Results tagged ‘ Home Run Derby ’

Home Run Derby Participants Seeing A Hitting Slump

It’s been the topic of discussion for numerous years.

According to the statistics and the players themselves, a good percentage of the sluggers who take part in the annual home run derby tend to see a major plunge in their numbers to begin the second half, with the majority of those poor stats holding at that subpar level for the remainder of the season.JoshHamiltonHomeRunDerby08b_thumb

It’s happened in the past to power hitters David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Josh Hamilton, Chris Davis and many, many other sluggers who have taken part in the derby only to see their pre All-Star break numbers vastly overshadow the statistics they posted in the second half of the year. And once again, it’s happening this season.

How much of this apparent trend is actually a pattern and how much is due to a player’s career law of average just showing up (for example, a 30 home run player who hits 20 home runs before the All-star break only to fall into a “slump” and hit 10 after the break is still holding to their average) is vastly debated.

Some people claim that there is a major impact to a player’s swing after they do nothing but aim for the fences when crushing balls in the home run derby. For that very reason, Ortiz and Hamilton have declined any derby invitations they’ve received since their initial derby appearances, with the most recent example being Jose Abreu, who didn’t want to show off his power up at Target Field this year for fear that it would mess up his swing.

But that’s just one side of the coin.

On the other side, people seem to believe that the second half numbers a player produces after a derby are just a player returning to the previously mentioned law of averages — after all, every player goes through a slump at some point every season. However, now that two weeks have passed since the derby, with multiple players who were in the 2014 home run derby currently struggling, I’d have to go with the theory that a player’s swing is affected by the derby, at least in the short term.

Justin Morneau was a participant in this year’s derby, but he’s yet to play in any games since that point, so there are no numbers to go by, though he was batting .312 with 13 home runs and 60 runs driven in before the derby. Fellow derby and Rockies teammate, Troy Tulowitzki, is also currently injured, however he took part in two games before hitting the disabled list, recording no hits in 5 at-bats, after batting .345 with 21 homers and 52 RBI’s over the first half.

While there are no true numbers to look at for either Morneau or Tulowitzki, and thus no way to know how each player would be performing, a couple of injuries after the derby isn’t exactly a positive thing.

Of the players who aren’t on the disabled list at the moment, Brian Dozier has seen the biggest fall in numbers of them all. After getting off to a career season to get the year started, with 18 homers and 45 RBI’s, the lone hometown player to take part in the derby is now batting a mere .125 with two RBI’s on a single home run since the second half began. Also joining him with a .100’s batting average since the derby is Todd Frazier (batting .154), who has hit just one home run after slugging 19 throughout the first half.

Adam Jones and Giancarlo Stanton 53c4b41cbd0b5_preview-300are also sharing in the same fate, with both batting in the .200’s since the All-Star break.

Jones posted a .301 batting average with 16 home runs and 54 RBI’s to begin the year, and despite having fallen a bit in batting average since, he’s launched 3 homers and amassed 10 RBI’s since the break — not jaw dropping, but also not terrible.

Stanton on the other hand is doing much worse, having slugged just two home runs since the derby — a derby he lost, even though he was the heavy favorite to win — despite hitting 21 before the All-Star break.

But as has held true throughout derby history, not all players are seeing a slump.

Although he hasn’t found his power swing since the derby, Yasiel Puig is still hitting for average, having batted .333 in the past couple of weeks. However, with no home runs and just two runs batted in, after blasting 12 before the break and driving in 52 runs, he’s still not the Puig everyone has come to know.

Jose Bautista has fared fairly well since the derby, batting .333 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI’s, after batting .292 with 17 homers and 54 RBI’s in the first half, which holds fairly steady with his average pace over his career. Hitting .324 since the derby, Josh Donaldson is also holding his own, having hit a couple of homers in the second half after batting .238 with 20 homers over the first portion of the season.

The player who seems to have experienced the least amount of problems with his swing is the winner of the derby, Yoenis Cespedes, who actually looks to have improved. After batting just .254 to begin the year, Cespedes is batting .324 over the course of nearly 40 at-bats since the derby (admittedly, a small sample size). In addition, Cespedes has slugged 3 homers and driven in 10 runs in this second half, however, seeing an increase in stats after winning the home run derby in 2013, it would seem that Yoenis Cespedes is the exception to the overall derby rule.

2014 Triple-A All-Star Game

While Monday night’s Triple-A Home Run derby was extremely exciting, with Minor League Baseball’s top sluggers putting on a home run hitting show, Wednesday’s Triple-A All-Star game was the event that everyone had been waiting for. With the stars of tomorrow from both the Pacific Coast League and the International League set to take on each other in what was sure to be a thrilling game, many people (myself included) showed up to the ballpark fairly early.

