How To Win The Home Run Derby
The home run derby is always an exciting event where the game's top sluggers duke it out to see who can hit the most homers. It’s a very fun event that gives the players a chance to show their power on the national stage, and as a fan who wouldn’t want to see that. This years home run derby was definitely a fun one to watch as Yankees rookie phenom put on a show on his way to the championship. In modern MLB more guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Judge make the derby one of the most exciting events of the baseball season, and there’s a reason why guys like Stanton and Judge do so well. For this breakdown I’m going to focus on Aaron Judge in particular just because his performance was the most recent. Judge came in as many people’s favorite to win because of his size and power, but before Judge stepped up to the plate in the first round he had already had 2 very big advantages against his competitors. In the second match of the night raining champion Giancarlo Stanton faced off against Judge’s teammate Gary Sanchez. Many people felt that because Judge was inexperienced and new to the derby Stanton would be able to edge him out in the finals if they were to meet. Sanchez had other plans in mind however when he narrowly defeated the hometown hero and reigning champion. After this Judge still had a tough task ahead of him if he wanted to win but he’s job was made a lot easier with Stanton already out. This leads me to Judge’s second advantage, seeding. Aaron Judge entered the all star break with a major league leading 30 home runs, making him the 2 seed in the derby. This meant he got to go against the 7 seed (Justin Bour), and he got to hit second. With the number 1 seed, Stanton out already Judge was already confirmed to hit second in all his matchups because he was the highest seed remaining. This let Judge know what number of homers he had to beat to move on which would allow him to use his energy conservatively. This also meant Judge didn’t have to hit a full round, he only had to hit until he beat his competitor or until he lost allowing for Judge to not have to hit for longer, wasting more energy. These advantages help, but how do guys like Judge and Stanton beat on the competition so well? It’s actually pretty simple, and there are 3 main factors to home run derby success. Although Judge had some advantages, his ability to hit and his usage of the 3 factors for victory are what sealed the deal for him. These factors are very simple, and although some have to deal with factors outside of a player's hand, the major ones are mechanical and technical tips allowing for anyone to stand a chance in the derby if the use these effectively. The first factor is size. Now although the size of someone can't be controlled, and even with the most intense workout you still might not grow an inch, it does give those bigger players an edge. By being bigger you can have more energy and get bigger hits while putting in less effort. This is definitely an advantage, but it's definitely not the most effective thing you can to aid your performance so for the players in the shorter side don't be upset, you still have a good chance. The next point is usage of timeouts. In each round you get one timeout except the final round where you get 2. Now 4 minutes of putting everything you have into your swing is very tiring, and the fact that the clock is always running doesn't help either. This is why the timeout is so important and can turn a dismal performance into a homer fest in just 45 seconds, as seen with Giancarlo Stanton back in 2016. The timeout has been made into such a strategic tool because it could make or break a performance, especially in the later rounds where the players are getting tired. The third and final tip is how you swing. Although changing your swing for the derby can have heavy consequences in your mechanics, having a certain type of swing can help you a lot. The semi-finals round between Judge and Bellinger perfectly showed this. Bellinger has that sweet upcut swing that has become so famous already, and although it works amazing for a normal game, the home run derby is a whole new game. On most of Bellingers hits he was hitting the ball up high, but just not far enough for it to be a home run. Also for each of Bellinger’s swings, he put a lot of energy into them. However, Judge’s swing was a very short and easy swing where he can get a lot behind the ball without a lot of energy going into each swing. Judge’s swing allowed for him to get the perfect trajectory to hit home runs while also conserving his energy with each swing. Another part of swinging is the approach you take. A sign of a very good hitter is their ability to take the ball to the opposite field, and in the home run derby a player with power to the opposite field can easily dominate. Due to the time limit for each round, players have a lot less freedom when it comes to pitch selection. A player can no longer wait for the perfect pitch to swing because if they did they'd end up wasting all their time. This is why if a batter can hit a home run to the opposite field they have a much bigger advantage compared to a player who can't. Most rounds are decided by one or two home runs, and if a player can consistently get hits that would have died on or near the warning track for other players but which go out for them, they can have a massive advantage. By taking the right approach, hitting to the opposite field with power, and with just his sheer size Judge was able to cruise to the championship. Along with the ability to hit for power, this approach and these ideals that Judge used should be able to give anyone a very good chance in hoisting up the home run derby championship trophy for themselves.