Home Run Derby 2017: All Rise for the Champ!

The conversation going into the Home Run Derby exhibition at Marlins Park tonight was all about Miami power-slugger and last year’s HR Derby champ Giancarlo Stanton facing off with the Yankees’ own Aaron Judge. Half the crowd was celebrating the rookie slugger from the other coast, and the other half was booing the threat on behalf of their hometown hero. It was bound to be a slugfest with those two, but that doesn’t include how many other power-hitters made the top 8.

Okay, to set-up the show, the 8 players in the Derby were placed in a bracket completely on their 2017 season stats so far with Stanton taking the 1st seed and Judge in 2nd (and Gary Sanchez in 8th). Once they are paired off for the first round, each player gets 4 minutes to hit as many balls as possible out of the park. If he hits two or more home runs 440+ feet, the player gets a 30-second bonus time at the end of the original 4 minutes. The winner of that round faces off with the winner of another pairing for the Final Four. The two winners of the semi-finals go onto the finals (same time limits) until a winner emerges.

Round 1:
The Twins’ Miguel Sano (#5 in Derby placement) edged out the Royals’ Mike Moustakas (#4) 11 to 10 homers. The Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton (#1) failed to reach the standard set by the Yankees’ own Gary Sanchez who earned some ire from the hometown crowd with his 17 homers, to Stanton’s 16. In that round, Sanchez’s longest home run was hit 483 feet, with his average ball traveling 443.5 feet.

The Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon’s 14 homers were edged out by the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger’s 15. And another hitter from the Marlins Justin Bour’s impressive 22 home runs fell short of Aaron Judge‘s 23. The second-to-last hit ball hit the roof and for some reason didn’t count. In this round, Judge’s longest hit home run was his 4th of the round, a 501 feet homer, averaging 432 feet.

So it would be Sanchez to face Sano and a potential rookie MVP face-off Bellinger vs. Judge in the semi-finals.

Round 2:
Gary Sanchez’s 10 home runs eventually falls to Miguel Sano’s 11. Sanchez still hit some big homers that round, one traveling 485 feet and all 10 averaging 442.8 feet. Cody Bellinger got off to a slow start and hit just 12 home runs in his 4 minutes, but Aaron Judge was just getting started when he hit #13 to win that round. Judge was just crushing home runs, with his longest homer traveling an unbelievable 513 feet and averaging 448 overall.

So it would be Miguel Sano to set the bar for Aaron Judge to beat. Sano is fairly slow in the box normally, so finding his pace, he was able to add 10 more to his overall total. But Judge’s momentum was just unstoppable tonight, and after hitting just over half his allotted time, Judge surpassed Sano’s total, getting 11 in this round to become the 2017 Home Run Champion. This round was a little less for Judge’s power, his longest only traveling 480 feet and his average was 430 feet overall.

All season, I’ve been clinging to a just comparison for watching Judge play baseball, and I just keep going back to my grandfather, who was really a true baseball fan. He loved watching the greats well before I was born. So I imagine he might make the comparison to watching Judge play akin to something like watching Mantle play.

You sometimes can’t tell when the young player you’re watching might one day be headed to Cooperstown and into baseball lore. But you can with Judge. I’ve been watching baseball all of my life, seeing some of the more recent inductees play ball. But I’ve honestly never seen anything like Judge before. And now, he just became the first rookie player to win the Home Run Derby.

Earlier today, the MLBPA (the players’ union) and Players’ Trust helped build a local playground as part of their commitment to give back during the All-Star Game. Then the players headed off to media day to answer all sorts of press questions before all the fun began for tonight’s Derby. The managers for the ASG tomorrow also released their starting roster today (Judge is batting 3rd for the AL team).

Also, before the Derby tonight, Christopher Jackson (who starred as George Washington in the hit Broadway show Hamilton) sang the national anthem. Jackson played in the celebrity softball game (and on the winning NL team 28-22) last night after the Futures’ Game.

So overall, what a great Monday in Miami! Tomorrow should be interesting with the Red Carpet Parade leading up to the main event — the All-Star Game — where loyal Yankees fans will be watching our boys (Judge, Sanchez, Castro, Betances, and Severino) with great anticipation.

Go Yankees!

