In case you missed the news over the weekend, this year’s Home Run Derby on July 13 will feature a new set of rules:
2015 Gillette HR Derby presented by Head & Shoulders introduces new format, featuring brackets & timed rounds. pic.twitter.com/e3sFa1qxBp
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) June 28, 2015
The key take away is that this is no longer a double elimination event with rounds and winners determined by a given number of outs. Instead, this single elimination tournament will witness each player (seeded beforehand) hitting as many home runs as they can in five minutes. If a home run is hit in the final minute of a round, the clock will stop and only restart after a non-home run is hit. Players with the most home runs after each matchup will advance to the next round.
You can read about the other, more specific rules including time outs, tie breakers and bonus time here or in the tweet above.
Given that change is rarely welcomed with open arms, I’m sure many of you have your reservations. I, for one, don’t hate the new format, but I am only cautiously optimistic. While I don’t believe the Home Run derby really needed an overhaul (especially one of this magnitude), there were certainly improvements to be made; namely, its length.
I don’t think anyone can argue that this event has been increasingly dragged out and slow over the past few years. Clearly, improving the overall time and pace of the event was a primary motivation for the rule changes.
I did notice that one particular rule gave baseball fans on Twitter more grief than it gave me:
Once the second batter hits more than the first batter in any matchup, he will be declared the winner and not attempt to hit additional home runs.
Many folks think that fewer home runs is the worst way to improve the overall event, but I don’t necessarily see it that way. I see this as an opportunity to keep the event more completive in the later rounds. We’ve witnessed many hitters put up gaudy numbers in the first round just to flame out in the finals due to fatigue. I’d rather see fresh, healthy players make the championship interesting, instead of tired, fatigued guys hacking at anything they can.
But I don’t see it as a total improvement. This new structure seems to place an uneven amount of importance (and pressure) on the pitcher – often a player’s dad/relative/coach. There was already plenty of weight on their shoulders, but with a timed round, you have to be on immediately.
Like most changes, though, I caution patience. At the end of the day, this event is supposed to be fun – and let’s be honest, meaningless. I don’t think we should take it too seriously and we shouldn’t condemn the new format before we’ve seen it. My guess is that some things go well, some things go poorly and more changes will be made in the future. Events like this are always a work in progress; and I, for one, am going to give the new format a shot.
[Brett: All right, you won me over, Michael. I’ll give it a chance before I poo-poo it too much. I just didn’t see the need for change. We’ll see. Hopefully there will be a Cub or two involved this year. Kris Bryant won the Southern League Home Run Derby last year, and Anthony Rizzo has as much power as anyone.]