Normally I’d be getting to the ballpark early because I was going to try for autographs. But thanks to an autograph session that was held at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Tuesday afternoon, I was able to get an auto from every player that I wanted, and thus, it wasn’t a top priority at this game. Even so, I still arrived to the ballpark right before the gates opened, getting inside in time to watch the last portion of the Pacific Coast League’s batting practice:

DSCN7230Down on the field (as seen in the picture) was Stephen Piscotty (in the batting cage), Andrew Susac and Max Stassi, among others, with numerous players in the outfield shagging balls. With me not trying that hard for autographs, I wasn’t down near the dugout at this point, but after seeing arguably the best player of both teams, Joc Pederson, gesturing that he’d sign autographs after he came back out of the clubhouse, I decided to head down to the field anyway.

Despite having gotten Pederson’s autograph the day before, with him being listed as the number 30 prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com, it was worth another shot. Unfortunately, although he kept his promise of signing autographs once he came back out, Pederson signed for everyone but me. Skipping over me twice, apparently he remembered me from the day before; at least, that’s all I can think of. But that was okay.

Although I would’ve liked to have gotten his auto again, seeing the future Dodgers’ star outfielder (assuming they can figure their outfield situation) up close was cool in itself:

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After failing to get an autograph from Pederson, I made my way to my ticketed seat (the same one I had for the home run derby) to watch the pre game introductions. While every player seemed thrilled to be there and honored to have been selected to participate, no other player seemed quite as happy to be taking part in the All-Star game as the Clippers’ first baseman, Jesus Aguilar:

DSCN7256If that’s not pure excitement by Aguilar, I don’t know what is.

Shortly after all of the players had been introduced from both the Pacific Coast League and the International League, and after a flyover during the National Anthem, . . . . :

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. . . . the 2014 Triple-A All-Star game got underway.

The starting pitcher for the International League, Liam Hendriks, had been fantastic heading into Wednesday’s game. Having gone 7-1 with a 2.19 ERA so far this season for the Buffalo Bisons (Triple-A affiliate of the Blue Jays), Hendriks picked up right where he left off, keeping the Pacific Coast League off the board in the top of the first inning.

On the mound for the opposing Pacific Coast League was Elih Villanueva, who didn’t fare nearly as well. In the bottom half of the first inning, Wilson Betemit drove in a pair of runs, taking the score up to a quick 2-0 International League lead. Then, in the very next inning of swings for the International League, Jhonatan Solano (with a man on base) blasted an impressive shot over the left field blue monster, bringing the score up to 4-0:

DSCN7277Not surprisingly, that’s as far as Villanueva was allowed to go, being replaced by Spencer Patton after 1.2 innings pitched:

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Patton would finish out the inning, with the Pacific Coast League once again bringing in another pitcher for the third, in Kyle Hendricks, who was finally able to keep the International League off the board, after they had scored a couple of runs in each of the previous two innings.

Neither team would score for the next few innings, with the first run of the game for the Pacific Coast League, and the first run of the game since the bottom of the second inning, coming in the top of the sixth inning thanks to a Joc Pederson home run. Pederson, who had struck out in his first two at-bats of the game, took out some of his frustration, absolutely demolishing a ball deep into the right field stands:

Having attended dozens of Bulls games, I’ve never seen a ball hit that well to right field. For that matter, I’m not sure any of the participants in the home run derby a couple of nights prior hit a ball quite that deep. Though I’d heard a lot about the extreme power that Pederson possesses, I was still amazed at how far the ball traveled.

Getting back to the All-Star game, which, on a side note, was being broadcasted live on MLB Network with Darryl Hamilton and Paul Severino doing the play-by-play, . . . . :

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. . . . despite Pederson finally getting the Pacific Coast League on the board and bringing the score to within three runs, the International League would ultimately put the game out of reach in the bottom of the sixth. A two-run triple by Felix Perez, followed by a double from Steven Souza Jr. that scored Perez from third, took the score up to 7-1 in favor of the International League.

Though the Pacific Coast League would attempt a comeback, scoring a run in the top of the eighth as well as the top of the ninth, Merrill Kelly was able to record the final out of the game to secure the 7-3 win for the International League, which has now won seven of the last ten Triple-A All-Star games:

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For their contributions to the game, Liam Hendriks of the International League and Chris Taylor of the Pacific Coast League were named the “top stars” of the game. Hendriks’ two shutout, one hit innings, in which he struck out four, got the International League off to a great start, which they were able to continue. Taylor, going 3-4 with a couple of doubles, was one of the few bright spots for the Pacific Coast League (other than Joc Pederson), being one of only three players from either side (Jose Pirela and Ivan De Jesus were the others) to record more than one hit.

