With the announcement of Trevor Story in the Home Run Derby, a stamp of Colorado approval has sealed the yearly event. The Rockies have their guy in the contest.
Now it’s time to exceed that Colorado approval—by making the ballpark as Coors Field as ever.
It may serve as Coors Field’s civic duty to act as the most electrifying venue in Derby history. During this contest, we could very well see the farthest hit baseball of the Statcast era. Nowhere else can reasonably match the elevation and subsequent boost to batted ball distance. Nowhere else seems to win the vote on MLB The Show when online video gamers get together on Derby mode. Park factors agree: this ballpark is the best for such an event.
The actual Derby this year will adhere to the timed format introduced in 2015. The bar has been set with Shohei Ohtani, the ruler of rotational power. The addition of Story has solidified a contender that is readily familiar with the venue, and the ballpark environment will bring the best out of each contestant.
People want to see long home runs, and this year can feature the grandest of all. Here’s how MLB can magnify that Coors Field treatment:
Juice the baseballs
MLB was accused of de-juicing baseballs in the 2019 postseason, although MLB appropriately has “no answers.” If true, doing so for the Derby would be a mere formality to create some unreal action and stretch the limits of batted ball flight.
The Rawlings factory could wind and stitch the Derby balls differently, enhancing the bounciness (or ‘coefficient of restitution’). Each can be stamped with the Home Run Derby logo to ensure those bouncy balls don’t enter the regular season.
This would be an even greater ‘juicing’ than just skipping the Coors Field humidor—a worthy consideration in itself.
Metal bats for the bonus round
Under the current Derby format, “30 seconds of bonus time will be awarded for hitting at least two home runs that each equal or exceed 440 feet.”
In an effort to see just how far a human can hit a baseball: Pause the clock when the bonus time begins. Walk out a metal baseball bat. Start the clock back up, and watch Ohtani hit one to Fort Collins.
We’re not talking about any old college metal bat, here. We’re talking the old BESR lightning rods that traumatized collegiate ERA’s before being outlawed about a decade ago. It might sound odd to hear the echoes of BESR metal inside Coors Field, but a few swings could reveal a home run distance that pushes the limits of human capability.
Using it only during the earned ‘bonus time’ would further prioritize distance over quantity. Deep homers could ‘unlock’ the metal.
Crown an auxiliary ‘champion’
There seems to be a split consensus on what people watch the Derby for:
As a fan, what do you most like to see in the Home Run Derby?— Justin Wick (@justwick) June 28, 2021
MLB divided out $2.5 million to the participants of the 2019 Derby with $1 million going to the winner. This can be a game-changer for young guys making a name for themselves before earning a contract extension; the league minimum salary is $570,500. A participant in that pay range has a chance to nearly double their yearly salary in a single night.
How to incentivize the tape measure shot: Set aside a percentage of that $2.5 million to the competitor that hits the farthest homer. Award a WWE-style belt to the ‘Longball’ champion too, right before crowning the overall champ.
Crowning a ‘distance king’ will ensure every swing is worth something; if you’re down to the final 20 seconds of your round and are out of contention, it’s time to take some serious hacks.
Remove the Bridich Barrier
DNVR’s Patrick Lyons posed this idea. How else can we see somebody put a dent in the wall behind the bullpen?
It could take some intense construction to shorten the outfield fence and reconstruct in time for the All-Star Game, but the old fence height would certainly project more homers.
The Bridich Barrier may prioritize launch angle, at least, and especially for left-handed hitters. All homers to right and right-center will have to clear a 16.5-foot fence as opposed to the standard eight-foot height throughout the rest of the stadium (aside from a brief section near the left field pole).
Score by distance
What if MLB replaced a ‘home run total’ counter with a point system? Every foot of all home runs added together could be your score, and the deepest homers would count the most. Any ball that doesn’t clear the fence does not count, but a wall-scraper isn’t as useful in such a volatile hitters’ park.
Perhaps a different configuration would work too, akin to the Bowman Hitting Challenge in the Arizona Fall League. Different targets could be placed beyond the outfield fence, and extra points are awarded if they are hit.
Bonus points could be awarded if someone hits one onto the rooftop.
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Coors Field is officially open to full capacity. Monday’s crowd of 32,092 didn’t quite reach a standard Opening Day sellout of 50,398, but the table has been set for Coors Field to welcome multiple sellout crowds during All-Star Week.
Keeler vs. Newman: Should Rockies trade Jon Gray, or attempt to re-sign the right-hander? | The Denver Post ($)
Kyle Newman and Sean Keeler double up on this one, discussing one of Colorado’s marquee pitchers and his future status in Colorado. Keeler says it can never be too early to tear down and rebuild, but it can be too late. Newman compares Gray’s outlook to Trevor Story, and discusses what each should expect as the trade deadline approaches.
One thing could be true no matter what, says Keeler: “We’re a month out from the MLB trade deadline of July 30, and the beginning of four weeks—between trades and the draft—that will wind up saying a lot about the long-term future of the Rockies’ roster.”
Our guy is in. Four of the eight positions in the Derby have been filled, and the event is now just 13 days away.
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On the farm
- League-wide off day for Low-A, High-A, Double-A
- Triple-A: Tacoma Rainiers 6, Albuquerque Isotopes 5
Albuquerque snapped a two-game winning streak on Monday and failed to score after the first inning. That first frame was impressive, anyways: Sam Hilliard and Connor Joe left the yard, accounting for all but one of the Isotopes’ runs across two swings. Dereck Rodríguez started for Albuquerque and tossed five frames, allowing two earned runs (four total).
Albuquerque recorded 11 hits to Tacoma’s 9, but three Isotopes errors were costly in the run column.
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