Home Run Derby 2012: Why Consistency is More Important Than Power in Derby

Eric BallFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 11:  American League All-Star Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Yankees hits during the final round of the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby at Chase Field on July 11, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. Cano won the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby with a recond 12 home runs in the final round.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

Remember the epic performance by Josh Hamilton at the new Yankee Stadium back in 2008?

That was the year Hamilton smashed 28 home runs before collecting 10 outs in the first round. It was a new derby record, and the crowd was in complete awe. He hit seven that went further than 500 feet.

He ended up losing in the finals to Justin Morneau.

It’s just one example of how you can’t win the Home Run Derby off sheer strength. You need to be consistent throughout the three rounds to ensure fatigue doesn’t become a factor.

So when Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano, Prince Fielder, Mark Trumbo, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Giancarlo Stanton take the field at Kauffman Stadium on Monday, don’t be blinded by the muscles.

Stanton may be able to smack the ball a country mile, but can he do it consistently? No player can hit the ball harder right now, but the odds are long for Stanton to win the competition as exhaustion comes into play.

Last year Cano won the competition at Chase Field by staying ultra-consistent.

He hit eight in Round 1, 12 in Round 12 and 12 in the finals. David Ortiz put up similar numbers (8-13-11) in his 2010 win at Angel Stadium. It was a far cry from his 2005 performance at Comerica Park, where he blasted 17 in Round 1 only to sputter out with three in the next round.

He learned his lesson.

The other factor here is distance. It doesn’t matter if the ball grazes over the fence and into the stands or is launched 600 feet; it only counts for one in this contest.

That’s why I’m concerned with Trumbo. The average distance for his 20 home runs this season is 420 feet, an astonishing mark to say the least considering the major league average is 398.6 feet. That tells us he is looking to knock the cover off the ball, which will only intensify in a home run hitting contest.

I expect him to swing out of his shoes on Monday night.

The Home Run Derby is more suited for a guy like Cano, who can direct the ball to all parts of the field with an effortless swing that doesn’t sap all of his energy.

That’s why I believe Gonzalez is a serious sleeper pick on Monday night to challenge Cano.

He’s never hit more than 34 home runs in a season, which is roughly the exact pace he is on this year. Lost in the shuffle due to Colorado’s horrific pitching, Gonzalez has quietly had an incredible season thus far.

He ranks in the top 10 of the National League in average (.336), home runs (17) and RBI (58) as a serious Triple Crown threat. He has the ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field, and doesn’t use an astonishing amount of energy to crush a baseball. He has arguably one of the smoothest swings in the game right now.

Sure Fielder and Bautista are going to be considered contenders because of their track records, but both have question marks with consistency.

Fielder won the event back in 2009, but had a less than stellar 2011. Bautista hit a whopping four last year as he tried to use more of an uppercut swing.

Predicting who will win the event is a complete flip of the coin, but look for the consistent and smooth swinging Cargo to make a serious run at shocking the more muscular bashers.



Carols Gonzalez over Robinson Cano