Home Baseball 2023 House Run Derby Preview: Swinging for the Fences in Seattle

2023 House Run Derby Preview: Swinging for the Fences in Seattle

2023 House Run Derby Preview: Swinging for the Fences in Seattle


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Within the midst of a season by which he received AL Rookie of the Yr honors and helped the Mariners break their 21-year playoff drought, Julio Rodríguez took a star flip at the 2022 House Run Derby. The 21-year-old phenom thrilled the group at Dodger Stadium by crushing 32 homers within the first spherical, together with 9 of not less than 440 toes, and defeated Corey Seager, 32-24. He adopted that by knocking off two-time defending champion Pete Alonso within the semifinals, 31-23, earlier than falling to Juan Soto within the finals, 19-18. With this yr’s Derby going down at Seattle’s T-Cellular Park, Rodríguez will attempt to turn into the fourth participant to win the occasion on his house area, after the Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg (1990), the Reds’ Todd Frazier (2015), and the Nationals’ Bryce Harper (2018).

What’s extra, Rodríguez, who’s seeded seventh this yr on the premise of the eight individuals’ house run totals via July 4, will once more match up with the second-seeded Alonso within the first spherical — a pairing that coincidentally options the one two returning individuals from final yr. The stakes are excessive for Alonso right here, as he’s nonetheless looking for to affix Seattle icon Ken Griffey Jr. as the one three-time winners in Derby historical past. To try this, he might should defeat one other acquainted opponent: sixth-seeded Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was the runner-up when Alonso received for the primary time in 2019.

I’ll get to the individuals shortly, however first, the format, which is alongside the traces of what has been used for the occasion since 2015, a set of adjustments that has executed wonders for the watchability of this spectacle. The competitors will likely be an eight-man, single elimination bracket that makes use of timed rounds of three minutes apiece for the primary two rounds and two minutes for the ultimate spherical, by which level the rivals are usually fairly gassed. Every competitor will get a further 30-second bonus in every spherical, and might earn a further 30-second bonus if he hits not less than two house runs with projected distances of not less than 440 toes in line with Statcast.

Every participant is allowed to name one 45-second timeout to be used throughout regulation time; it might probably’t be used throughout bonus time, although every participant will get a break between the regulation and bonus segments. The lower-seeded participant in every spherical goes first, and the spherical will finish within the equal of a walk-off if the upper seed surpasses his complete. If two contestants are tied after the bonus time, they every get a 60-second spherical with no bonus time or timeouts, and in the event that they’re nonetheless tied after that, they every get rounds of three swings apiece till a winner is set. The winner of the Derby will take house $1 million of the $2.5 million complete pot.

The Derby arrives amid a season by which house run charges are on the rebound thanks not less than partially to a livelier ball — one with a decrease coefficient of drag — than final yr’s. The place groups averaged 1.07 house runs per sport final yr, the bottom mark since 2015, they’re as much as 1.16 this yr, proper round the place they have been in ’16 and ’18 however nonetheless under the record-setting ’19 season (1.39 per sport) and the elevated charges of ’20 and ’21. Equally, hard-hit fly balls — these with an exit velocity of 95 mph or greater — are touring a median of 366 toes, one foot farther than final yr however one lower than 2021, and 9 toes under the height in 2019. Nonetheless, they don’t carry as properly at T-Cellular Park, which is simply 10 toes above sea stage, close to the water, and one of many hardest parks to hit in general. This yr, those self same hard-hit fly balls are averaging 359 toes at T-Cellular, one foot lower than final yr and 9 toes lower than 2019:

The impression of T-Cellular’s house run suppression is especially upon left-handed batters, owing to the longer distance to right-center (385 toes) than left-center (378 toes). Lefty hitters have a 94 park house run issue by our five-year methodology (six p.c under league common), the place righties have a 102 issue (two p.c above league common). By Statcast’s three-year methodology, the cut up is extra excessive, with 90 for lefties and 104 for righties. Thus it shouldn’t be all that shocking that the entire contestants on this yr’s Derby are righties, save for switch-hitter Adley Rutschman, who figures to bat righty. On that word, right here’s the complete bracket:

And right here’s a have a look at the sector with some related stats:

