Confession time. I like the Home Run Derby. I like watching great players swing a bat. I like home runs. I also like going to batting practice early and watching ballplayers smack home runs off 70 mph meatballs. And that my friends is what the Home Run Derby is all about: an exhibition of power hitting.
I don’t attribute any meaning to it. I don’t predict great things for its winner. It’s merely a fun little exercise in which fans get to see the strongest hitters swat balls out of the yard.
I understand if there’s no room in your heart for such frivolity. I’m not going to try to convert you or anything like that. Feel free to enjoy your How I Met Your Mother reruns tonight or watch PVR’d episodes of Cougar Town, complaining about it’s complete and utter disdain for verisimilitude (you’re probably the kind of person who knows what that means).
I don’t care. I’m going to enjoy me some home runs.
And for those of you in my camp, who are fans of fun, excitement and baseballs leaving baseball parks, make sure you join us here at Getting Blanked for our live blog / chat in which Drew, Stote and I are going to knock snark out of the park with a Bautistaesque efficiency.
But before all that, let’s go over some of the ground rules for tonight’s event.
Eight hitters (four from the American League, four from the National League) compete against one another to see who can hit the most home runs. Each hitter is thrown pitches by anyone of their choosing until they collect ten outs. An out is considered any swing that doesn’t result in a home run. The field is whittled down to half after each round, with the first two rounds measuring cumulative home runs, and the last one being head to head, with only home runs hit in that round counting.
After the ninth out, the batter will try to hit a golden ball, made with real golden leather. If he knocks one of the special balls out of the park, $18,000 will be donated to the Boys & Girls Club of America.
This year, MLB has also added a team competition, in which total home runs from both leagues are also added up and compared.
Here are your competitors and their home run totals this season, as well as a chart showing where the home runs they’ve hit in their home stadium would’ve landed if it was hit at Chase Field in Arizona. It should be noted that according to StatCorner.com, despite the wall in right field having a slightly shorter distance from home plate than the wall in extreme right, left handed hitters have a significant advantage in hitting home runs at the ballpark: HR (LHB/RHB): 114 / 102.
For these charts, the dark blue dots represent home runs and the orange are fly outs that have occurred in the player’s home park this season. Please use caution in trying to predict anything from what are not only approximate placements that don’t take any park factors into effect, but also small sample sizes from only the first three and a half months of the season. And that’s not even mentioning how different the outcomes are when you’re facing a friendly face on the pitching mound, knowing what pitch is coming at you compared to an opposing pitcher who wants to get you out just as much as you want to hit it out of the ballpark.
RHB Jose Bautsita – 31 HRs: His pull heavy style should have no problem utilizing that slight advantage in distance to the left field wall. We’ll see what kind of influence park factors play. Looking at this would make it seem pretty hard to bet against Bautista.
LHB Adrian Gonzalez – 17 HRs: It’s going to be interesting to see exactly what Gonzalez does without the Green Monster in Fenway. As a lefty hitter, he should find himself at home in Arizona, despite what this spray chart portrays.
LHB David Ortiz – 19 HRs: It doesn’t look pretty for Ortiz either, but again we have to remember that his dots are measured at Fenway where the strange dimensions play such a huge role in this approximate portrayal. Also, as a left handed bat he should benefit from additional park factors.
LHB Prince Fielder – 22 HRs: He can take it to both sides of the field, but he may not find a whole lot of love in left and right center where Chase Field gets a bit deeper than your typical ball park.
RHB Matt Holliday – 14 HRs: It appears as though he’s got the distance at Busch Stadium to create home runs in any park. Like Fielder, although from the other side of the plate, he’ll have to avoid those deep parts of center field if he wants to find success. It’s interesting that the majority of his fly ball outs have gone the opposite way, but the majority of his home runs have been pulled.
RHB Matt Kemp – 22 HRs: He’s got the kind of power to straight away center field that you need if you want to hit home runs at Chase Field, but like the other two National League participants that we’ve already looked at, he could run into trouble avoiding the long distances in center.
The Betting Line
According to bodog.ca, they ain’t nobody’s fool:
- Jose Bautista 9/4
- Prince Fielder 7/2
- David Ortiz 9/2
- Matt Holliday 19/4
- Adrian Gonzalez 11/2
- Matt Kemp 15/2
- Robinson Cano 10/1
- Rickie Weeks 14/1
Seriously, you want a conclusion to this post? The derby is for fun and nothing else. Watch in awe as actual human beings bash the heck out baseballs. That’s the only thing it’s good for, and to me, that’s the only thing it needs to be good for. Enjoy it all at 8:00 PM EDT on ESPN in the U.S. and Rogers Sportsnet in Canada.