HR Derby Has Ruined Baseball

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
Talk about the juiced baseball all you want. Talk about juiced players, too, being faster and stronger. And why not, bring up the lower height of the pitching mound.

To me, it's the home run derby that has ruined baseball.

Major League Baseball started the derby as a part of all-star festivities in 1985. There have been some exciting times and some amazing battles. But that yearly contest, over the last 30+ years, has done things to the game I bet no one imagined.

There's no doubt the homer is among the most exciting plays in baseball, especially the walk-off shot and the walk-off grand slam. But consider, in the last three decades how much more emphasis there is on power hitting. Consider how strikeouts are on the rise and how hits are on the decline.

Baseball officials are willing to live with the strikeout, and coupled with the outrageous infield shift (more on that in another column), the decline of how much time the ball is actually in play.

Why is baseball boring? It's more than four minutes, on average, each time the ball is in play, meaning a hit, a putout, or contact and the potential for an error. Think about what you can do in four minutes besides sitting next to the TV hoping for that slim chance of action.

The New York Yankees hit a major-league record 267 home runs last year and ranked 8th in the American League team average at .242. Further:

  • Just two players had more than 150 hits (170 was the most)
  • Only four players had more than 120 hits
  • The 14 players with 100+ at bats, minus the home run total, averaged 79 hits each
  • The 11 players with 240+ at bats, minus the homers, averaged 98 hits each
  • The 11 regulars with 240+ at bats, and the home runs, averaged less than 125 hits apiece
You want to fix baseball? Kill the home-run derby. Instead of investing time and money into proposed rule changes, teach guys how to make contact and hit in a variety of situations. And let the fielders field.