David Wright is obviously familiar with Citi Field, but that hardly makes him the Home Run Derby favorite.
The subtle details of Citi Field will go a long way in determining who wins the 2013 Home Run Derby on Monday. Performances from the eight contestants hinge on how well they're suited to take advantage of the dimensions and conditions of the ballpark.
Citi Field opened in 2009, but New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson made significant dimensional tweaks after the 2011 campaign. It had unexpectedly become an extreme pitcher's park.
With the goal of restoring neutrality, the Mets decided on the following distances:
|Deep left-center||385 feet|
|Deep right-center||390 feet|
Courtesy of the ESPN Home Run Tracker, this display shows both old boundaries and existing ones (bold lines). We also used the website to generate a "Citi Field overlay" for each batter, which approximates where each of his home runs this season would have previously landed in the ballpark.
Anxiety, stamina and pitcher selection affect derby output, but the importance of stadium size, climate and design cannot be overstated.
Home runs in 2013: 15
Career stats at Citi Field: none
Of the eight Home Run Derby participants, Yoenis Cespedes is the only one who has never competed at Citi Field.
A more significant disadvantage, however, is his tendency to pull pitches as a right-handed hitter.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, only three of Cespedes' 38 career home runs have traveled to the opposite field.
You don't necessary need to use the whole field to win this kind of event, it's just ill-advised not to.
Since the renovated distances took effect for the 2012 season, there have been 866 plate appearances at Citi Field in which right-handed batters pulled pitches, per Baseball-Reference.com. In all, 49 home runs have resulted from those plate appearances. That average of 18.08 PA/HR is far less than the 14.11 PA/HR for left-handed batters at Citi during the same time frame, or the 14.53 PA/HR for right-handed batters across all 30 ballparks in 2012-2013.
Home runs in 2013: 15
Career stats at Citi Field: .250/.400/.333, 1 HR in 45 PA
Don't read too much into Prince Fielder's pedestrian stats at Citi Field. He hasn't visited since August 2011, and during that three-game series, he homered and drove in eight runs.
Fielder's eyes will light up at the sight of the Pepsi Porch in right field, which juts out toward home plate.
Pulling the ball is his intention, as we witnessed last year when the first baseman won the 2012 Home Run Derby.
Exceeding last year's total of 28 blasts shouldn't be a problem for Fielder considering his excellence at Kauffman Stadium. The curve from the right field foul poll toward right center isn't nearly as steep at Citi, meaning less separation between the fans and the batter's box.
Home runs in 2013: 33
Career stats at Citi Field: .000/.000/.000, 0 HR in 8 PA
Bleacher Report's own Adam Wells expects a tremendous performance from Chris "Crush" Davis on Monday night: "More important than the stats, just look at Davis' swing to understand why he is perfect for a home-run contest. He doesn't have a lot of wasted motion or effort, but is so strong and controlled that he can drive the ball a long way to all fields."
Courtesy of the ESPN Home Run Tracker, we see that all but one of Davis' long balls this season would have escaped the boundaries of Citi Field (assuming neutral weather conditions). Per FanGraphs, nobody in the league owns a higher home-run-to-fly-ball ratio than his 28.6 percent.
Frankly, there's not much to analyze. So long as the sport's best power hitter stays true to the approach that has put him on Roger Maris' 1961 pace, he'll dominate.
Home runs in 2013: 20
Career stats at Citi Field: .298/.344/.561, 2 HR in 61 PA
As we learned at this time last year, there are intangibles that cannot be accounted for.
Coming off a victory in the 2011 Home Run Derby, Major League Baseball allowed Robinson Cano to assemble the American League team in 2012. He snubbed Kansas City Royals All-Star Billy Butler and never heard the end of it. With steady booing from the local fans during his first round, Cano finished with zero round-trippers, and most of his tries didn't come particularly close.
The 30-year-old second baseman isn't all that different from Chris Davis. He's calm at the plate with a left-handed swing that sprays line drives to all fields. He possesses comparable bat speed but less pure strength.
If there's any concern about Cano in this event, it's that perhaps he's grown too accustomed to Yankee Stadium and its short porch in right field. Several of his homers down the line the past two summers would not have cleared even Citi's downsized dimensions.
Though it may be inviting for guys like Prince Fielder, it's actually deeper than what Cano is used to.
Home runs in 2013: 15
Career stats at Citi Field: .100/.250/.100, 0 HR in 12 PA
Michael Cuddyer is going deep more often than ever before, but much of the 2013 success is attributable to factors beyond his control.
Of his 15 home runs, 12 have been launched at either Coors Field, Fenway Park or Miller Park, all of which are notoriously friendly for hitters. Cuddyer's OPS drops nearly 200 points when he leaves the high altitude for road games.
His swing simply isn't suited for this glorified batting practice session.
Since the beginning of 2012, Cuddyer ranks second to last among the eight contestants in terms of line drive rate, according to FanGraphs. He's also dead last in total home runs during that period.
On the other hand, the 34-year-old enjoys smashing pitches back up the middle, and Citi Field's dimensions in center and left center are very reasonable.
Home runs in 2013: 24
Career stats at Citi Field: .132/.233/.237, 1 HR in 43 PA
In a forgettable performance last July, Carlos Gonzalez amassed four home runs at Kauffman Stadium, which wasn't quite enough to advance to the second round.
Still, he stands a better chance at winning the 2013 Home Run Derby than Colorado Rockies teammate Michael Cuddyer.
The ESPN Home Run Tracker tells us that coming off CarGo's bat, home run balls reach an average speed of 104.9 mph. Only Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates puts more charge into his blasts (105.7 mph). That's why Gonzalez has been equally effective away from Coors Field this season.
As previously mentioned, left-handedness gives hitters a major advantage in Queens.
Home runs in 2013: 13
Career stats at Citi Field: .333/.450/.697, 3 HR in 41 PA
This will be Bryce Harper's first experience in the major league edition of this kind of contest, but he's certainly familiar with the concept of swinging for the fences. At just 16 years old, Harper wore out Tropicana Field during the 2009 Power Showcase.
We shouldn't be surprised to see some wasted swings. On his mission to send everything to the moon, Harper grounds nearly half of all balls in play straight into the ground. Forget Citi Field—those wouldn't get out of a little league ballpark.
However, if anyone settles into that surreal groove that Bobby Abreu and Josh Hamilton found in 2005 and 2008, respectively, it will be this guy.
Harper has pulled 146 pitches to right field since arriving in the big leagues for a total of 11 home runs, so that's where he'll probably aim in the derby.
Over the past calendar year, this phenom is one of only four visiting players with a multi-homer game at the facility.
Home runs in 2013: 13
Career stats at Citi Field: .286/.383/.459, 37 HR in 1364 PA
They'll never openly admit it, but the New York Mets altered Citi Field to accommodate David Wright. Nobody wanted to see the face of the franchise straining to reach the warning track.
Though his production is impressive during home games this season, Wright has only swatted three home runs. He'll obviously need to make a significant adjustment to keep up with the other sluggers.
You would think that competing in front of your own fans would help, right?
History says otherwise. The Home Run Derby adopted a three-round format in 2000, and since then, six contestants have participated in their home venues (most recently Albert Pujols in 2009). None of those players won, and only two advanced to the finals.
As a right-handed batter who doesn't often exploit opposite-field opportunities, Wright goes into the 2013 competition as a true underdog.