The game winning home run is nice, but Home Run Derby gives a man bragging rights that are irreplaceable.
It is one way that Bryce Harper got on the map, when he towered a 500 foot home run in Tropicana Field at the tender age of 16.
But what is a prototypical Home Run Derby hitter? Top talents like Matt Kemp and Joe Mauer struggle in the Derby. Well, some patterns have emerged, and here are some of them:
It’s better to be left-handed
Is it because they can turn easier? Is it because of ballpark dimensions? Who knows, but for some reason, left-handed hitters have always performed better in the home run derby. The streak of Andre Dawson, Eric Davis, Ryne Sandberg, and Cal Ripken Jr. has been long since forgotten. One right handed batter has won the derby in the past ten years, and that is current Royals infielder Miguel Tejada. José Bautista made a good run for the righties last year, but still, Prince Fielder was the one who took home the crown.
It’s better to not win the first round
2008, Josh Hamilton crushed home run after home run, booming balls back to the bleachers in the old Yankee Stadium, punishing everything his high school coach threw at him. Guess what, he did not win the home run derby. Only Bobby Abreu (then with the Phillies), Vladimir Guerrero (then with the Angels), and current reigning champion Prince Fielder (then with the Brewers) have won the first round and won the whole thing.
To go further, only two, Abreu and Fielder, have hit more than 10 home runs in the first round and won, although six out of eight who have hit more than 10 home runs in the first round have made the final.
It’s better to be from the American League
The American League-National League rivalry always resurfaces during the All-Star festivities. The Home Run Derby may be more so, considering that captains from each league can chose their team. No matter how childish it is, someone is always counting.
The AL have won 17 of 27 home run derbies. That not be may total dominance, but that record is thanks to winning seven of the last ten years. Prince Fielder, the National League’s greatest weapon, showed what the NL is missing since signing with Detroit, as he and José Bautista stole the show.
It’s better to win the Home Run Derby
After the All-Star break, the statistics matter a little more than before. Teams are pushing for playoff spots, and awards are won and lost. Home Run Derby winners have a pretty good second half history. Since 2000, nine players have hit over .300 in the second half after winning the Derby, eight have registered at least 50 RBI, and four have hit over 20 second half home runs. Perhaps the bragging rights give a nice boost to the Home Run Derby’s winning batters.
(Photos Courtesy of Jamie Squire/Getty Images and Bill Greenblat/UP)