You may have heard by now that Major League Baseball has this thing called an All-Star Game, and before this thing they have another thing called the Home Run Derby in which hitters attempt to strike baseballs with enough force so as to drive them over the outfield wall. It’s really quite exhilarating if, you know, you’re into that sort of thing.
Of course, not everyone found the old Derby format to be a source of pulse-pounding action, so the format has been changed around a little bit. Rather than a highest-score-moves-on deal, they’ve moved to a bracket-style tournament. And rather than having a limit of 10 non-HR swings, the rounds will be timed, with bonus time added for longer homers and such.
For more on the individual players involved, specifically Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, let’s turn to ESPN’s StatCast. The Four-Letter might employ a bunch of dunderheaded blowhards, but they’ve got it right where baseball stats are concerned. As an aside, when’s the last time the Cubs had two such players deemed worthy by the establishment to represent baseball on a national scale?
The first thing that jumps out at me is Bryant’s average home run distance, which came as a surprise even though it probably shouldn’t. I mean, he’s routinely putting the new video board in left at risk, so 413 feet isn’t a shocking average. Joc Pederson though? Wow, man.
And there’s Anthony Rizzo right behind Bryant, averaging just over 408 feet. The second graphic is really cool, though it lacks the contextual support to tell you whether those numbers are really good. But what we see from the launch angle tells us a little about the kind of home run Rizzo usually hits.
Of all the home runs hit this season, only 112 have been with a launch angle of 36 degrees or greater; those are what we’d consider moonshots. At the same time, only 95 have had an angle of 21 degrees or less; those are frozen-rope line drives. Rizzo’s average launch angle appears to be right in the middle, a picture-perfect home run path.
Based on this (admittedly limited) data, it appears quite obvious to me that both Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo will earn the max bonus time en route to a final showdown in which they will duel to a draw. But what do the, ahem, experts over at ESPN think?
Of the 23 analysts and contributors polled, Rizzo and Bryant received 4 votes each, with Prince Fielder’s 5 ballots leading the way. Albert Pujols and Todd Frazier each had 3, while Josh Donaldson garnered 2, with Manny Machado and Joc Pederson collecting 1 apiece. Told you the two Cubs would tie.
You can watch the coverage on ESPN starting at 8pm ET tonight, but I’d recommend doing so with the volume down. Unless, that is, you’d like to have human earworm Chris Berman bore into your cerebral cortex and lay “back, back, back, back” eggs in there. I’ve actually developed an immunity after years of watching the event, so I’ll be fine. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.