CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
The Lineup Card: Nine ... (07/17)
Next Article >>
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (07/17)

July 17, 2013

The Baseball Decathlon

Bryce Harper vs. Mike Trout

by Bret Sayre

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

There is a certain reverence that people who grew up watching the All-Star Games of yore hold, and somewhere between interleague play and the "This Time It Counts" campaign, it's begun to drift away. But instead of trying to fix the game, which is still both very popular and important to growing the brand of baseball both at home and abroad, itself, a different approach may be to surround the game with a more entertaining product. After all, how often do you get such a large representation of the game's collective star power together in one spot?

As it stands now, All-Star Weekend has essentially morphed into a representation of Justin Smoak's career (minus the recent resurgence, if you choose to even call it that). Everything is great on the minor-league side, as the Futures Game is one of the best additions that baseball has made in the last half-century. However, on the major-league side, it's more about lost opportunity. The Home Run Derby, while it is still fun in moderation, has almost become a caricature of itself and lasts nearly an hour too long. Beyond that, there’s not a single event that uses the crop of current All-Stars.

So I propose creating and televising more events for both the day before and after the actual game. And to start, I want to introduce my idea of a Baseball Decathlon. The concept is simple: two superstar players will compete in 10 different events meant to cover the major skills that a baseball player needs to have. What are these 10 events, you ask? Let’s jump right in.

Home Run Derby

The Set-Up: I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t just another current version of the Derby. Instead, the decathlon has a derby that harkens back to the old TV series from 1960. That means it’ll be quick and to the point—and just to make it more watchable, we won’t let Chris Berman in the building. For those of you unfamiliar with the short-lived TV series, the rules are relatively simple. The derby is scored like a standard game with three outs per inning and all strikes are outs (including pitches taken in the strike zone). However, instead of a nine-inning “game”, we’ll shorten it to five in order to make room for the rest of the events.

The results: Since they made their 2012 debuts on the same day, Trout has both hit 10 more homers than Harper (45 to 35) and posted a longer average distance on those homers (412.4 feet to 410.6 feet). But just to make this a little more interesting, we had them face a pitcher off of whom they have both hit 400-plus-foot homers. There are surprisingly three pitchers who qualify for this, but Anthony Bass is still not all the way back from injury and Anibal Sanchez has been too good this year to subject him to this. So, sorry Jacob Turner!

Winner: Mike Trout

Target Practice

The Set-Up: Each player will step up to the plate against a batting practice pitcher, similar to the Derby before it—but this time, they need to hit specific targets on the field. At each infield position, there will be a large screen similar to what the batting practice pitcher uses, but it will be 10 feet tall by 10 feet wide with a hockey-style goal light above it for when the players hit the target. In the outfield, there will be three large trucks, measuring 30 feet wide and 10 feet tall. Additionally, there will be various smaller targets in the gaps and down the lines, along with a bunting circle down each base line, which can be attempted once per round.

Both participants will receive two rounds of 10 outs to score as many points as possible, with two called strikes in a row counting as an out. The scoring system would be as follows:

  • Infield target: 50 points
  • Outfield truck: 75 points
  • Small outfield target: 125 points
  • Bunt circle: 150 points

The results: In order to determine the winner here, I decided to do a poll with members of the Baseball Prospectus staff to see who might win this competition. In the end, Trout won out by a six-to-two margin.

Winner: Mike Trout

Ump Show

The Set-Up: Each player stands in the batter’s box to face 20 pitches against live pitching—and not just a batting practice arm, a real major-league pitcher. The twist here is that the players are not swinging the bat; they will have to correctly guess whether each pitch thrown to them is a ball or a strike in an attempt to measure their eye at the plate. Just because we have the technology, each time the player guesses a pitch wrong, the big red X-in-a-box from Family Feud will show up on every stadium screen.

The results: The most translatable statistic here (swing percentage on pitches outside the zone) favors Trout, as his 25.7 percent rate is significantly better than Harper’s 33.3 percent. Additionally, there’s about a one-in-five chance that Harper gets bored by the end of this exercise, crushes a home run off one of pitches and yells “STRIKE” as he flips his bat 10 feet up in the air. This would result in a disqualification.

Winner: Mike Trout

Fastest Throw

The Set-Up: Both participants would stand behind a line drawn in shallow center field, 90 feet behind second base. From there, they would get three chances to throw the ball as hard as they could, with the speed of their throws measured by radar gun. However, any throw that does not hit a large wrap-around target behind the plate will not count toward their totals.

The results: There’s really no competition here. Harper has the arm dreams are made of, and instead of even competing in this one, Trout sits it out and eats a protein bar in order to get ready for the next event.

Winner: Bryce Harper

Flashing the Leather

The Set-Up: Players stand at the shortstop position and field 10 balls that are shot toward them at random from pre-positioned pitching machines. To make it a little more of a challenge, there will be base runners ready to dart from the batter’s box to first base once each machine is fired off. Each time the participant successfully throws out the base runner, he gets a point.

The results: The second of the two competitions left to a BP staff poll, Trout takes this one five-to-three with Ken Funck pointing out that Mike Trout did actually play shortstop early on in his high school career. That’s good enough for me.