{Oh, and a happy birthday to Yankees Life’s special guest blogger Pinstripes09 (last post: Mother’s Day)! Who I know was totally excited (and nervous) for the entire Derby but was the first one to cheer on Judge and Sanchez all night!}

Game 81: TOR vs. NYY — Halfway to October, but first #SirDidi4Sure

Tonight’s game marks the Yankees technical halfway point in the season. They have now played 81 of their 162 games and are now 2.5 games behind the Red Sox for the AL East thanks to the recent skid of losses. Not exactly where they want to be, but there’s still a whole half of a season left to make up the difference.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start tonight as the Yankees take on the visiting Blue Jays for the beginning of their 3-game series of this homestand, this final stretch before the All-Star break (the official halfway point of the season). Tanaka threw 11 pitches in 7 strong innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and a run, striking out 8 Toronto batters. In fact, the Blue Jays didn’t get on the board until his final inning when a hit-by-pitch stole 2nd and ended up at 3rd on a throwing error before scoring on an RBI single.

Dellin Betances kept things going in the 8th, with his 20 pitches and 2 strikeouts. He then handed things over to Aroldis Chapman, but the closer struggled a bit through the 9th inning. A lead-off double scored on a 1-out double, and then that runner scored on a single. Then Chapman focused in and got the final 2 outs to close out the game. But he certainly made it look like work.

However, before all that, the Blue Jays showed why they’re holding up the bottom of the AL East. The Yankees got things started in the 1st inning by loading up the bases with 1 out. Chase Headley was hit by a pitch, which scored Judge, and Jacoby Ellsbury’s walk scored Sanchez. (Basically, the 2 most boring run scoring options available in baseball.) Then the Jays starter kept the Yankees from doing much, and his first 2 relievers followed suit.

The Yankees found their next opportunity in the 8th. Judge led-off with a single, Sanchez doubled, and Gregorius walked to load up the bases, with no outs. Headley’s double scored both Judge and Sanchez. And then after an out, a really strange play that could only be called a fielder’s choice thanks to a missed catch error. Torreyes hit a short dribbler in the infield which the pitcher fielded and threw home for the runner there, but the catcher lost it on the tag. So Gregorius was safe, and then while they were still trying to find the ball, Headley came in to score too.

It gave the Yankees the lead they’d need through the 9th inning struggles and still stay in command of the game and the win.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

Today, Aaron Judge made up his mind about the Home Run Derby. He’s in, but he’s not going alone. Gary Sanchez will be joining him on next Monday night in Miami. Don’t forget to vote in the final fan vote for Didi Gregorius to join Judge, Sanchez, Castro, Severino, and Betances at the All-Star Game next week.

The Yankees have also sweetened the deal for your final fan voters, offering ticket discounts for voters to select summer games. You can vote a maximum 35 times via text (text A3 to 89269), and an unlimited number of times online and via Twitter (one hashtag #SirDidi4Sure per tweet). Online voting ends July 6, 2017, at 3:59 pm EST. So vote often!

The Yankees are sending Greg Bird to get some exploratory surgery to figure out why his ankle still isn’t healing from his injury. He’s not been able to play in rehab games without pain in a long time, so clearly something is wrong. The Yankees have made it clear if there’s no clear-cut solution for Bird by the end of this month, they will be looking for options from the trade market to shore up their 1st base position. That trade deadline (of July 31) looms heavy on whatever the doctors decide with Bird.

Go Yankees!

Home Run Derby 2016: Miles of power

Petco Park is still buzzing with the results of tonight’s Home Run Derby. And rightly so, it was certainly something to be honored and remembered. Yesterday, all the selected All-Star Game players invaded San Diego, met with the press, talked to fans, and generally prepared themselves for the next few days.

Today, the players donned the ugly (sorry, but they are) special retro-style mustard, orange, and brown uniforms designed for the batting practice day — or Monday before the ASG. According to a local news source: “The jerseys worn by the Home Run Derby participants are patterned after the brown and yellow color combination worn by the Padres from 1969-84. The National League participants will wear primarily brown jerseys, with yellow lettering, highlighted by orange, and yellow sleeves. The American League participants will wear primarily yellow jerseys, with brown lettering, highlighted by orange, and brown sleeves.” Nice thought. It just wasn’t up there on my list of great ASG jerseys.

