The Home Run Derby has always been one of the highlights of the summer, but recently it has become less entertaining. Major League Baseball decided to change it up this year, and they did a great job. The old format of having 10 outs (any ball that was hit but was not a home run) to see how many dingers a player could hit became boring as the Derby continued. Major League Baseball experimented this year by seeding the participants and creating a tournament style bracket. The tournament consisted of 3 head-to-head rounds. In the first round the number one seed played the number eight seed, the two seed played the seven seed, the three seed played the six seed, and the four seed played the five seed. In each round the two players had four minutes to hit as many balls out of the park as possible. Each player had one timeout per round plus thirty seconds of bonus time. The higher seeded player had the advantage of going second, and possibly conserving energy by not having to use the entire four minutes if they already outscored their opponent.
This new format made it possible for us to enjoy a buzzer beater in baseball. Buzzer beaters make everything more exciting so why should we have expected anything different? Each round got more exciting as it went on because it became a race against the clock. Players were also not penalizing for not hitting home runs which led to fewer pitches taken. One of the worst parts of the old format was watching a guy take 10 pitches in a row to try to avoid an out. Every pitch became a must-swing because time was running out.
The two brightest shining stars of the night were Todd Frazier, the hometown hero, and the young gun Joc Pederson. Pederson, a rookie, hit bomb after bomb all night long. He showed no signs of fatigue, which was the main concern from critics of the new format. Todd Frazier brought the hometown Reds fans to life by putting on a show. Frazier had to put up monster numbers every round just to advance. Pederson and Frazier battled in what was the most entertaining final round in recent memory. Pederson went first, and seemed to have locked it up by hitting 14 bombs. Frazier then stepped in knowing he needed 14 to tie, and an almost impossible 15 (after he already had hit for 2 full rounds) to win. The Toddfather rode the momentum of the crowd and tied it up with just under 10 seconds remaining. Frazier then sent Great American Ballpark into a frenzy by hitting his 15th and Derby clinching dinger at the buzzer in walk-off fashion.
The new format was a success for Major League Baseball. It was very entertaining and only took approximately two and a half hours. The bracket style tournament was a great idea, but the addition of potential buzzer beaters was the best part. There were three very watchable rounds and there was never a feeling like it was just dragging on. Todd Frazier’s performance really helped because it kept the crowd engaged, and gave them an incentive to get wild. I think it was a great night for Major League Baseball as well as a fun night for all baseball fans.