Home Run Derby participation is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a player gets to partake in one of the game’s greatest spectacles — bonus points if they’re mashing for the hometown crowd or have a great story to carry through the event. On the other … the “Home Run Derby” curse has become such a chirped-about side effect that, even if it’s tough to tell if it’s real, it’s still in the mind of anyone who participates.
Does every hitter nosedive after the Derby turns their repetitive-motion big hacks into self-parody? Of course not.
Even the famous cases are more nuanced; Bobby Abreu in 2005, who everybody cites, struggled in July (.214 with a single homer in 27 games) but rebounded to crush the baseball in August (.320/.419/.510). Aaron Judge’s record-setting Derby in 2017 set him on a bad path, but not because he got “psyched out.” He just got injured; his irritated shoulder resulted in an awful August, but then he homered 15 times in September. 15 times in September!
Former Dodgers fan favorite Joc Pederson added fuel to the fire when he denied an invitation for next week’s event at Dodger Stadium. Pederson, who competed twice with LA in 2015 and 2019, told the league that he’s battling a few injury concerns at the moment, and found that after mashing in the Derby, his body locked up for several days.
No … no problem. 48 hours isn’t an entire month … right? Looking back on Pederson’s Dodgers career, though, it’s clear one particular Derby affected him significantly.
Joc Pederson’s 2015 Home Run Derby affected his season with Dodgers
Pederson (and his brother Champ) stole the nation’s hearts in both 2015 and 2019 — and ’15 in Cincinnati, if you remember, was the first year the Derby went to a timed format of any kind. Before then, sluggers would take ball after ball in the other batters’ box, creating a seven-hour affair that most attendees attempted to fast-forward through by miming a remote in the air. Alas, didn’t work!
Timed rounds created an all-new set of stressors, though, and while it appears Pederson had a handle on things in 2019, his 2015 season was pretty clearly affected by the showcase.
In ’19, Pederson actually heated up in July and August, batting .200 with three homers and .237 with four homers after a .186/three-homer month of June. By the time he got to September, Joctober was in full effect; he wrapped the season by triple-slashing .344/.414/.853 with nine dingers in Sept./Oct. regular-season play.
2015 was a different story, though, as the Dodgers tripped towards a five-game NLDS loss to the Mets. That summer, a young Pederson fell off completely, starting the season with months of four, nine, and seven dingers (and batting .298 in April/March) before pratfalling post-ASG.
The 23-year-old hit just three homers and drove in only nine runs combined in July and August, hitting .169 and .120 in a slump that would ultimately doom his promising campaign. Relegated to the bench by the time the postseason arrived, Pederson also went hitless in eight plate appearances (four at-bats and four walks, bizarrely).
With a key second half and a potential swap at the trade deadline ahead of him, it’s no wonder Pederson didn’t want to exacerbate his current injuries and relive painful memories this time around.
Too late for the Dodgers, though. They already bore the brunt of it.