During this supposed “batting practice” is the designated time for the Home Run Derby. We return to the bracket formula introduced last year with a few familiar faces and past HR Derby winners. Of course, the biggest plus of this contest of power is that MLB partners with mobile company T-Mobile to raise money for charity. Yankee infielder Didi Gregorius spent the HR Derby in Times Square to help T-Mobile’s promotion of their VR experience of the Derby. T-Mobile promised $500,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of America and local youth baseball initiatives to be selected by the winner. Plus, all Derby participants will donate $10,000 to a charity of their choice.

Legend, Hall of Famer, and former Yankee (and Padre, to be fair) Dave Winfield threw out the ceremonial first pitch to kick things off for tonight’s festivities. And the first bracket round began. Mark Trumbo (Orioles) bested Corey Seager (Dodgers) out of the gate with 16 to 15 homers; Robinson Cano (Mariners) fell far short of Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins) at 7 to 24; Adam Duvall (Reds) narrowly beat hometown representative Wil Myers (Padres) 11-10; and last year’s HR Derby champ Todd Frazier (representing the White Sox this year) edged out Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies) 13-12.

A special honor every year is the great kids on the field who get to catch the ball that don’t make it over the walls of the stadium for the coveted home runs. This year’s boys and girls were part of the Pitch Hit Run Competition. Fun fact: PHR can boast a couple of current players as part of its alumni (Royals’ 1st baseman Eric Hosmer and one of the Yankees’ 1st basemen on the DL Chris Parmelee).

So they reset the brackets for Round 2. First up, the power-hitting duo of Trumbo vs. Stanton. And Stanton still came out stronger at 17-14. Stanton continued to prove he was not just in his element tonight, but that he literally was made to do this all night. Frazier continued his surge to defend his title edging out Duvall 16-15.

It was a power-match made in heaven for that final round. Frazier vs. Stanton. And it was just one of those things to watch these sluggers power out some of the most amazing hits ever powered out of Petco Park. And still Stanton dominated, shutting down Frazier’s final round attempt with his 20 monster homers to Frazier’s still rather impressive 13.

Some links for your viewing pleasure: participant introduction, Stanton’s 2nd round featured 6 runs hit over 480 feet, Cano’s 6th home run (452 feet) being caught by a fan, Myer’s brother Beau on pitching to him tonight, and the one that won Stanton his honor.

So because, let’s face it, the entire night was all about Giancarlo Stanton. So here’s some random facts about tonight and his power. He hit a total of 61 home runs, his average homer was hit 446ft, he hit 20 of the hardest hit home runs tonight, and he had the 10 longest hit one and 18 of the 19 longest home runs. Can we safely say that Petco Park is no longer a “pitcher’s park”? At least when Miami is in town…

Also, random nerd post…

This means Stanton literally hit over 5 miles worth of home runs. To be fair, Frazier hit over 3, and Trumbo and Duvall over 2. But still that’s a long collection of hits.

Also, as part of All-Star Week activities, the inaugural T-Mobile Jr. Home Run Derby national finals took place this past Saturday. Eight kids in each of the under-12 and under-14 age division participated in the event to showcase the future talent. Who knows? Maybe one of these kids will be in the HR Derby in a decade or so.

Checking in with the Yankees in San Diego: Carlos Beltran’s 9th ASG appearace this year further lends credence to all the Hall of Fame murmuring that seems to be surrounding his outstanding year so far this season. First, it’s well-deserved — both the ASG honor and the HoF chatter. He has the numbers for both, but sometimes 5 years between changed sympathies. Beltran began his legacy by being a good guy and a great player. I don’t see any reason it won’t be the same when the BBWAA vote with his name on the ballot.

Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are taking their Dynamic Duo, enjoying their time in San Diego. This is Betances 3rd ASG appearance (his 3rd in 3 consecutive years, by the way) and Miller’s 1st. Both are connecting with family and friends to enjoy the experience.

The starting rosters are set for tomorrow night’s game. All three Yankees are in the reserves, which means they may or may not get playing time. To be fair, most players do make it at least a partial inning. So I would expect to see some Yankee away grays at some point tomorrow night, especially on the mound.

