Lance Berkman is absolutely mashing this year, so much so that he won the fan vote to start as the NL first baseman over sluggers like Albert Pujols, Derrek Lee, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez, and Prince Fielder. He also got invited to participate in the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium and happily accepted. Lots of players are invited to participate in the Derby and choose not to because they think it will screw with their swing, or worse yet, get them injured or tired. Lance Berkman, who finished second to Miguel Tejada in 2004, is having none of that. As he told The Monty Show on Sporting News Radio Wednesday, the Home Run Derby doesn’t screw up your swing:
“I don’t know that there’s a whole lot to that. I know some guys really think that it messes your swing up and I guess some people have dropped off in performance in the second half, but I doubt very seriously that it was because of the Home Run Derby. I think that when you get to the Major Leagues and you spend so much time taking swings the right way, if you take 45 minutes or an hour trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark, I don’t think it’s going to permanently flaw your swing for the rest of the season.”
Not to say that I don’t understand players being reluctant to perform in the Derby, because I do, but I agree with Berkman that it shouldn’t ruin your swing. If player performance drops off in the second half of the season after they participated in the Home Run Derby, it’s likely because the player wasn’t much of a slugger to begin with but still was in the Derby because nobody else wanted to do it (e.g. Bobby Abreu, Garret Anderson, and Alex Rios). Besides, many All-Stars got there because they had tremendous first halfs and were due for drop-offs anyway. I think that’s the biggest factor, more than anything else. I agree with Berkman, but I can speak from experience to say that sometimes simple games due impact swings.
Back when I was much younger and would go to baseball camp during the summer, we used to play wiffle ball in the mornings before camp got started. This is back when I was going to the batting cages on a daily basis to work on my swing and was driving the ball on a regular basis. But when it came to wiffle ball, my slightly downward swing that produced line drives and gappers in a regular game just produced crappy grounders in wiffle ball. So what did I do? I corrected my swing, everything I had ever worked on, to start uppercutting so I could do better in the morning game and earn camp-wide respect. What happened? I began clubbing homers in wiffle ball with regularity, but sure enough I started popping out in real games and sucking at the plate. I was never the same after that. Sigh. Mind you, this happened over the course of several weeks of uppercutting each day in wiffle ball, not just one 10-out batting practice session. I see where these guys are coming from, but one day of home run derby won’t kill you. Two weeks of it will. Trust me.Google+