The Reds' Todd Frazier Wins the Best Home Run Derby of All-Time
On Monday night at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, baseball got a "win."
The Home Run Derby, which over the years has turned into a bloated, unexciting, monotonous event, has been rejuvenated, thanks to a series of new rules (some of which came about because of dumb luck) and some amazing performances by the men who participated in this season's event.
Hopefully, there were a lot of kids watching because this was the type of thing that could get kids excited about baseball.
The Reds' own Todd Frazier, playing in his home ballpark, outlasted Dodgers rookie phenom Joc Pederson in the final round 13-12, to win this year's Home Run Derby. But it was how he did it that was the most exciting part.
First, new rules were put in place well ahead of Monday night's derby. Eight players were selected to participate, with each player seeded one through eight. There would be four first-round matches, with the 1 seed playing the 8 seed, the 4 seed playing the 5 seed, the 2 seed playing the 7 seed, and the 3 seed taking on the 6 seed.
In each round, instead of players being given 10 "outs" (any ball hit without leaving the ballpark was considered an "out"), they got a certain amount of time per round to hit as many balls out of the park as possible. Originally, each player's round was supposed to last five minutes, but with an impending rain storm on the horizon in Cincinnati, they shortened it to four minutes.
This is where the luck came into play, as four minutes turned out to be a perfect length. In each round, a player was allowed a brief timeout, and if a player hit a pair of homers in their round that went at least 425 feet, they got an extra 30 seconds after their four minutes were up in order to try and get a couple more dingers on the board.
Here's how it all went down (first half stats in graphs).
Albert Pujols 10 - Kris Bryant 9
You'll notice that in every single matchup, through every single round, the winning margin was one home run. There's no way baseball could have planned for that kind of drama. In this contest, Pujols, the top seed, hit his go-ahead homer with no time remaining on the clock to beat Bryant.
Thank you, baseball, for introducing the concept of the buzzer-beater into the sport.
Joc Pederson 13 - Manny Machado 12
You started to sense a pattern was emerging here. The batter who went last seemed to have an advantage in the early rounds, as all the top seeds advanced. Here, Pederson probably could have kept on going, but his round ended after he hit his 13th to pass Machado.
Josh Donaldson 9 - Anthony Rizzo 8
|3||Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||21||.239||.532||3.15|
Donaldson was the higher seed, but the Cubs' Rizzo came into the Derby with the highest nERD of any of the eight participants. That means a lineup full of Rizzos would score 4.12 runs per nine innings more than a league average player. But once again, the lower seed and the hitter who went first was eliminated by Donaldson, whose round ended when he passed Rizzo.
Todd Frazier 14 - Prince Fielder 13
Fielder is a two-time winner of this event, in 2009 and 2012, and his 13 homers at the end of his round sure seemed like it would be enough. But Frazier would not allow the big man to outdo him in his home stadium, ending regulation tied and then beating Fielder with a home run in bonus time.
Frazier would follow that same pattern a little while later.
Joc Pederson 12 - Albert Pujols 11
Our first upset of the night came with the top seed, Pujols, getting knocked out by that punk kid, Pederson, who I don't think can even shave yet. This time, Pederson's 12 were enough to hold off Pujols, the guy many expected to win this event.
One cool moment was after the round was over and the hug Pujols gave Pederson's brother, who has Down Syndrome. Pujols has a daughter who also has Down Syndrome and The Pujols Family Foundation is dedicated to caring for people with the disease.
Pujols' 452-foot blast was the longest of that round, by the way.
Todd Frazier 10 - Josh Donaldson 9
In yet another score with a one-homer differential, Frazier kept the dream alive with a buzzer-beating home run that landed in the seats with no time left, giving him the 10-9 win, moving him onto the finals.
Oh, the drama.
Todd Frazier 15 - Joc Pederson 14
How on earth was Frazier going to beat Pederson, after Pederson went first and put up 14 home runs? There was no way, right?
But Frazier would not be denied, just barely missing the Derby-winning homer by feet with no time left. But because he hit at least two homers that went more than 425 feet in his round, he got another 30 seconds. And he wasted no time, depositing his second swing into the left field stands for the win.
Here's what the crowd sounded like.
Frazier wins it, as seen from left field upper deck. pic.twitter.com/NknYAbTN4w— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) July 14, 2015
Last year, Frazier made it all the way to the Finals but lost to Yoenis Cespedes after hitting just one ball out in the final round. This year, he set a record by hitting 15 in the last round and became just the second player to win it the year after finishing second (Ken Griffy Jr. also did that). And with the win, Frazier became the only participant other than Ryne Sandberg in 1990 to win the Derby in his home stadium.
In the end, the bracket system worked pretty well, huh?
So who likes the bracket format?July 14, 2015
Baseball has been looking for a way to make its product more interesting to millennials and kids, and this was certainly a great step forward. And given the excitement the Derby generated this year, you'd have to imagine players won't be quite as anxious to back out of participating next year.
It is possible to reinvent some things that are old and stale. Monday night, Major League Baseball reinvented the Home Run Derby with some smarts, a little bit of luck, and some terrific baseball players.
Good job, baseball.