The Home Run Derby (presented by something, I assure you) doesn’t matter. It never has, really, but occasionally it has been fun to watch. The best example of this is Josh Hamilton‘s impressive display in 2008. Most people don’t care that he lost, or don’t care who won (Canadian legend Justin Morneau). They cracked a few beers and enjoyed watching Hamilton rip 28 dongs in the opening round, sending some damn near right out of Yankee Stadium in its final season.

Since then, the derby has lost most of its luster. MLB has tried to restore it, by revamping the rules and having Giancarlo Stanton, the reigning champion, exist. This year, however, the derby is a highlight. The highlight of the weekend, now that home field advantage in the World Series isn’t tied to the actual All-Star Game. Thankfully. It’ll play like the NBA version, with behind-the-back catches and thrown gloves and pitchers throwing underhand (no offense, Pat Neshek).

The Home Run Derby will feature, above all else, two colossi meeting face to face. Godzilla v. Mechagodzilla, for all intents and purposes. There will be other, normal-sized participants, none of whom are Logan Morrison, and they matter too. But not on this scale. Over 13 feet and nearly 250 pounds of pain are colliding and will destroy everything in their wake, including, hopefully, that odd statue in the outfield in Marlins Park (genuinely can’t believe it isn’t called Margaritaville Stadium, but whatever).

Aaron Judge currently leads the league in home runs, and hits the ball harder than any human can. Giancarlo Stanton used to be that guy. He also used to be Mike, but I digress. Stanton has expressed frustration with being asked about Judge so much, but there are too many similarities in the two to ignore. Aaron Judge being compared to Stanton seemed unfair to Judge, as he broke his rookie eligibility at 20 years old and by 25, Judge’s current age, he already had 181 career homers. Only, Judge is having one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time, and Stanton has currently taken a back seat to his monstrous power and better media market. Now, though, Stanton may have a chance to prove he is still on top. A way nobody cares about and that doesn’t really matter, but a way nonetheless.

There’s a minor problem, though: The bracket is set, and Judge and Stanton could only meet in the finals. They’ll be facing one another’s teammates in the first round, Justin Bour and Gary Sanchez, who could spoil the entire event. The derby also includes rookie sensation Cody Bellinger, Statcast darling Miguel Sano, Charlie Blackmon I guess, and Mike Moustakas. Sure.

Cody Bellinger just broke the record Gary Sanchez tied last season, hitting 21 homers in just 51 games, which stood almost a full season after not being reached since 1930. Miguel Sano is second in average exit  velocity (behind Judge, duh) in the league. Moustakas has already surpassed his career high in longballs by 3. Charlie Blackmon doesn’t get to participate in Coors Field, but he’s still pretty good, and Justin Bour has the hometown thing going and is built like a pack of cigarettes. Sanchez has only 14 home runs and isn’t Logan Morrison, but hey, he’s got panache.

This is a solid crowd. Color me surprised, however, if that trophy isn’t being lifted above the head of someone closer to seven feet tall than six. Stanton crushed the field last season, having the top 20 (!) hardest hit homers that evening. Where was Judge? Sitting in Triple A. Nobody likely really cares, and no, it doesn’t really matter, but I bet there’s immense disappointment if these giants don’t meet in the finals.

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2 Responses to “The Huge Run Derby”

  1. AD

    Statcast question in light of HR Derby: Is there a way we can try to determine how much a hitter is responsible for his own exit velocity? Some guys seem to generate their own with ease regardless of the nature of the incoming pitch, while others may be more context (i.e., opposing pitcher)- dependent. Could offer some predictive illumination for the Derby, where pitches coming in will be unlike what the hitters see in normal game action.

  2. Kyle McCarthy

    The whole “harder the pitch, harder the hit” myth has been largely debunked.


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