Five proposed changes to the Home Run Derby

Baseball tried to make the Home Run Derby more interesting this year by allowing the 2009 (Prince Fielder) and 2010 (David Ortiz) Derby winners to pick their respective league representatives in what is supposed to be a showcase of baseball's most fun batted ball -- the home run. However, if I were in charge, I would propose the following five changes.

1. Pitching machines. Poor Jose Bautista had the outside corner painted all night by his pitcher, and Sammy Sosa got a bellyful of cutters back in 2001. If the derby is supposed to be a showcase of massive, impressive blasts, then why not cut out the guessing game of where the pitch is going to locate across the plate, and how fast it is going to approach the plate? Let the hitters focus on one thing: hitting home runs. This will also eliminate batters taking 10 straight pitches. The only substitute for this proposal I will accept is Greg Maddux throws all the pitches.

2. Fastballs only. A big component of home run distance and propensity has to go with the speed of the ball off of the bat. The more speed, the more likely a ball is to carry farther. The slower the incoming speed of the ball, however, the more kinetic energy the batter has to supply to provide. Accordingly, change-ups tend to be harder to drive farther than fastballs. Change-ups are also less likely to get "pulled" on average than fastballs, and hence more likely to go dead center (bad for home runs) than fastballs. Plus, how many hitters have better runs values off change-ups compared to fastballs anyways? Without looking, I would have to guess few, if any, power hitters so qualify.

3. Good home run hitters only. Prince Fielder selecting teammate Rickie Weeks was a total joke. So was the selection of Matt Holliday, who is more of a line drive hitter, and whose home run total is more than 70 percent comprised of "lucky" and "just enough" home runs. Snubbed were youngsters Justin Upton, who leads the majors with four 450 foot blasts, and Mike Stanton, whose power is prolific and still developing. What about Bryce Harper, who put on his own home run showcase at Tropicana Field a couple of years ago? Where are our Russell Branyans? Our Wily Mo Penas? Our Mark Reynolds? Our Adam Dunns (OK, maybe not Adam Dunn, as U.S. Cellular's 125 home run park factor for lefties is not helping him much)? Heck, what about Ichiro Suzuki, who is the self-proclaimed king of the batting practice home run. I want to see Ichiro put his money where his mouth is.

4. "Open the roof" and play at home run happy parks. I get that the Home Run Derby is a pre-All-Star Game exhibition, but why hold it in places like PETCO Park and SafeCo Field? The next two All-Star Games/Home Run Derbies will be at Kaufmann Stadium and Citi Field, but I would move the Derbies to happier homer havens like Chicago (either park). Heck, had the roof at Chase Field been open, participants' flyballs could have gone some 10 feet further and Chase Field's surprisingly noninflationary home run park factor index have been bolstered by an extra 5 points. If the Derby was at Coors, I would demand they turn off the humidifier. Heck, I'd probably demand they turn on a dehumidifier.

5. Mandatory steroid usage. OK, so this last one is clearly a joke, but only half-halfheartedly so. Maybe metal bats could be a "legal" alternative. Remember back in the day when home runs used to routinely sail 450 feet, and only Juan Pierre/Luis Castillo could not hit 30 in a season? Ah, those were the days. Don't lie to yourself and believe that an MVP* who can't hit a 400 foot home run, let alone 20 in a season, is satisfying -- irrespective of "the under-appreciated value of defense."

*I'm referring of course to Dustin Pedroia. Interesting factoid: per Fangraphs, Pedroia's 2008 WAR total was +6.8. Jose Bautista already has +6.6 WAR through just the first half this season.

13 comments:

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

Derek Carty raises a couple good points with respect to my first two proposals:

"can see the reasoning for #1 of uniformity, but a lot of batters say that pitching machines throw off their timing. they're used to seeing the ball come out of a human hand and timing it based on that."

"for #2, fastballs would travel farther, but they'd also be missed at a much higher rate"

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

My retort:
We are four humble men who love sports, but hate sports commentary. Peter Gammons is our hero and John Madden is our enemy. If you were to ask us our purpose, our answer would be simple: "We are forever locked in Mortal Kombat for the souls of sports fans everywhere. Statistics are our science and 'the immeasurable character of men' is the obsolete religion of blind faith. Our job is to prove that God doesn't exist and that athletes are merely cold, metal machines with no hearts or souls."

Dmitry said...

maybe they should hit off batting tees

Sexy Rexy said...

Not only that Justin Upton has pure power and is a better HR hitter than Weeks and Holliday, but you're not going to select the hometown boy!

It's the home run derby, it's solely for fun. Give the fans what they want! Most of the fans at the HRD were Dbacks fan, god forbid you appease them AND help your "cause" at the same time.

DougT said...

Why not just let the batter throw the ball up himself and swing? Or how about making it a contest of points earned by each batter based on distance of each fair ball hit? Earning points not based soley on home runs. Personally I find the home run derby very boring in its current format.

gyahi said...

its hard to see the ball out of pitching machine so that would create more problems then it takes away

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

I still want some home run skill involved

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

@gyahi,

Are you sure about that?

Anonymous said...

I don't think I agree with the pitching machines, as a former player, I can tell you that its often harder to hit off them than live pitching. They actually discussed this in the ESPN broadcast too. It's harder to time with you don't see the ball coming.

On another note, I would definitely make it metal bats instead of wood. How cool would that be?

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

I can live without pitching machines, but no throwing cutters, painting the outside corner!

Metal bats might be fun alternative to steroids

Dmitry said...

i want another change to the home run derby. they should do it at old stadiums that were used in the 50's where left and right center was like 460 feet away. every home run is like 80 feet past the outfield wall these days, making the wall useless. i want 450 foot warning track outs

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