Go Yankees!

Game 88: NYY vs. CLE — The Yankee power is back

The 29,089 fans at Progressive Field today in Cleveland witnessed the Yankees as a force to be reckoned with as they took an early stand to declare that this day would belong to New York. The persistence and guts shown in last night’s game was evident on this warm summer afternoon of baseball. An early lead for the Yankees, plus careless errors by the home team, combined to give the Bombers an even record (44-44) going into the All-Star break. Girardi, pleased with how well the Yankees played today, said that he hoped the team can carry this momentum into the second half of the season. After weeks of struggling, finishing even for this first half gives the Yankee players hope to keep moving forward for a chance at a wild card position at the end of the season.

Yankee batters faced a total of seven pitchers over nine innings who could not stop the surging New York momentum this afternoon. After a quiet first inning, the Yankees offense showed up strong in the second inning that began when Starlin Castro hit his 200th career double on a ground ball to left. Rob Refsnyder reached second on a missed catch error that scored Castro for the first run of the game. Romine doubled on a fly ball to right that moved Refsnyder to third. With two on and two out, Jacoby Ellsbury came to bat. After a called strike that he initially thought was a ball, Ellsbury took up his bat and, on the next pitch, promptly launched a 3-run homer over the right field fence to put New York ahead 4 to zip.

Masahiro Tanaka started the game and recorded 5 strike outs but struggled throughout, giving up 10 hits and 7 runs over 4 2/3 innings. In the second, a lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a single and then scored on another single. But Tanaka managed to get out of the inning without a further dent in the Yankees lead at this point.

In the fourth, Headley started the inning with a line drive double to right, and a fielding error landed Refsnyder on first. With Romine’s fielder’s choice at second, the Yankees had men at the corners. Gardner’s grounder forced out Romine at second, but also scored Headley, and the Yankees continued their lead.

The lengthy fifth inning of Yankee baseball showed both teams to be fierce competitors as runs kept piling up. At the top of the fifth, with Teixeira and Gregorius on base and the starter now out of the game, Castro walked to load the bases. A really messy error allowed Chase Headley to reach first and both Teixeira and Gregorius to score. Refsnyder singled, and the bases were loaded once again. A sacrifice fly by both Austin Romine and Brett Gardner scored two more runs, with another pitching change in between.

Then Ellsbury singled on a line drive to center and Refsnyder moved to third. Carlos Beltran’s RBI single to right scored Refsnyder and with runners at the corners once again, and Teixeira singled a RBI right up the middle on a ground ball and Ellsbury scored to give the Yankees a strong lead. To load up the bases yet again, Didi Gregorius was hit by a nasty pitch, which caused some initial concern, but is a bit swollen and will need the rest that will be the All-Star break this week to heal. A new pitcher effectively shut down the Yankees’ run rally and increased lead over the Indians.

In the bottom of the fifth, Tanaka’s moderated struggles in the game came back, allowing 6 runs and putting a rather large dent in the Yankees hefty lead. A lead-off double scored on a 1-out double. A single put runners on the corners, another single scored the lead runner, and a ground out moved the remaining runners to scoring position. A throwing error scored 2 Cleveland runs before a monster 2-run home run ended the Indians’ run rally and Tanaka’s messy night.

Taking over for Tanaka, Eovaldi earned his first relief career win that kept the opposing team scoreless through the ninth inning for a Yankee victory. Eovaldi had a strong showing and pitched the remaining 4 1/3 inning of the game with 3 strikeouts and allowed only one hit and no runs to effectively shut down the Indians and give the win to the Yankees. This gives one hope that “Nasty Nate” may be back!

The Yankees never did come back and add to their lead, but to be fair, there was no need to. I’m guessing both teams wish their starters had better command of the game, as it wasn’t exactly an ideal way to end the first half of the season. On the other hand, I’m not going to deny that a Yankee win wasn’t needed or desired.

Final Score: 11-7 Yankees, Yankees take the series 3-1.

