Perfecting the Home Run Derby

It’s been years since I watched the home run derby from start to finish. For what seems like forever now it has been boring, and way too long, and they have never quite gotten the rules right to make it exciting at the end. Then they totally threw the rules out. Then the threat of severe weather caused them to totally throw those rules out. What was left was a damn exciting time that laid the foundation for greatness.

The weather tweaks included changing each hitter’s time to hit from 5 minutes to 4 minutes, including eliminating the clock stopping on home runs in the final minute, and shorted bonus time to 30 seconds from 60 seconds, but made it easier to achieve.

It was very exciting, and probably much better than it would have even been with the original rules. Five minutes would have been a long time, especially when hitters were clearly getting tired with a four minute clock. The thirty seconds of bonus time for two home runs over 425 feet ended up being a gimme since no one failed to achieve this all night.

The clock element undoubtedly made it more exciting than the traditional 10 out rule, and most of the battles came right down to the wire, but the guy hitting second seemed to have a big advantage and won all but one of the head to head match-ups.

One of my biggest gripes with sporting events these days is that false time allotment. This was scheduled to run for two hours, but took about 2 hours and 40 minutes, and that was including the rule changes that sped things up. This would have been easily over three hours with the original rules.

There are lots of small tweaks I would make to improve things just a notch higher:

  • Change round time limits to 3-minute for 1st, 4-minute for 2nd and 5-minute for 3rd. This is six minutes shorter of regulation time, and people should care more about the finals. Plus there was no shortage of home runs, this was the most ever in a derby
  • Have the first round not be head to head and instead just take the top 4 guys (this hopefully cuts down on the guys quitting when they “have enough”, at least for part of it)
  • Add bonus time on right away without the extra break for the first two rounds
  • Make bonus time more variable but not as long as original rules; something like 10 seconds for every home run over 425 might work; it’s not a bonus if everyone gets the same amount
  • Do a better job of enforcing the rules of when to pitch. There is no way every pitch was legal and yet no home runs were waved off
  • Re-seed the 2nd round and finals based on who hit more the previous round; going second is a huge advantage and should be rewarded in later rounds
  • Have bonus time in the finals come after each player has done their regular time. In other words, player A goes for 5 minutes, player B goes for 5 minutes, player A gets bonus time, player B gets bonus time

If I had completely had my way I would probably drop it from 8 guys to 6 guys just to make it shorter. There is no reason that this event should take three hours. Two hours is a nice sweetspot.