Yoenis Cespedes took home Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby crown for the 2nd straight year. In doing so, he joined Ken Griffey Jr. as the only players to ever win the Derby in consecutive years. Here are 4 key takeaways I took from last night.
1. 7-Out Rule Backfired
Bud Selig listened to his critics about the Home Run Derby taking too long, so he changed the rules so that each hitter gets 7 outs instead of 10. While changing the rule from 10 to 7-outs sounds like a reasonable solution in hindsight, it completely backfired. Participants felt pressed to hit home runs as fast as possible, and as a result, hit fewer long balls. Yasiel Puig was built to take the Derby by storm. Instead, he pressed and failed to hit even 1 home run. It got so bad that Puig had a check-swing out. You never see anything like that in the Derby. Also, having Jose Cano, whom Puig had never worked with prior, be his pitcher was a complete mistake. The bottom line was having 3-fewer outs to work with was stuck in the participants minds, and the Derby suffered because of it.
2. Second Round Bye is Not an Advantage
Major League Baseball thought it developed a juicy new format for the Home Run Derby by having the top players in the American and National League receive buys to the League Finals. Much like the 7-out rule, that bye turned out to be anything but an advantage. By the time Giancarlo Stanton’s first round was completed, he had to wait nearly 2 hours for his next turn. The result was Stanton failed to hit a home run and was eliminated from the competition. Waiting 2 hours between turns in the Home Run Derby is equivalent to a death sentence. Your body goes cold, and your ability to get back in rhythm virtually goes away. It was a true shame because if he hadn’t been sitting still for so long, Stanton could have easily walked away with the title after he put on a show in the first-round. Jose Bautista got off to a rough start in his league final match-up, and by the time he finally got it back together it was too late.
3. Todd Frazier Worst Runner-Up Performance Ever
In all my years watching the Home Run Derby, I’ve never seen a player like Todd Frazier have such a poor showing and still reach the finals. Frazier was the first player to go and hit just 2 home runs. Conventional wisdom said there was no way those 2 dingers would stand, but they did. Frazier caught fire in the 2nd round with 6 homers, but had 2 combined in the league finals, and the finals. He finished with 10 home runs on the night. If Giancarlo Stanton hadn’t been sitting still for 2-hours, it would have been a different story. I have nothing against Todd Frazier, but he had no business reaching the finals after his sub-par performance.
4. Yoenis Cespedes is Made for the Derby
Yoenis Cespedes is one of the streakiest hitters in baseball, and entering the Home Run Derby, he was in a long-extended slump. He hadn’t homered since June 19th, and he was hitting .067 with 1 RBI in July. Despite that, Cespedes’ raw power, photogenic swing, and ability to rise to the occasion are what make him the perfect Derby candidate. When he gets a hold of a ball, it doesn’t just clear the fence, it goes deep into the stands. Cespedes has only participated in 2 Home Run Derby’s in his career, and has shined to the top each time. Who’s to say he can’t 3-peat?