Injury update: Mark Teixeira returned to the line-up today after taking Saturday off to rest his knee.  Rest and careful monitoring by the team doctors seem to be what’s needed to keep Teixeira in the game this season.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre injury update: Aaron Judge has been placed on the 7-day minor league DL to rest a ligament sprain and bone bruise in his left knee. This International League Player of the Month of June was all set to play in the IL’s Home Run Derby on Monday, but instead he is expected to miss up to a month of games while he heals. We wish him a speedy healing and hope to see him back on the field soon.

Futures Game: catcher and number 3 Yankees prospect Gary Sanchez helped his World team defeat the US team in the Futures Game today as part of the All-Star Game festivities in San Diego. With all the odd things that keep happening to some of the Yankee farm system (like Judge from above), it was nice to see someone rather consistent as Sanchez, who started the game behind the plate and caught quite a few young pitchers to help guide his team to an 11-3 victory.

The 2016 MLB Home Run Derby in San Diego will air Monday night, July 11, at 8pm ET on ESPN. Be sure to tune in and watch this yearly slugfest of some of baseball’s finest power hitters.

Go Yankees!

2015 ASG Home Run Derby — Queen City’s hero and champion

Cincinnati’s 3rd baseman and power-hitter Todd Frazier is the 2015 Home Run Derby Champion. After coming in 2nd in last year’s competition, this year’s turned out much better for Frazier in front of his hometown crowd. The new format, which includes timed rounds and a bracket format (similar to basketball playoffs), had to be modified with inclement weather on its way to the Southwestern Ohio area by 11:00 pm.

In the first round, Albert Pujols (LAA) defeated the rookie Kris Bryant (CHC) 10-9; Joc Pederson (LAD) over Manny Machado (BAL) 13-12; Josh Donaldson (TOR) over Anthony Rizzo (9-8); and Frazier over Prince Fielder (TEX) 14-13. In that round, the losing player set the standard using up their allotted 4 minutes (shortened down from 5 due to the weather) and 30 seconds of bonus time for hitting at least 2 home runs over 425 feet (modified down from 60 seconds for a home run over 475 feet).

The next round Donaldson lost to Frazier 10-9, and Pujols lost to the rookie Pederson 12-11. In the only exception bracket, Pujols went second and fell short to Pederson. Great side story: Pederson’s older brother has Downs’ Syndrome and knew Pujols from his foundation’s many outreaches to kids like him (among the Pujols family’s many philanthropic endeavors), even calling him his favorite player other than his brother; but Pederson’s brother was a firm believer that his little brother had it “in the bag”, and he was right. At least in that round.

And in the final round, it was the young Pederson against the crowd’s obvious favorite Frazier. Pederson set the standard high at 14 home runs, which Frazier then tied right before regular time was up. On the first hit of bonus time, Frazier got his 15th home run to win the championship title.

A really great show over all, plus sponsor Head & Shoulders donated over $80,000 to the RBI charity (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City), that helps provide funds for equipment and uniforms and the like for little leagues in need across the U.S. And while I can see how the new system worked pretty well, I still don’t know if I’m totally sold on it. I don’t know if it’s the clock or the bracket system, but I’m not at 100% yet. It feels like there’s still some bugs to work out in the system, though it does keep things interested (beating the clock to build crowd energy and to keep the broadcast to a more manageable time frame).

And if it makes you Yankee fans feel any better, Frazier is technically a New Jersey native who grew up a Yankees (and Jeter) fan.

Today began with press conferences with the players and the media, and then off to the field for team warm-ups in their ASG uniforms (the only time they will ever wear them, as they take the field tomorrow night in their regular team uniform). Tomorrow, the players will participate in the annual Red Carpet Parade and then head to the field again to prepare for the game. Tomorrow night’s starting pitchers will be Dallas Keuchel (HOU) for the AL and Zack Greinke (LAD) for the NL. Expect to see Gardner and Teixeira in the second half of the game, and Betances may get an inning (or partial inning) towards the end of the game depending on how the scoring is going.

While the Red Carpet parade will happen about lunch time in Cincinnati (and lasts for a couple hours with 68 players and their families and other MLB dignitaries on display and many making media appearances), they will broadcast the edited version (basic overview of the players and the best of the interviews or the ones with the major stars of the game) at 3:00 pm EST on MLB Network. The All-Star Game will then broadcast on FOX at 8:00 pm EST.

Go Yankees!