The 2010 Major League Baseball all-star break is upon us, and as always, the Monday festivities, from Anaheim, are highlighted by the Home Run Derby. The derby has kind of become like the slam-dunk contest in basketball, a made-for-TV spectacle in which many of the most-respected power hitters unfortunately decline to participate. Still, it is a noteworthy event, and practically the only sports event to watch on Monday. Plus, Sportsbook.com offers betting odds, and nothing can spice up the event more than have a rooting interest. Let’s handicap the field for the 2010 Home Run Derby. Baseball Odds
The field may be more pronounced for whom is not hitting than who is. This year’s list of top sluggers not competing includes defending champion Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Josh Hamilton, Alex Rodriguez, and MLB home run leader Jose Bautista among others. Now that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any impressive scores posted, or tape measure shots hit, it’s just a sign of how insignificant the event is to the players. Still, someone is going to win, and there will be plenty of ooh’s and ahh’s as this year’s crop of participant hits em’ out of the park.
In fact, because the cast in Monday’s State Farm Home Run Derby may not be as star-studded as in years past, ( no holdovers from last year’s Derby and no previous winners) it could become one of the more captivating competitions in recent years. Incidentally, the ballpark figures at Angels Stadium of Anaheim have already been measured, and are certainly reachable for even the average power hitter:
Left Field Wall: 330 feet,
Left Center Field Wall: 387 feet
Center Field Wall: 400 feet
Right Center Field Wall: 370 feet
Right Field Wall: 330 feet.
Here is a look at each participant, with their odds according to Sportsbook.com, and a preview of their chances. Look for my own personal prediction at the end, along with a list of the champions of the Home Run Derby from the last 10 years.
Chris Young (Arizona) +800: Young is one of five first-time participants and comes in with 15 home runs on the season. Young is a huge longshot in that he isn’t really known as a big power hitter. In fact, his career high in a season is 32, and that was three years ago. However, he does take big hacks, as evidenced by his consistently high strikeout totals.
Corey Hart (Milwaukee) +500: Hart is an interesting prospect at 5-1, and seems to be among the hitters most anticipating the opportunity. He is the hottest power hitter in the league right now too, leading the majors in home runs since the start of May, including a walk-off winner for the Brewers on Sunday. His 21 bombs are second in the N.L. right now to Adam Dunn and Joey Votto’s 22. Hart’s chances are improved by the fact that he will only see fastballs in this competition, and as a hitter known for struggling with the breaking ball, his swing could be on tonight. Baseball Scores
David Ortiz (Boston) +250: Like Hart, Ortiz has gotten hot of late after a brutal start in April. He has come on to hit 17 of his 18 total home runs in May, June and the early part of July. Oddsmakers seem to like his chances, installing him as the co-favorite with a +250 price. Ortiz is the most-experienced slugger in the competition, making his fourth appearance, but first since 2006. His best finish was a third in 2005, when he hit 17 first round dingers at Comerica Park in Detroit.
Hanley Ramirez (Florida) +800: Ramirez shares the “honor” of having hit the fewest home runs coming into the competition, and it shows in his odds, as he is the co-underdog at an 8 to 1 price. He may be the best pure hitter in the bunch though and sometimes it just takes a good stroke to get on a roll in an event like this. Ramirez isn’t lacking confidence either, “I’m going to win,” he proclaimed after finally deciding to participate.
Matt Holliday (St. Louis) +500: Like several other entries, Holliday isn’t even the biggest home run hitter on his own team, yet he gets to represent the Cardinals and the National League in tonight’s event. Still, he’s embracing the opportunity, and is making it a family affair. His three children, ages 6 and younger, will be watching from the field and his older brother, Josh, will pitch to him. “I got a chance to [participate] in ‘07, and it was fun,” Holliday said. “My kids are getting older, they know what it is, and they were like, ‘Do it! Do it!’ I think it should be fun.” He has proven capable of going on big home run binges throughout his career.
Miguel Cabrera (Detroit) +250: Cabrera is enjoying a near Triple Crown season in the American League at this point and has to be considered the favorite, leading the competitors with 22 home runs entering the break. He has been on a tear leading into the All-Star break. Since June 24, Cabrera has hit .444 with 10 extra-base hits and 16 RBIs. The 27-year-old Detroit first baseman has his sights on winning this, too. “In the Home Run Derby, you have to be aggressive, because it’s a lot of pressure,” Cabrera said. “It’s different, because you don’t have the batting cage. You have more people see you. It’s like, ‘You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it.’ But if you get relaxed and put your best swing on the ball, it’s going to be OK.” The Tigers only have to hope he doesn’t “mess up” his swing heading into the season’s second half. Baseball Lines
Nick Swisher (NY Yankees) +500: Nick Swisher won the fan vote to get to Anaheim and will be a first time participant in the derby. He replaces Yankee teammate Robinson Cano, who pulled out of the contest last week. Swisher is the only switch-hitter in the competition and as of yet, I have not heard whether he plans to hit right-handed or left-handed in the event. In 2010, 12 of his 15 home runs are as a lefty, so you’d have to figure that will be the side he chooses. Like most of the field, he isn’t a 40-HR type of hitter, more like a high 20’s to low 30’s in a full season.
Vernon Wells (Toronto) +650: Wells is another first-time competitor and hits for the league’s best home run slugging club, the Jays. However, he is only second on his team in round-trippers, with 19. He seems outwardly anxious heading in…”I’m going to be nervous,” Wells said. “I hope I don’t swing and miss. I did one in A-ball and I was nervous in A-ball. I can’t imagine what I’m going to feel when I get up there.” That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as a guy who has a 6’-1”, 230 pound frame can get going if he shakes off the nerves. Wells has already hit more home runs this year than he did a year (15 in 158 games).
Here are the most recent champions…
2009: Prince Fielder (Milwaukee)
2008: Justin Morneau (Minnesota), but hit 13 less total HR’s than Josh Hamilton (Texas)
2007: Vladimir Guerrero (LA Angels), but hit 2 less total HR’s than Alex Rios (Toronto)
2006: Ryan Howard (Philadelphia)
2005: Bobby Abreu (Philadelphia)
2004: Miguel Tejada (Baltimore)
2003: >Garrett Anderson (LA Angels), but hit 4 less total HR’s than Albert Pujols (St Louis)
2002: Jason Giambi (NY Yankees)
2001: Luis Gonzalez (Arizona), but hit 4 less total HR’s than Jason Giambi (Oakland)
2000: Sammy Sosa (Chicago Cubs)
As much as my opinion probably isn’t any more valuable than anyone else’s for this type of event, I feel compelled to give my prediction, so here it is:
Semifinalists: Holliday, Ortiz, Hart, Wells
Finalists: Holliday, Wells