The Home Run Derby at Coors Field did not disappoint. MLB turned off the humidor and let the balls fly through the Rocky Mountain air — and boy did they fly. Juan Soto hit the longest home run of the night with a 520 foot bomb that demolished the previous Home Run Derby record [VIDEO].
But the winner of the Derby isn’t the man who hits the furthest home run, it’s the man left standing at the end. In 2021 that man was Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who crushed last night’s Home Run Derby to win back-to-back campaigns. He can take the swag chain they gave him for the 2021 Home Run Derby and put it next to the trophy he won during the 2019 competition. It will make for quite the trophy wall:
OMG HR Derby swag chain! pic.twitter.com/ccjy5ZlGoU— Sara Sanchez (@BCB_Sara) July 13, 2021
Truly and honestly, Alonso is a home run hitting machine. As Amazin’ Avenue’s Allison McCague tweeted last night:
Pete Alonso is just a large golden retriever who was genetically engineered to get excited about hitting baseballs as hard as he can. Literally made for this event.— Allison McCague, PhD ⚾️ (@PetitePhD) July 13, 2021
McCague is right, of course. Alonso was bopping along to the music in his head and hitting bombs. He was also a pretty beneficiary of the way the current event is formatted and seeded for the second time in a row.
In 2019 Alonso bested a field that included Joc Pederson, Alex Bregman, Vladimir Gurerror Jr., Matt Chapman, Ronald Acuña Jr., Josh Bell and Carlos Santana. Critically, Alonso was seeded to conserve energy by advancing on fewer home runs than his opponents through the first two rounds, as you can see below:
2019 Home Run Derby Totals
|Ronald Acuña Jr.||6||25||19||XX||44|
|Vladimir Guerroro Jr.||8||29||40||22||91|
A quick note on format: The Home Run Derby bracket is seeded by the current home run totals with the lower seed going second. You can already see how this advantages a lower seed. It means higher seeded competitors need to hit as many home runs as possible while their opponents need to hit one more than the person who went before them. In the 2019 iteration of the derby it meant Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit more home runs than Alonso in the first and second round of the competition, but that was irrelevant in the final round. It also meant that Guerrero tallied 91 total home runs to Alonso’s 57.
They say history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. Anyone looking at the bracket going into last night could see that Soto was a lurking monster in the eight seed, and he proved them right. Below are the 2021 tallies by round and seed:
2021 Home Run Derby Totals
The difference isn’t as stark as it was in 2019 because Alonso had both the highest single round tally (35 in the opening round — notably, the only time he’s been the lower seed in the Home Run Derby) and the overall total victory with 74 home runs. However, as a viewer I couldn’t help but wonder about the impact of overtime home runs on Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto while Alonso got a bit of a break. To be clear, any doubt that Alonso could put up a monster round as the lower seed if needed should absolutely be laid to rest, but I wouldn’t object if MLB came up with a way to reward early monster rounds from the lower seeded players.
You can (and should!) see all 74 of Alonso’s home runs below [VIDEO].
Beyond seeding, there is a pretty big differential in who is throwing batting practice for the Derby. I was watching the Statcast broadcast on ESPN2 where they included awesome graphics and stats about the location of pitches. They also included the number of homeruns hit by location. Paul Sporer from FanGraphs tweeted these two images from those graphics last night that I think speak for themselves:
Mets hitting coach Dave Jauss threw for Alonso:
Dave Jauss is the real MVP! pic.twitter.com/PNeCSWY1Pb— Paul Sporer (@sporer) July 13, 2021
Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long threw for Soto:
Kevin Long is the anti-Jauss pic.twitter.com/OeqOyLScEo— Paul Sporer (@sporer) July 13, 2021
The Coors Field Home Run Derby lived up to the hype, and even though he was the beneficiary of facing an opponent coming off of overtime for the second Derby in a row, I think we can all agree that Pete Alonso is the king of this event until someone finds a way to unseat him.