2023 House Run Derby Discipline

Seed Participant PA HR HR/PA HR/Con HR/FB EVF Avg HR Barrel% 440
1 Luis Robert Jr. 375 26 6.9% 11.2% 25.2% 95.9 406 15.5% 9
2 Pete Alonso 348 26 7.5% 11.3% 24.5% 94.2 404 14.8% 23
3 Mookie Betts 396 26 6.6% 9.5% 19.4% 96.1 397 12.8% 2
4 Adolis García 393 23 5.9% 9.0% 19.0% 96.2 401 16.4% 4
5 Randy Arozarena 376 16 4.3% 7.1% 17.6% 95.0 400 14.6% 1
6 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 384 13 3.4% 4.5% 13.8% 96.2 409 13.6% 16
7 Julio Rodríguez 397 13 3.3% 4.9% 14.6% 94.0 394 9.8% 3
8 Adley Rutschman# 383 12 3.1% 4.5% 12.5% 91.9 403 6.7% 1

All statistics via July 9. EVF (exit velocity on fly balls), Avg HR (common home-run distance) and 440 (profession complete of house runs projected for not less than 440 toes) by way of Baseball Savant. # = Change hitter.

The tactic of seeding is unsophisticated, because the gamers are ranked primarily based upon what number of house runs they’d hit when the sector was finalized on July 4, with house runs since June 15 used as a tiebreaker. By that methodology, one needed to go all the way in which all the way down to the tie for 63rd to incorporate all eight individuals. House run totals are hardly the one measure of a slugger’s functionality, significantly on this context, and whereas it’s honest to query the applicability of any of the above metrics I’ve gathered on the subject of non-game conditions, it’s price appreciating the attitude they supply on this group. I’ve gone past the uncooked totals to indicate how usually every contestant homers per plate look, per batted ball [HR/ (AB – SO + SF)], and per fly ball, with their common exit velocities on flies, their common projected house run distance, and their barrel fee, which in line with a 2019 research by Devan Fink correlates finest with current Derby success. I’ve additionally included every participant’s Statcast-era complete of homers with projected distances of least 440 toes, the brink that the current Derbies (save for the 2021 one at Coors Discipline) have used for the space bonus.

Actually, it’s not probably the most dazzling area. Not that they might have participated if wholesome, nevertheless it’s a bummer to not have Aaron Decide or Mike Trout; the latter has by no means participated within the contest. We don’t get Shohei Ohtani, main league house run chief, although it’s robust to begrudge the two-way celebrity some relaxation on the heels of what might have been the best month in main league historical past. No Ronald Acuña Jr., who’s not solely within the midst of an unbelievable season when it comes to energy and velocity but in addition hits for unbelievable distance; his 426-foot common on house runs is the best amongst any participant with greater than three homers. There’s no Soto to defend his title, and no Harper, both, although that’s comprehensible given the latter’s less-than-full-powered restoration from offseason Tommy John surgical procedure. Guerrero is definitely the one different participant in addition to Rodríguez and Alonso with earlier expertise on this contest, and considered one of solely three individuals with 100 profession homers, in comparison with seven of eight final yr.

Nonetheless, it’s a enjoyable sufficient format that it must be entertaining nonetheless. Right here’s a have a look at the 4 matchups

(1) Robert vs. (8) Rutschman

The 25-year-old Robert is within the midst of his finest season. He’s second within the AL in homers behind Ohtani, and has already hit greater than his 2021 and ’22 seasons mixed (25). That has one thing to do with staying wholesome, as he performed simply 166 video games in these two seasons, however he’s additionally barreling the ball extra persistently this yr. He has the second-highest barrel fee of the group, in addition to the second-highest common house run distance, and till Sunday he was additionally second in fly ball exit velocity earlier than slipping behind in a crowded area. Given all that, he could possibly be a really enjoyable contestant.

The 25-year-old Rutschman is already an All-Star, a franchise cornerstone, and a face of baseball within the making, however statistically, it’s onerous to make a case as to why he’s a part of this area. He’s final among the many group in each class above — generally by loads — apart from common house run distance, the place he leapfrogged from sixth to fourth on Sunday by hitting the longest house run of his profession, a 461-footer into the higher deck at Goal Discipline; actually, that’s the longest of any of this yr’s Derby individuals as properly. What he has going for him past that demonstration of potential energy is the native hook. He’s a local of Portland who starred at Oregon State, and he’s simply the only option of candidates who’re both native to Oregon or Washington or went to school in these states (apologies to Michael Conforto and Jake Lamb). That ought to make him one of many fan favorites.

