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July 13, 2010

All-Star Home Run Derby

Big Papi Takes The Crown

by Jesse Behr

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Some stat geeks and sabermetric fanatics usually pass-up the All-Star Home Run Derby, calling the event purely commercialized for the younger or more casual fans, not for the true fans that study the game! Well, now at 18, I’d like to think of myself as a “scholar of the game.” I’m increasing my knowledge each and every day with Baseball Prospectus, as numerous research and analytical assignments ensures the expansion of my baseball mind.

However, I can happily admit that there was nothing wrong with enjoying Monday night's showcase of baseball’s best power hitters (well, beside A-Rod, Pujols, and Ryan Howard….). Maybe, aside from bragging rights, it didn’t count for anything, but what it did do was bring to light the competitive nature of a baseball player. Yes, it was just a derby, but it still meant something to each and every one of those participants. Especially for Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who was pronounced as good as dead at the same time last year. Now, once again an All-Star, Big Papi put on a show at Angels Stadium in Anaheim.

I thought it would be interesting to show the progression of the derby, the variables affecting the event and how the derby was downright entertaining. It’s certainly worth taking a look at. Let’s start with the basics:

Here are the dimensions for Angels Stadium:

330 feet down the left-field line

387 feet in left-center

400 feet to dead center

370 feet in right-center

330 feet down the right-field line

According to Clay Davenport's park factors, the Big A is a 978 (where 1000 is average). That means the participants were dealing with a relative pitcher's park, but no Petco Park by any means (894).

The derby rules:

  • During the first round, swings that do not produce a home run are outs. There are10 outs in each round. The top four leaders advance.
  • During the second round, home runs from the first round carry over. The top two leaders advance.
  • In the final round, home runs from previous two rounds do not carry over. The player with most home runs in the final round is the winner.

ROUND 1

Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks

356 PA, 15 HR, 61 RBI, .266 AVG, .469 SLG,

.078 MLVr, .203 ISO, .281 TAv

THIRD PITCH: Home run, 410 feet to left field.

AVERAGE HR: 410 feet

LONGEST HR: 410 feet

TOTAL HR: 1

SUMMARY: Young belted just one big fly to play the role of Brandon Inge, who hit one home run at last year's derby at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Young made it clear coming into the derby that he was just happy to be on the All-Star squad, and participating in the derby was an extra prize. Remember, a year ago, Young was sent down to the minors by the Diamondbacks after hitting well below .200 and showing little signs of life in his bat. He’s certainly turned it around in 2010, as he’s now one of the few shining spots on a struggling Arizona squad.

Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays

357 PA, 19 HR, 49 RBI, .265 AVG, .524 SLG,

.146 MLVr, .203 ISO, .288 TAv                                                                                              

THIRD PITCH: Home run, 361 feet to right field.

TENTH PITCH: Home run, 428 feet to right field.

AVERAGE HR: 395 feet

LONGEST HR: 428 feet

TOTAL HR: 2

SUMMARY: For Wells, it was two bombs to right and line-drive out after line-drive out. His second piece of yard work was 428 feet, a 67-foot increase from his first homer, but no improvement would follow. Wells was getting on top of the ball way too much as the three-time All-Star went quickly back to the bench. I’m still a little confused why Wells was in the derby while Blue Jays teammate Jose Bautista watched? Bautista is leading the majors with 24 home runs and wanted to participate in the derby.

Nick Swisher, New York Yankees

360 PA, 15 HR, 49 RBI, .298 AVG, .524 SLG,

.261 MLVr, .225 ISO, .306 TAv

SECOND PITCH: Home run, 424 feet to right-center.

THIRD PITCH: Home run, 359 feet down the right-field line.

EIGHTH ITCH: Home run, 426 feet to right-center.

NINTH PITCH: Home run, 440 feet to right-center.

AVERAGE HR: 412 feet.

LONGEST HR: 440 feet.

TOTAL HR: 4.

SUMMARY: Swisher loves to rock, get on base (career .359 OBP), and hit dingers. Sadly, he only hit four on Monday. Swisher was swinging predominantly for right-center field (he was batting left-handed), which ended up hurting the Bronx Bomber as he slowly started getting under the ball with his last four outs being fly balls. There was a competitive nature for Swish during his entire time at the plate, for while he was having a ton of fun, he was focused on taking home hardware. Nevertheless, the pinstriped representative didn’t walk away with a victory.

Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals

367 PA, 16 HR, 51 RBI, .300 AVG, .529 SLG,

.288 MLVr, .229 ISO, .311 TAv,

THIRD PITCH: Home run, 434 feet to left field.

NINTH PITCH: Home run, 412 feet to left-center.

TENTH PITCH: Home run, 438 feet to left field.

ELEVENTH PITCH: Home run, 497 feet down the left-field line.

TWELFTH PITCH: Home run, 429 feet to left field.

AVERAGE HR: 441 feet

LONGEST HR: 497 feet

TOTAL HR: 7

SUMMARY: It’s a shame Holliday didn’t make it past the first round as he crushed four home runs after being down to his final out. And the 11th pitch he launched was the farthest of the contest, which deserves some sort of recognition. Even with a derby defeat, Holliday’s still one of the biggest power threats in the game, complementing Albert Pujols in the middle of the Cardinals' lineup. Holliday has strung together four straight 20-plus home run seasons with Colorado, Oakland and St. Louis. With 16 this season, one would think that No. 5 is next up.

