Brace yourselves degenerates.
Baseball is on it’s midsummer hiatus, and combined with the World Cup ending, it feels like we quit gambling cold turkey. Laughable, I know, but there’s still action on Monday in the form of the Home Run Derby. Unlike the NBA’s dunk contest, the HR Derby is something we can at least apply some data to and make some reasonable predictions. The opening odds favor Bryce Harper, who has previous derby experience and is in front of his home crowd in Washington D.C..
The Home Run Derby changed formats in 2015, introducing an eight man bracket and a timer.
Home Run Derby Odds
Bryce Harper +225
Kyle Schwarber +333
Jesus Aguilar +500
Javier Baez +550
Rhys Hoskins +650
Max Muncy +700
Freddie Freeman +850
Alex Bregman +1100
The Home Run Derby will start at 8 p.m. Eastern and air on ESPN. Here’s a look at the bracket for Monday:
Home Run Derby Betting Prediction
As the hometown hero, Harper is favored. But he’s also got something else the other participants don’t have: derby experience. Harper finished second in the contest in 2013, losing out due to a 17-dinger opening round from Yoenis Cespedes. Harper also has the best statistics of anyone in the contest, as he’s the only player in the bracket to have finished a season with over 40 home runs.
Harper is battle-tested, but he’s got a tough opening matchup against Freddie Freeman. The Braves slugger only has 16 home runs this season, but the lefty has hit some monster shots and has cooled off over the last month. If this were being held in June, Freeman might’ve been one of the favorites.
This isn’t an exact science, but I’m using ESPN home run data to make some assessments. Their park stats give us an indication of power and contact, and how many homers went out due to ballpark size.
Nationals Park doesn’t historically fall into the category of hitter’s or pitcher’s park. It’s actually one of the most neutral parks in the league, but has been a hitter-positive park this season.
Using these distance numbers lets us know who’s hitting homers that should be flyouts in other parks. One of those guys is Alex Bregman, whose 20 homers average a 20.15 PARKS score. If a homer gets a 32 PARK score, that means it would be a homer in every MLB park. Bregman also has six dingers that “Just Escaped,” raising further questions about his power heading into Monday.
Bregman is having a great season, but I don’t see him winning. So great, we ruled out the biggest underdog of the field. Onward.
Jesus Aguilar leads the field entering Monday with 24 dongs for the Brewers, but he’s another guy potentially getting lucky with his ballparks. Eight of his homers qualify as “Just Escaped,” the highest number of any derby participant. Aguilar has an interesting matchup against Rhys Hoskins, who is a massive slugger but has struggled in the first half of the season.
Hoskins only has 14 dongs, and a PARK score of just over 20. But at 6-foot-four, he’s built like a derby champion.
Since the start of the bracket in 2015, the format has favored bigger hitters. It’s an unconfirmed theory, but I believe the combination of a timer and multiple rounds make fatigue a bigger issue than in previous iterations. Thus, the ideal winning candidate is a bigger dude that doesn’t need to put as much effort into his power swing.
The finalists at the last three Derbys: Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Miguel Sano, and Joc Pederson. Todd Frazier was in two finals but it doesn’t count because I’m trying to make a point here.
As you can clearly see, size matters in this format. Last year, Aaron Judge went 0-3 in the All-Star Game, and cited soreness and fatigue from the Derby as a possible reason for his disappointing performance.
Big dudes win the day, fatigue matters, and Harper is the hometown kid with Derby experience. I think I can work with that.
Best Bet: 1 unit on Harper, .5 units on Hoskins