One of the things that separates Major League Baseball's Home Run Derby from the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest is that superstars are still willing and able to appear in the former. All you have to do is look at the field for this year's event to know that it's must-see television.
Even if the rest of the field wasn't up to par, seeing Giancarlo Stanton's name in a home run exhibition is enough to pay for a ticket. He's the only National League player with more than 20 homers so far this season and is third with a .554 slugging percentage.
Adding names like Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes to the mix only makes things more exciting and enticing. But instead of simply telling you to watch these players, we have stats to back up why the field is so fascinating this year.
Home Run Distance
|Average HR Distance - 2014|
|Player||Season HR Total||Avg. Distance (Feet)|
While there are various ways to measure raw power, one of the most effective is by looking at how far the ball travels off the bat. It's not a surprise to see Stanton leading MLB in average home run distance because scientists are still trying to disprove the myth that he's the Incredible Hulk in disguise.
Yasiel Puig, for all the guff he gets about bat flips, generates incredible power through his arms. That's why he makes it look so easy to go the other way.
The most surprising part of this list is that Cespedes is ahead of only Brian Dozier in average home run distance. Last year's Derby champion has always struggled against off-speed stuff, so the low power number shouldn't be a factor in this exhibition.
Another reason to pay attention to distance is the dimensions. The power alleys in left and right center are deep at 377 and 365 feet, respectively, while center field is more than 410 feet away.
Dozier would seem to have an advantage as the hometown guy, but his power spike this year and low average distance suggests that he will be the low man on the totem pole.
|Hardest Exit Velocity in 2014|
|Player||Avg. Exit Velocity (mph)|
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the players who ranked first, second and third in average home run distance hold the same spots in exit velocity (speed of the ball off the bat). This stat helps tell you more about a player's bat speed and how quickly he gets through the zone.
When you read a scouting report that says "the ball sounds different coming off his bat" or "the ball jumps off his bat," that's mostly a product of bat speed. There's also natural power involved, but getting the barrel through the zone is important.
Tulowitzki is an interesting case because we know he gets an advantage playing in Coors Field, which holds true with his home/road splits in 2014 (.733 slugging percentage at home vs. .463 on the road). Therefore, seeing Tulo's exit velocity being sixth among the Derby contestants, despite him having the fourth-best home run distance, suggests his performance at a neutral park won't live up to his lofty standards.
|Highest Line-Drive Percentage in 2014|
|Player||Line Drive %||HR/FB %|
It's amazing the surprising stats you find when searching on a topic. For instance, if someone were to tell you that Puig had the third-lowest line-drive percentage among qualified hitters, would you expect him to be hitting .305/.391/.511?
Line drives are an important stat to measure with hitters because they determine the amount of solid contact being made and they are also the hits most likely to turn into homers. Last year, Bryce Harper didn't get a lot of air under his homers, but they were all lasers that went over the fence.
This is one category that makes me think Todd Frazier has a real chance to win, though it certainly doesn't hurt that his raw power has always been huge. This year, however, he's managed to make enough contact for that pop to play more consistently in games.
Again, when you look at these numbers measuring power, it's hard to ignore what Stanton is doing. His line-drive percentage ranks third among Derby contestants, but his home run-to-fly ball percentage is the best in this year's field.
As long as Miami's slugger doesn't tire himself out with one of those epic rounds, like Josh Hamilton in 2008, before the finals, July 14 will be his crowning achievement as a power hitter in MLB.
If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter.