The Home Run Derby at MLB's All-Star Game can be one of the more enjoyable events surrounding the Midsummer Classic. I've been at several of these, sat in the outfield and brought my glove, though I have never really been close to catching a HR Derby ball. Nevertheless, I had a good time at all of them and like watching them on TV (though they have to get rid of Chris Berman and his tired "backbackbackback" calls. Now there's a change I could get behind).
Major League Baseball has decided that you, the fan, need a different Home Run Derby than the ones we've had in the past. Rather than try to summarize the changes -- because they are somewhat complicated -- I present to you the wording in its entirety from MLB's press release:
The eight-player contest will be conducted as a single-elimination tournament in which the loser of each bracket is immediately eliminated. Brackets in the first round will be seeded based on 2015 home run totals through July 7th, with ties broken by awarding the higher seed to the batter with more home runs hit since June 15th. If a tie remains, a coin flip will determine the higher seed. In each matchup, the higher seed will hit second. During each of the three rounds, each batter will have five minutes to hit as many home runs as possible, and any swings that do not result in a home run will not be counted. Timers will count down from five minutes beginning with the release of the first pitch, and any home run hit after the timer reaches one minute remaining will stop the timer immediately when the ball lands in home run territory. The timer will not start again until the batter hits a ball that does not land in home run territory, or swings and misses at a pitch. Batters may be awarded bonus time during their turn based on the length of their home runs hit. If a batter hits two home runs during a turn that each equal or exceed 420 feet, one minute of bonus time will be added. If one home run during a turn equals or exceeds 475 feet, 30 seconds of bonus time will be added. It is possible for a batter to earn a total bonus of one minute and 30 seconds. All distances will be measured using MLB Advanced Media’s Statcast system. The batter with the most home runs hit in each matchup will advance to the next round (or win the Derby, if in the third round). Ties in any round will be broken by a 90-second swing-off with no stoppage of time or additional time added. If the batters remain tied after the 90-second swing-off, they will engage in successive three-swing swing-offs until there is a winner. Once the second batter in any matchup hits one more home run than the first batter, the second batter will be declared the winner of the matchup and will not attempt to hit any additional home runs. In addition, each batter will be entitled to one "time out" per round.
The biggest problem I can see with the timed rounds is that not every pitch is going to be perfectly hittable. I suppose that's part of the point, but on the other hand, people aren't watching the Derby to see coaches throw batting-practice fastballs. They're watching to see sluggers slam 500-foot home runs.
Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati has a reputation as a launching pad. That's good! If weather conditions are conducive and whoever is chosen to pitch puts pitches where hitters want them, we could be very entertained on July 13.