2022 Dwelling Run Derby Preview: Alonso Goes for the Three-Pete

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports activities

What’s 4,700 or so ft of elevation between pals? The place final yr’s Dwelling Run Derby was held within the majors’ most homer-conducive venue, mile-high Coors Discipline, this yr’s occasion can be held in Dodger Stadium, which is an estimated 522 feet above sea degree. The distinction is hardly trivial in relation to the hard-hit fly balls which might be the stuff of Dwelling Run Derbies; based mostly on league-wide knowledge from 2021 and ’22, these hit with exit velocities of 95 mph or larger traveled a mean of 31 fewer ft at Dodger Stadium (361 ft) than at Coors Discipline (392 ft).

The distinction might not matter to two-time defending champion Pete Alonso, who won at Progressive Field with its 653-foot elevation in 2019, in addition to last year at Coors. In beating out upstart Trey Mancini final summer season, Alonso grew to become the fourth two-time winner in Derby historical past, becoming a member of Ken Griffey Jr. (1994, ’98–99), Prince Fielder (2009, ’12) and Yoenis Céspedes (2013–14). This yr, he has an opportunity not solely to tie Griffey but additionally to develop into the primary participant to win three in a row. Three-Peat, Three-Pete — we’ll by no means hear the top of it if he wins the occasion, which airs at 8 pm ET on ESPN on Monday night time.

Given his expertise with the format, Alonso must be thought of the favourite from among the many eight contributors. Of the 4 earlier champions who’re nonetheless lively, Bryce Harper (2018 winner) is on the injured listing, Giancarlo Stanton (2016) and Aaron Judge (2017) each declined the chance to take part, and Robinson Canó (2011) is way faraway from his power-hitting days. Solely two lively runners-up, Kyle Schwarber (2018) and Albert Pujols (2003) are right here; Mancini (2021), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (2019), Miguel Sanó (2017), Joc Pederson (2015), and Nelson Cruz (2009) should not. Neither are Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, or Fernando Tatis Jr., for numerous causes. Whereas it could be nice to have any of the aforementioned gamers taking part, the competition is a bodily demanding one, and lots of of these stars are already banged up if not out totally. Nonetheless, even with only one contestant getting back from final yr’s subject — Juan Soto, who misplaced to Alonso within the semifinal spherical — it’s a compelling group of sluggers.

I’ll get to the contributors shortly, however first, the format, which is alongside the traces of what has been used for the occasion since 2015, a set of modifications that has completed wonders for the watchability of this spectacle. The competitors can 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. Every competitor will get an extra 30-second bonus, plus probably a second 30-second bonus if he hits a house run with a projected distance of at the very least 440 ft (this was elevated to 475 ft for Coors). Every participant is allowed to name one 45-second timeout to be used throughout regulation time; it may well’t be used throughout bonus time. 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 determined. The winner of the Derby will take house $1 million of the $2.5 million complete pot.

The decrease altitude isn’t the one issue that would scale back house run totals on this yr’s contest. On a per-game foundation, house run charges are all the way down to their lowest ranges since 2015; this yr’s 1.08 homers per workforce per recreation is down 4.6% from final yr and 22.9% from 2019, the yr that homers peaked. A deader baseball with a better coefficient of drag, and the league-wide use of humidors, which normalize the bounciness of the ball based mostly upon its water content material, are the obvious culprits. In consequence, fly ball distances have decreased, each on a league-wide foundation and at Dodger Stadium, the latter to a fair larger diploma. Right here’s a comparability of all fly balls hit at 95 mph or larger:

Laborious-hit fly balls across the majors are averaging 365 ft, down from 367 final yr and a peak of 375 from 2019. At Dodger Stadium, they’re averaging 359 ft, down from 362 final yr and a excessive of 373 ft in 2019.

So far as the scale go, Dodger Stadium is symmetrical, measuring 330 ft down the foul traces, 375 ft to true left-center and right-center, and 395 ft to lifeless middle subject. The outfield fences are eight ft excessive from bullpen to bullpen, then drop to 55 inches excessive within the corners, from the bullpens to the foul poles. Regardless of its symmetry, the park has not too long ago favored righties in relation to house runs, with a 107 park factor in comparison with 102 for lefties. Based mostly on knowledge because the begin of the 2021 season, righties have a 14.7% fee of house runs per fly ball, lefties a fee of 13.1%.

Right here’s the official bracket:

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

2022 Dwelling Run Derby Discipline

Seed Participant PA HR HR/PA HR/Con HR/FB EVF Avg HR Barrel% 440
1 Kyle Schwarber* 391 29 7.4% 13.4% 25.4% 99.1 413 21.7% 18
2 Pete Alonso 395 24 6.1% 8.9% 20.5% 94.3 401 13.7% 19
3 Corey Seager* 389 22 5.7% 7.6% 19.3% 94.5 403 11.5% 8
4 Juan Soto* 393 20 5.1% 7.8% 20.8% 96.1 410 12.9% 9
5 José Ramírez# 375 19 5.1% 6.4% 11.9% 88.6 386 6.4% 2
6 Julio Rodríguez 380 16 4.2% 6.5% 18.8% 96.0 400 14.3% 2
7 Ronald Acuña Jr. 270 8 3.0% 4.8% 13.6% 97.8 437 14.5% 20
8 Albert Pujols 173 6 3.5% 4.9% 12.5% 93.0 403 8.2% 8

All statistics via July 17. EVF (exit velocity on fly balls), Avg HR (common home-run distance) and 440 (complete of house runs projected for at the very least 440 ft) by way of Baseball Savant. * = Bats left-handed. # = Change hitter.

The tactic of seeding is unsophisticated, because the gamers had been ranked based mostly upon house run totals when the sphere was finalized final week. By that measure, one needed to go all the best way all the way down to the 30-way tie (!) at a hundred and eightieth to incorporate all eight contributors. Dwelling 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 in relation to non-game conditions, it’s price appreciating the angle 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 response to a 2019 study by Devan Fink correlates greatest with latest Derby success. I’ve additionally included every participant’s Statcast-era complete variety of homers projected to journey least 440 ft, the brink that 2015–19 Derbies used for the space bonus.

And now, right here’s a have a look at the first-round matchups:

Schwarber (1) vs. Pujols (8)

This has the makings of a mismatch, pitting the NL house run chief and former Derby runner-up towards a 42-year-old future Corridor of Famer who’s right here in an emeritus position. Schwarber leads the sphere in all three of the normal fee stats above (homers per no matter) by a considerable margin. He additionally has the majors’ highest common exit velocity on fly balls and its second-highest barrel fee behind solely Choose. He’s third among the many subject in profession long-distance photographs, and whereas he barely trails Acuña and Alonso when it comes to the rely, he has over 900 plate appearances greater than both of them. Schwarber has additionally gone 440 ft or extra as soon as for each 164 PA; Alonso has completed so as soon as for each 103 PA, and Acuña as soon as for each 101 PA. The one factor that is perhaps working towards Schwarber on this context is that he’s a lefty. Nonetheless, he appears well-positioned to problem Alonso and get the victory that eluded him in 2018.

Pujols isn’t precisely a stranger to this competitors, having participated in 2003, ’07, ’09, and ’15. He was the runner-up to Garret Anderson in ’03, again when he was 23 years outdated and in his third main league season. In ’15, his solely different time within the present format, he was the No. 1 seed, beating Kris Bryant within the quarterfinals earlier than bowing to Pederson within the semifinals. He’s nonetheless able to giving the ball a journey, having homered twice up to now week, however there’s nothing concerning the numbers that means he’s an actual risk to advance.

Alonso (2) vs Acuña (7)

Of us, that is the first-round matchup to observe, and actually, it’s a rematch of a 2019 semifinals match. Alonso, who had defeated Carlos Santana within the first spherical, confronted off with Acuña, who had crushed Josh Bell. The Met received the higher hand, successful 20–19.

As I famous final yr, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Alonso appears constructed for this competitors, moving into the field trying unfastened and working at most effectivity in an occasion the place effectivity is underappreciated. Some credit score for that’s nearly definitely owed to Mets bench coach Dave Jauss, his pitcher, who persistently places the ball in his wheelhouse. Alonso all the time seems to grasp precisely what he must do to win, whereas others step into the field pondering, “I’ll attempt Plan A, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll attempt Plan B…” by which level it’s too late, at the very least on this unforgiving draw. In each the semifinals and finals final yr, Alonso wanted far lower than the allotted time to win.

Acuña is the seventh seed not attributable to a scarcity of expertise however due to accidents; he returned from final yr’s season-ending torn ACL on April 28 and has missed time this yr attributable to a proper quad pressure and a bruised left foot. His house run fee stats are at or close to the underside of the sphere, however he’s received a 144-point hole between his .413 SLG and .557 xSLG and the sphere’s largest hole between his precise homers (six) and Statcast expected homers (9.2). His exit velocity on fly balls and barrel fee are each second within the subject solely to Schwarber, and his common house run distance is tops within the majors; he’s gone 440 or longer with a larger profession frequency than anybody else right here, and 4 of his eight homers this yr have been at the very least that lengthy. When he misplaced to Alonso in 2019, it was as a result of he was swinging at something as an alternative of sticking to a good zone; a extra disciplined strategy (and/or higher pitching) is perhaps the ticket to an upset.

Seager (3) vs. Rodríguez (6)

Seager is again within the Derby for the primary time since his 2016 rookie season, when he set a still-standing private better of 26 homers, and again at Dodger Stadium for the primary time since signing a 10-year, $325 million free-agent deal simply earlier than the lockout. Whereas his 22 homers are nicely forward of his normal tempo and tie him for ninth within the majors, 16 of these have come at Globe Life Discipline, which favors lefties. By Statcast’s Anticipated Dwelling Runs measures, his +3.2 homers above expectations is the best on this subject. That stated, he had considerably larger house run charges in Los Angeles (6.5% versus 4.4% when it comes to HR/Con), so he shouldn’t be taken evenly. He could be the gang favourite, even along with his departure from the Dodger fold; in any case, he was the NLCS and World Sequence MVP in 2020.

Rodríguez is the youngest participant (21 years outdated) and the one rookie on this yr’s subject, however that shouldn’t rely him out; Alonso received as a rookie in 2019, and Wally Joyner was co-champion in 1986. After a tough April (zero homers, 61 wRC+), Rodríguez has been very spectacular, hitting .293/.351/.535 (155 wRC+) with 16 homers in 299 PA and main all rookies with 2.9 WAR. His Statcast numbers since Could 1 — a 16.3% barrel fee and 96.7 mph common exit velocity on fly balls — would each rank third among the many subject right here and level to his rising consolation degree, and his two homers of at the very least 440 ft tie him with Soto for second within the subject. If Acuña is my high sleeper decide as a contestant who may win regardless of a low seeding, Rodriguez is a detailed second.

Soto (4) vs. Ramírez (5)

Soto is the discuss of baseball nowadays based mostly upon Ken Rosenthal’s report that he turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract supply, and that the Nationals will look to trade him. Don’t anticipate that to distract him, although; that is the man who gets in pitchers’ heads in any case. Soto, final yr’s No. 8 seed, beat Ohtani within the first spherical by way of a swing-off, setting a Derby document with a 520-foot blast alongside the best way.

Soto’s numbers above don’t leap off the web page, but it surely’s price noting that his exit velo on fly balls is third within the subject. What’s actually fascinating is that he’s by far the least pull-happy of the bunch, with a 33.5% pull fee, over seven factors decrease than every other participant right here. As he told reporters final week, “I’m going to attempt to hit the longest oppo homer of this Derby… All people can pull the ball. Let’s see how far you hit the ball oppo.” He already owns this yr’s longest opposite-field homer of any of the contributors, at 414 ft, although that was hit at Coors Discipline on Could 3; Schwarber had a 403-foot oppo shot at Petco Park on June 26.

Ramírez has the least spectacular Statcast numbers of the sphere; his common house run distance is 14 ft shorter than anybody else’s. The actual query is whether or not he’ll bat right-handed or left-handed for the competition. As of Saturday, he hadn’t finalized his determination, telling MLB.com’s Mandy Bell, “I’ll see extra how I really feel after I get to the ballpark there in L.A. However for now, it’ll be from the correct facet.”

What do the numbers say?

Cut up PA HR HR/PA HR/Con HR/FB EVF Avg HR Barrel%
LHH 2022 278 16 5.8% 7.3% 13.6% 88.6 385 5.5%
RHH 2022 97 3 3.1% 3.9% 7.3% 88.7 393 9.2%
LHH 2020-22 890 50 5.6% 7.6% 15.7% 90.9 386 7.5%
RHH 2020-22 375 22 5.9% 7.7% 15.5% 94.6 405 14.1%

Ramírez’s house run-based fee stats this yr favor the left facet, however his Statcast numbers tilt towards the correct; he’s barreling the ball extra often, and his common house run distance is longer. That benefit is much more pronounced if we usher in his 2020 and ’21 stats, at the same time as his house run-based fee stats even out. He hits the ball a lot more durable from the correct facet, although it could nonetheless be a shock if he advances right here.

Should you’ve learn this far, you most likely need some predictions, and whereas I’m not going to say to be an skilled in prognostication, my observe document since becoming a member of the FanGraphs workers consists of the Harper and Alonso wins — the latter over Guerrero within the finals, even (not that I used to be going too far out on a limb both time). That stated, final yr I had Joey Gallo over Ohtani within the finals, and neither made it out of the primary spherical. Having seen what he can do on this format, I’ve a really onerous time selecting towards Alonso, and so I’ll go together with him over Rodríguez within the finals right here, including that whoever wins that Alonso-Acuña first-round matchup is at the very least going to the finals. The latest Dwelling Run Derbies have set a excessive bar for pleasure and drama, and regardless of the consequence, right here’s hoping this yr’s one can present comparable thrills.




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