Some Home Run Derby Fun

I love the Home Run Derby. I hate the All-Star Game. For now, I’ve decided to put the mistake riddled All-Star rosters aside and focus on one the few exhibitions baseball has left.

So far, only 7 of the 8 participants have been announced for the Derby so this little capsule will be a little incomplete. (My money for the 8th contestant is Carlos Quentin, by the way. Edit: The 8th player is Justin Morneau from the Minnesota Twins) The announced players are, in convenient list form:

Lance Berkman Houston Astros
Ryan Braun Milwaukee Brewers
Josh Hamilton Texas Rangers
Evan Longoria Tampa Bay Rays
Grady Sizemore Cleveland Indians
Dan Uggla Florida Marlins
Chase Utley Philadelphia Phillies

think the field this year is an exciting one, but it doesn’t really have the established power hitters like in past years. Only Lance Berkman has over 150 career homers. In fact, if you add the next three hitters in the field, Utley (122), Sizemore (101), and Uggla (81), they only have 23 more bombs combined than Berkman’s total of 281.

The remaining three participants have a total of 113 career homers, Braun (57), Hamilton (40), and Longoria (16) in only 466 career games.

Berkman has appeared in the Derby on three previous occasions, hitting one homer at Miller Park in 2002, 21 at Minute Maid Park in Houston (finished 2nd), and three at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

The last time the Phillies sent a representative to his first Derby, they both won. Bobby Abreu sent a record 41 balls over the fence in Detroit in 2005 and Ryan Howard followed suit in 2006 by hitting 23. The only two Phillies who have gone to the Derby and not won were Jim Thome in 2004 and Howard in 2007. This means Utley’s Phillies have the highest Winning Percentage represented in this year’s Derby. The only teams with higher percentages are the Arizona Diamondbacks (1/1; Luis Gonzalez, 2001), the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (3/4; Wally Joyner, 1986; Garrett Anderson, 2003; Vladimir Guerrero, 2007) and the New York Yankees (2/3; Tino Martinez, 1997; Jason Giambi 2002).

I think this year’s contest will be a great one. My roommate and I decided that the two ingredients for a great Derby are 1) having a stadium with things that can be hit and 2) having hitting that can reach these objects. For example, the contest in US Cellular Field wasn’t all that exciting because there’s no second deck for hitters to reach. Also, last year in San Francisco may have been one of the most disappointing Derbies of all time since no one hit a ball into the Cove, even with powerful lefties like Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, and Justin Morneau in the field. This won’t happen this year; balls will hit the black batter’s eye in center field and multiple upper deck shots will take place.

These things are always difficult to predict, but I like giving meaningless predictions. My thought is that righties might have a little tougher time since it’s 399 feet to left-center at Yankee Stadium. I think Berkman has hit from the right side in these contests before, so I’ll rule him out. This leaves me with Utley, Hamilton, and Sizemore. I’m going to go with Josh Hamilton. He may be the greatest hitter not named Albert Pujols, so I’ll give him the nod.

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