SAN DIEGO - The 2016 T-Mobile Home Run Derby lacked the intrigue, mystery and excitement of last year’s blast off, when Toddfather Frazier, then a member of the Cincinnati Reds, put on a show for the hometown fans by coming back late with a barrage of buzzer-beater bombs to win the first contest under the new format.
Giancarlo Stanton already had Monday's contest won before he ever stepped onto Petco Park field and hit the first of his record-breaking 61 homers. He was hitting lasers off every part of Petco including the scoreboard which sits about 500-feet away from home plate.
Before we discuss the Herculean efforts of Stanton, let’s give defending champ Frazier his props for advancing to the finals again.
While the other contestants appeared to be there to witness the Stanton show, Frazier didn’t lay down for the guy who set an almost unreachable standard early in the competition. Frazier was game, but Stanton was insane. He smashed all kinds of records for distance and over the Derby’s three rounds, 64 % of Stanton’s bombs (39) ventured beyond the 440-foot mark.
In the 30-year history of the Home Run Derby, exactly two men had ever hit 20 homers in a single round: Josh Hamilton in Yankee Stadium in 2008 and Bobby Abreu in Detroit in 2005. Stanton had 24 in Round 1 and 20 more in the finals. The record for most total home runs in any of the first 30 Derbies was 41, by Abreu. Stanton dusted that record off in two rounds.
Stanton’s crush groove overpowered Frazier and the Miami Marlins banger prevailed with an easy 20-13 win in the final round.
“I knew I could do it endurance-wise,” Stanton said, when made available to media after the contest. “It was just if my swing was going to fall apart a little bit. “Luckily my bat path stayed where I needed (it) to.”
Stanton didn’t succumb to the pressure of the moment, in fact he embraced it. He was just about everybody’s favorite to win because of his hitting prowess during the MLB season and the massive homers he launches on a regular basis – off pitchers that are actually trying to get him out.
Stanton led all players last season with an average exit velocity of 98.5 mph – nearly 4 mph ahead of everyone else. So far in 2016, Stanton is tied for fourth (95.0 mph) and has the six highest single exit velocities recorded. Unbelievably, Stanton said he wasn’t swinging as hard as he does during games.
“I’d say I stuck at about 80, 90%,” Stanton said. “When I got a few in a row, I think I kinda' bump it up five or 10 percent more when I get ‘em.”
Not surprisingly, Stanton had the longest home run of the night – a 497-foot blast. And he was able to accomplish all of this in a ballpark that has a reputation as a pitcher-friendly park.
Few of us guys sitting on press row thought that Stanton would crush the record and turn Petco into his own personal band box. But he did without breaking a sweat and there was no player that sparked crowd interest more.
Since the gorgeous stadium first opened in 2002, Petco has historically ranked at or near the bottom of the park factor ratings in scoring, home runs or both.
But Stanton, who entered the Derby as the No. 5 seed after finishing the first half with 20 homers, asserted himself as the game’s most powerful slugger as he easily deaded 2011 homer champ Robinson Cano in the opening round and edged MLB’s leading home run hitter, Mark Trumbo of the Baltimore Orioles, 17-14 in the semifinals.
(Photo Credit: usatoday.com)
The Derby was Stanton’s All-Star moment for this season, as he was not voted to the squad. It probably meant more to him than the guys he faced, who will be playing in the Mid-Summer Classic on Tuesday. There was no tomorrow for Stanton and he sure enough hit like it.
“See this bad boy,” said Stanton on the field after the Derby as he clutched his trophy. “That’s why I came here and I’m taking it with me.”