Winner: Mike Trout

Most Accurate Arm

The Set-Up: Because this decathlon isn’t meant to be position-specific, players will need to make throws from all over the diamond. Similar to the three-point contest in basketball, players move from position to position on the field scoring points for throws that hit the set targets. Each player will start by throwing a ball from the catcher’s position to a target at second base. From there they will move clockwise from third base to second base, each throwing three balls to a first-base target before moving onto the outfield

The results: Another arm-related event and another victory for the former catcher. For their careers, Harper has trounced Trout in outfield assists and that’s even with the reputation that precedes Harper of being a guy you don’t want to run on. Harper has recorded 13 assists in just 194 games, while it’s taken Mike Trout 266 games to accumulate just three.

Winner: Bryce Harper

Around the Bases

The Set-Up: Probably the most straightforward of the events, each player will be timed running around the bases after taking a full swing in the batter’s box. Yep, that’s it.

The results: Harper gets extra points for consistently making his helmet fly off between first and second base, but even that advantage can’t help him match Trout’s raw speed.

Winner: Mike Trout

Wall Jump

The Set-Up: There are few things more exciting on the defensive spectrum than an over-the-wall, home-run-saving catch. In this event, each player will get a running start from 50 feet in front of the center-field wall and will jump as high as they can against it. They will each get three opportunities and the height of the jumps will be measured by a touch screen, which has to be touched by their glove.

The results: It turns out that both Harper and Trout have different philosophies when it comes to walls.

Winner: Mike Trout

Freestyle Slide Contest

The Set-Up: With this even,t we start to move into a demonstration of showmanship. Like the slam-dunk competition in basketball, there will be live judges grading each player as they maneuver around a stationary target blocking home plate. Scores will range from one (worst) to 10 (best), and will be graded on both ability to beat a potential tag and general flashiness.

The results: Mike Trout goes first and is clearly impressive, but Harper steals the show. He races full speed toward the plate only to stop completely on a dime by running his fingers through his hair and using the gel on his hands as a veritable anti-lock brake system before sidestepping (still on his hands) to the plate.

However, until we can actually create the event, the showmanship of each player is to be judged on the bat flip they used during the longest home runs of their careers. So, here they are side-by-side:

The camera doesn’t linger on Harper long enough to see him give a nice and understated flip into the air, but it does linger on Trout long enough to see his bat head straight for the ground. It’s an unfortunate display of sportsmanship that costs him the point.

Winner: Bryce Harper

Media Circus

The Set-Up: In the final competition of the day, the two players are put in a locker-room-type setting and asked random ridiculous questions by a panel of judges. In Round One, the goal is to diffuse a very leading question without saying anything that will make headlines. In Round Two, they answer a different set of questions with the specific purpose of making headlines in a team-friendly manner. The judges are different for this event than the slide contest, with the panel here consisting of Rickey Henderson, Derek Jeter, Reggie Jackson, Nick Swisher, and Prince. And that’s the artist formerly known as, not Fielder.

The results: With his first answer, Bryce Harper simply looks back at Nick Swisher (who asked the question) and says, “That’s a clown question, bro.” He then smiles, drops the mic, and walks off. After Harper receives a 50-point score from the judges, Trout just stares in disbelief and remains so flustered that he can’t even make out full sentences for his answers.

Winner: Bryce Harper

For those of you keeping track at home, that makes Trout the winner by a score of six-to-four, after the final decathlon event. Congratulations, fake Mike Trout, for winning a fake event drawn up by a person with way too much time on his hands. I guess that just means we’ll have to settle this for real one day. Let’s get on it, MLB.

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

Related Content:  MLB,  Bryce Harper,  Mike Trout,  All-star Break

12 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
The Lineup Card: Nine ... (07/17)
Next Article >>
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (07/17)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
The Week in Quotes: October 13-19, 2014
Pebble Hunting: The Best Teams Should Make T...
Transaction Analysis: Silverman's Kohn Job
Playoff Prospectus: World Series Preview: Gi...
Pebble Hunting: An Illustrated Guide to the ...
Baseball Therapy: The Truth About Butterflie...
Pitching Backward: How To Get A Hit Off Madi...

MORE FROM JULY 17, 2013
Premium Article Prospects Will Break Your Heart: Futures Gam...
Pitcher Profile: Speeding Up at the Break
Premium Article What You Need to Know: The AL Comes Up Aces
The Lineup Card: Nine Second-Half Storylines
Premium Article Mid-Season Outliers
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Second-Half Risers and Fa...
Fantasy Article Sporer Report: Road Warriors

MORE BY BRET SAYRE
2013-07-23 - Premium Article The Call-Up: Christian Yelich and Jake Maris...
2013-07-23 - Fantasy Article The Stash List: Drawing a Line in the Sand
2013-07-18 - Fantasy Article Free Agent Watch: Week 16
2013-07-17 - Premium Article The Baseball Decathlon
2013-07-16 - Fantasy Article The Stash List: Seeing the List in Action
2013-07-11 - Premium Article The Call-Up: Sonny Gray
2013-07-11 - Fantasy Article Free Agent Watch: Week 15
More...


INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2014-07-16 - Staff Discussion