a spectacle.

But what about the so-called Home Run Derby curse? When Aaron Judge burst onto the scene and took over baseball in 2017, the only thing that seemed to slow him down was his participation in the Home Run Derby. Studies have shown that the event doesn’t have any statistical effect on players who participate, but coincidence or not, Judge was a completely different player in the second half that season.

Disrupting players’ rhythms can get them into funks. Professional athletes are creatures of habit; drastic changes in routines can certainly throw them off course. As mentioned above, however, researchers have conducted studies that show little to no difference in statistical drop-offs when comparing players who participate in the derby and players who don’t.

The stats don’t lie, but this does not eliminate the mental aspect of the Home Run Derby. All players are stripped of their daily routines over the All-Star break. Batters can still get in the cage to sneak some work in, but unless they’re in the All-Star Game, they won’t see competitive action for four or five days.

What makes it more difficult for Home Run Derby participants? Not only do they take a break from their normal routine, but they begin an entirely new one. To get prepared for the contest, hitters must adjust the way they take batting practice. They don’t go the other way or drive the ball into the gap in these sessions. When they swing, they aim to destroy the ball. It’s no longer batting practice when they swing for nothing but the fences. This adjustment can develop a loop in a batter’s swing path, potentially stripping that player of the finely-tuned mechanics he accumulated over the first half of the season. This is what can hurt the participants.

It may not happen often, but the Judge scenario looms large in the minds of Yankees fans. Voit has been all too important to the Yankees’ offensive production this year. If he does participate, hopefully he doesn’t lose anything down the stretch.