(2) Alonso vs. (7) Rodríguez

Earlier than struggling a bone bruise and sprained left wrist when he was hit by a Charlie Morton pitch on June 7, the 28-year-old Alonso was setting a 57-homer tempo. In putting him on the IL, the Mets introduced, “A typical return to play for one of these damage is roughly 3–4 weeks,” however Alonso spent simply the minimal 10 days sidelined. He’s homered 4 occasions since returning and is presently tied with Betts for second within the NL in homers, however has hit simply .147/.267/.347 because the damage whereas producing a median exit velocity of 87 mph, with an 7.7% barrel fee. All of which is to say that he will not be 100%, which is a disgrace, as a result of a wholesome Alonso is as completely constructed for this competitors as any participant within the majors. One factor to notice is that the place Mets bench coach Dave Jauss was an enormous a part of Alonso’s success as his pitcher within the final two Derbies, this time round Mike Friedlein, Alonso’s journey ball coach from when he was a Tampa teenager, will likely be throwing to him.

At 22, Rodríguez is the youngest participant for the second yr in a row. His season up to now hasn’t been as much as the extent of his stellar rookie marketing campaign, although the drop-off isn’t as vast as his 51-point drop in wOBA suggests. His exit velocity is 0.8 mph greater and his Greatest Pace exit velo — the typical of his high 50% of batted balls, a greater indictor of efficiency — has improved as properly (from 103.7 mph to 104.1). That mentioned, he’s not barreling or pulling the ball as usually, he’s hitting it on the bottom extra, and his most exit velocity has fallen from 117.2 mph to 115.5. His common house run distance is the bottom within the area, and he has the best share of homers projected for lower than 400 toes (61.5%), although his ballpark could also be responsible, as he’s averaging eight toes fewer on his house homers (390 toes vs. 398). Nonetheless, it’s clear from final yr that he is aware of what he’s doing on this format, and never onerous to think about the T-Cellular crowd giving him a elevate.

(3) Betts vs. (6) Guerrero

The 30-year-old Betts is the oldest and most completed participant on this area, the profession chief in homers (239), the one former MVP, and already a possible Corridor of Famer (he’s 14th in JAWS amongst proper fielders, forward of Tony Gwynn, Ichiro Suzuki, Dave Winfield, and the elder Vladimir Guerrero). At 5-foot-9, 180 kilos, he doesn’t seem like a house run hitter, however after setting a profession excessive with 35 final yr, he’s on tempo for 47 this yr, and simply three leadoff homers away from tying the single-season document of 13. He’s not a lot of a distance man; simply two of his profession homers have reached the magic 440-foot mark, and half his homers this yr had projected distances below 400 toes, a share greater than all however Rodríguez.

The 24-year-old Guerrero, alternatively, is a distance man. Sixteen of his 117 profession homers (13.7%) have been 440-footers or longer, edging Alonso (13.3%) for the best fee of this group. In the meantime, Guerrero’s 409-foot common for homers is three toes farther than any of the others, and he has the bottom share of sub-400 foot homers of the group this yr (30.8%). Like Rodríguez, he isn’t having an enormous season with the bat, however he’s hitting the ball a lot more durable than his slash stats recommend; his .547 xSLG is 104 factors greater than his SLG. In different phrases, he brings the thunder. Of the decrease seeds, he’s obtained the very best shot at winding up within the finals.

(4) García vs. (5) Arozarena

Not solely does this matchup pit a pair of Cuban gamers towards one another, however each García and Arozarena have been teammates within the Cardinals’ minor league chain earlier than being traded away. They continue to be shut associates, and García is godfather to Arozarena’s daughter. If the top-seeded Robert advances out of the primary spherical to face the winner right here, that semifinals matchup can even be an all-Cuban affair.

The 30-year-old García leads the group when it comes to each barrel fee and common exit velocity on fly balls. His 4 homers of not less than 440 toes places him within the higher half right here, although word that whereas the 28-year-old Arozarena has none, his common distance is only one foot lower than that of his pal. Although not a very prolific house run hitter — he’s topped out at 20 in his two full seasons — Arozarena has been hitting the ball a lot more durable this yr, together with his barrel fee and different Statcast numbers profession highs. And as his postseason resumé and star flip for Group Mexico within the World Baseball Traditional have proven, he’s a participant who completely thrives within the highlight. That could possibly be an enormous assist on this contest.

When you’ve learn this far, you most likely need some predictions, and whereas I’m no knowledgeable in prognostication, my observe document since becoming a member of the FanGraphs employees contains the Harper and Alonso wins in 2018-19 — the latter over Guerrero within the finals, even (not that I used to be going too far out on a limb both time). I haven’t executed as properly lately, nevertheless, and whereas my impulse is to choose Alonso primarily based on his profession resumé, as a substitute I’m going with Guerrero over Robert within the finals. Greater than something, I’m hopeful that regardless of the relative lack of star energy, this contest will present thrills on the extent of current Derbies.



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