ROUND 2

Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers

338 PA, 21 HR, 65 RBI, .288 AVG, .569 SLG,

.297 MLVr, .281 ISO, .314 TAv

ROUND 1 RECAP: Hart had 13 home runs, the most of any contestant. He averaged 431 feet and his longest bomb was listed at 464 feet.

ROUND 2 RECAP: Hart was shut out.

AVERAGE HR: 431 feet

LONGEST HR: 476 feet

TOTAL HR: 13

SUMMARY: You’ve got to have Hart? Haaaart! Angels Stadium certainly did in the first round, as Hart cruised with 13 no-doubters. Most were directed to left and left-center field, and a couple landed in dead center. Hart, like a few others, tried to stay active and warm by going to the indoor batting cages during his break. Unfortunately for Hart, his break lasted 1 ½ hours and he wasn’t able to triumphantly return. Milwaukee has one heckuva bat on their hands, and he’ll do great things for the organization if they choose to retain him, though there are murmurs that he is on the trading block.

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

359 PA, 22 HR, 77 RBI .346 AVG, .651 SLG,

.536 MLVr, .304 ISO, .353 TAv

ROUND 1 RECAP: Cabrera hit seven homers, averaging 450 feet with a long of 476 feet.

ROUND 2 RECAP:

FIRST PITCH: Home run, 438 feet to left field.

THIRD PITCH: Home run, 465 feet to right-center field.

FOURTH PITCH: Home run, 428 feet to right-center field.

SEVENTH PITCH: Home run, 449 feet to left-center field.

TENTH PITCH: Home run, 474 feet to center field.

AVERAGE HR: 450 feet

LONGEST HR: 465 feet

TOTAL HR: 12

SUMMARY: Cabrera was the favorite to win Monday’s derby but it seemed he was battling a little too hard for what was essentially batting practice. He was very streaky as he hit three straight home runs then made five straight outs, and couldn’t find a rhythm to carry him to the finals. There's no debate that Cabrera is one of the strongest hitters in the American League, second behind Bautista with a .304 ISO. Cabrera also leads the major leagues with 77 RBI.

THE FINAL ROUND

Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins

373 PA, 13 HR, 53 RBI, .301 AVG, .485 SLG,

.220 MLVr, .184 ISO (huh?) .304 TAv

FIRST TWO ROUNDS RECAP: Ramirez hit nine home runs in Round 1 and 12 in Round 2. He averaged 435 feet and hit a bomb 476 feet to straightaway left field in the second round.

FINAL ROUND RECAP:

SECOND PITCH: Home run, 449 feet to left field.

SIXTH PITCH: Home run, 435 feet to center field.

SEVENTH PITCH: Home run, 459 feet to center field.

EIGHTH PITCH: Home run, 410 feet to center field.

THIRTEENTH PITCH: 434 feet to center field.

AVERAGE HR: 435 feet.

LONGEST HR: 476 feet.

TOTAL HR: 26.

SUMMARY: The Marlins shortstop is the epitome of a five-tool player, and showed off his power. Ramirez arguably had the best bat speed in the derby, but lost stamina when he faced his Dominican Republic countryman David Ortiz to end the evening. Ramirez is one of the game’s best and most well-rounded players, who deserved his first invitation to the derby.

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

305 PA, 18 HR, 57 RBI, .263 AVG, .562 SLG,

.263 MLVr, .299 ISO, .303 TAv

FIRST TWO ROUNDS RECAP: Ortiz hit eight home runs in Round 1 and 13 in Round 2.

FINAL ROUND RECAP:

FIRST PITCH: Home run, 392 feet to right-center.

SECOND PITCH: Home run, 416 feet to right-center.

THIRD PITCH: Home run, 392 feet to right-center.

FOURTH PITCH: Home run, 439 feet to right-center.

SIXTH PITCH: Home run, 450 feet to right.

SEVENTH PITCH: Home run, 405 feet to right.

EIGHTH PITCH: Home run, 411 feet to right-center.

NINTH PITCH: Home run, 430 feet to right.

FIFTEENTH PITCH: Home run, 341 feet down the right-field line.

SEVENTEENTH PITCH: 405 feet to right-center.

TWENTIETH PITCH: 433 feet to right.

AVERAGE HR: 416 feet

LONGEST HR: 478 feet

TOTAL HR: 32

SUMMARY: The comeback story didn’t have the same magic as Josh Hamilton’s in 2008 at Yankee Stadium, but it was inspiring nonetheless to see Boston’s recently humbled hero return to the top. His trademark line-drive swing was spot on, as nearly 80 percent of his homers were of that variety. Ortiz’s swing, which remains one of the games finest, follows through in a way in which he doesn’t necessarily need to get perfect wood on the ball. Similar to a Vladimir Guerrero, Ortiz can take a pitch, pull it, and turn it into a line-drive blast in elegant fashion. It was tough to watch him go through his difficult first half of the 2009 season, but his derby victory only underscores that Big Papi has returned to the good graces of Red Sox Nation and baseball fans everywhere.

Jesse Behr is a Baseball Prospectus intern.

Jesse Behr is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jesse's other articles. You can contact Jesse by clicking here

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