The MLB listened to its fans and ratings when it realized it needed to make a change to the Home Run Derby. In its basic model, this event should naturally be exciting, given how much people enjoy watching home runs, especially towering moonshots. However, in past years, the 10 out system allowed for batters to take their time. That meant taking pitches and waiting for every single perfect one to swing at. That drags out the event, and people just wants to see the home runs.
Thus, whoever helped formulate this new format clearly saw the Derby’s woes and fixed those. By switching to timed rounds, there was no excessive waiting for a pitch to hit; batters had to swing at almost everything. That also makes it more realistic, as batters in games don’t get to sit back and wait for only pitches they want.
As rain loomed in the area and threatened the event, it only seemed to help because of the adjustment from five to four-minute rounds. Four minutes was a perfect amount: Enough time to get comfortable and not too much to completely tire out the batters. In addition, the allowance of a timeout helped batters recuperate and reset their adjustments.
Everybody who participated earned the 30-second bonus, but it was a great addition, proving for extra drama and a rest during one’s homer escapade. Batters needed to hit two home runs of 425+ feet to earn it, and they all got there with relative ease.
The stories and matchups only helped bolster this year’s reinvention of the Derby, highlighted by veterans taking on youth, and obviously Todd Frazier playing the role of the Hometown Hero. In the first round, Prince Fielder made an impressive return to the Derby with a strong showing. But the crowd was so electric for Frazier that it seemed they pushed him into the second round with 14 home runs. On the other side, Albert Pujols edged out rookie sensation Kris Bryant, as Joc Pederson looked at ease in sending homers deep into the stands.
The second round saw LA stars Pujols and Pederson square off, as the young star just barely beat the MLB legend. Then the crowd once again fueled Frazier against Josh Donaldson, as he soared into the finals with a home run as time expired in regulation.
The MLB could not have scripted a better finale, as Joc belted fourteen home runs. After two prior rounds and fatigue certainly setting in, this number seemed very strong. That is, until Todd Frazier stepped into the batter’s box and received support on par to a World Series game. He started off a little slow, but got really hot with a minute and a half left, sending the crowd into a frenzy. He tied it up with all of the bonus left. Then like a storybook finish, he belted one to left field on the first pitch of bonus time. Cincinnati had their hero. The MLB had its perfect solution.
Even though several key stars were missing from the event, namely Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Giancarlo Stanton, it didn’t seem to matter once the events got underway. There was experience, and there was youth. There were stories scattered throughout. And the fans certainly played a role. Every factor intersected almost perfectly, as the MLB hit his year’s Derby out of the park.
This format will certainly be repeated next year, but it's not easy to recreate the drama and excitement. That comes naturally. The crowd must be a part of the event, as seen last night. The stories and the matchups are very much a significant factor, but those will unfold as the season plays out.
See Todd Frazier win it below: