Jose Bautista takes a cut in the 2014 Home Run Derby
Major League Baseball’s best players are in Cincinnati this week for the 2015 All-Star Game. The Midsummer Classic will be held Tuesday at Great American Ballpark, the home of the Reds. But the festivities begin tonight at 8 p.m. with the 30th anniversary of the Home Run Derby. And if you’re planning on tuning in (or maybe even watching it in person), there are some changes to the format you need to know about.
In the past, batters would get 10 outs to hit as many home runs as possible. Anything that was out of the park in fair territory was considered a homer. Anything other than a home run was called an out. This year, that all changes.
Instead of getting 10 outs, each hitter in the Derby will have only five minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The reason for the change is that previous derbies have tended to be slow. Hitters would sit on several pitches before swinging at just the right one. They can’t do that this year, and the time limit will speed up the process.
The time limit can be extended if a contestant hits a ball a beyond a certain distance. For example, if a player hits a home run 474 feet or farther, he gets an extra 30 seconds. If he hits two homers 420-474 feet, he’s awarded an extra minute.
The time limit isn’t the only change.
In the past, the eight players would hit and the top four would advance. After the top four hit, the top two would compete in the final round. This Derby is set up as single elimination, one-on-one matchups. Each matchup is in a bracket very much like the NCAA tournament with players seeded based on how many home runs they hit from the start of the season through July 7.
Each league is represented by four players. The four from the National League are Kris Bryant (Cubs), Todd Frazier (Reds), Joc Pederson (Dodgers), and Anthony Rizzo (Cubs). The four players representing the American League are Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays), Prince Fielder (Rangers), Manny Machado (Orioles), and Albert Pujols (Angels).
Here’s how the seeding and bracket breaks down:
Click the image to see a larger version of the bracket!
If you haven’t filled out your bracket, here’s what you need to know about each Derby contestant:
Top-seed Albert Pujols (26 home runs through July 13), first baseman for the Los Angeles Angels, is competing in his fourth Derby.
Prince Fielder (14 home runs through July 13), first baseman for the Texas Rangers, will compete in his fourth consecutive Home Run Derby and sixth overall. Fielder is a two-time champion in the event, winning in 2009 and 2012.
Todd Frazier (## home runs through July 13), third baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, will compete in his second consecutive Derby. He was a finalist last year. Frazier is just the 18th player from a host team to participate in the event.
Josh Donaldson (21 home runs through July 13), Toronto Blue Jays third baseman, is competing for the second consecutive time.
Manny Machado (19 home runs through July 13), third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, is competing in his first Derby. He has a chance to be the first Orioles player to win it since Miguel Tejada took home the trophy in 2004.
This is also the first Home Run Derby for Anthony Rizzo (16 home runs through July 13), first baseman for the Chicago Cubs. Rizzo and Kris Bryant (12 home runs through July 13) are the 15th pair of teammates to play in the Home Run Derby in the same year. Bryant, the Cubs’ rookie third baseman, is also making his first Derby appearance.
Bryan’s not the only first-year star in the contest. Los Angeles Dodger’s outfielder Joc Pederson (20 home runs through July 13), is in it, too. This is only the fifth Derby to feature rookies.
For more on the 2015 Home Run Derby, check out Kid Reporter Patrick Andres’ predictions for who will be crowned the new All-Star home run king!
Photo: Elsa/Getty Images