Though I’ve never attended a Triple-A All-Star game at any other ballpark, it’s hard to imagine that it could’ve been done any better than the one on Wednesday in Durham, North Carolina. The entire week — from the home run derby, to the autograph session, to the All-Star game itself — seemed as though it was planned out specifically with the fans in mind. While it will likely be a long time before Durham ever hosts these events again, after the experience from this week, whenever it returns to the Bull City, I’ll certainly be sure to make the trip.

Bautista & Tulowitzki Select Their Derby Teammates

The players who are planning to blast long balls in the 2014 home run derby were fully announced on Thursday, and, for the most part, I’m not extremely shocked with any of them. My original picks only included three of the selected players I wanted to see in the derby, but the new format for the home run derby (ten players instead of eight) threw me off when it came to making my selections.

My initial list included eight players, being Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes (Jose Bautista hadn’t yet been announced as the captain) for the American League, with Giancarlo Stanton, Evan Gattis, Carlos Gomez and Yasiel Puig (Troy Tulowitzki hadn’t yet been announced as the captain) for the National League.

In the end, American League captain, Bautista, selected Brian Dozier, Adam Jones, Josh Donaldson, and defending derby champion, Yoenis Cespedes. On the National League side of things, their captain, Tulowitzki, added Yasiel Puig, Todd Frazier, Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Morneau to the mix.

All in all, a very solid group of players; though I would’ve liked to have seen rookie phenom, Jose Abreu, compete (he expressed that he wasn’t interested in participating).

As stated, the home run derby is set to see a major change in rules for the first time since match play was first introduced back in 2000. Therefore, I wanted to give a brief overview for those of you who may not have heard about the changes. The new rules are as follows:

Round 1: Five players from the American League and five players from National League compete to see who can hit the most home runs, receiving seven outs instead of the previous ten (they receive the same number of outs in every following round). The top slugging player from each individual league receives a bye, jumping automatically ahead to the third round, and subsequently giving them added rest that they’ve never been rewarded with before. The second and third place hitters in the round from each league will then move onto round two, with the bottom two pairs of players being eliminated (four total).

Round 2: With the top home run hitter from the American League and the top player from the National League in the first round skipping round two, this round sees two American League hitters and two National League hitters (the second and third place finishers from round one) squaring off. The two winners will subsequently move on to round three to take on the round one winners.

Round 3: The sole winner from the American League and National League in round two of the derby is set to take on their respective league’s winner from the first round. The player from the AL who hits the most home runs in this round will move on to the final round where they will compete against the round winner from the NL.

Round 4: For the first time ever, there is going to be a round four added to the mix. This round will see the winners from round three (one from the AL and one from the NL) going head-to-head for the title of 2014 MLB Home Run Derby champion. With the number of great power hitters that are always in the mix at this point in every derby, it’s sure to be an entertaining round.

Overall, I like the changes to the derby format. Allowing the winners from the first round to skip the following round finally gives them an advantage and motivation to try and put on a show. In the past, a lot of players have hit their stride in a round (Josh Hamilton slugged a record 28 home runs in the first round back in 2008 only to tire out and lose the derby) that ended up costing them the derby due to fatigue. A break to give them a chance to regain their energy should make things more entertaining for the players and the fans.

With the field for the home run derby set with its full slate of ten players, and with the new format for this year’s derby fully explained, I wanted to take a second to give my thoughts on how I feel the derby will go.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Round one is going to be a very interesting round. Basically being unpredictable, just about any of the players on the American League side of things has the ability to get hot and win the round. With that said, however, I feel that it’s most likely going to be Jose Bautista. Though he doesn’t have the most power of the group, he has a good combination of an ability to hit for power and total homers to do well. Coming in second and third I see it being Yoenis Cespedes and Adam Jones, meaning Josh Donaldson and Brian Dozier would be eliminated.

With Jose Bautista having won round one in my mind, this round would have Yoenis Cespedes going up against Adam Jones. Though Adam Jones can hit with the best of them, I’m sticking with last year’s winner, Yoenis Cespedes. Next to Giancarlo Stanton in the National League, Cespedes has arguably the best power in the derby, and should be able to make it to round three, with Jones getting knocked out.

The final round for the American League portion of the derby would then see Yoenis Cespedes hitting off against round one winner Jose Bautista. Though somewhat difficult to predict, between these two, I’d have to move Cespedes to the championship round, just beating out Bautista.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Likely to be the more impressive round one show between the two leagues is the National League. With Giancarlo Stanton in the mix, I truly don’t see anyone as having a chance at beating him out in this round. That leaves Troy Tulowitzki, Yasiel Puig, Todd Frazier and Justin Morneau, and I feel that of those, Tulowitzki and Frazier stand the best shot at advancing, even with the always entertaining Yasiel Puig in the running. That would leave Puig and Morneau as the players to be out hit in the first round.

With there a good chance that Giancarlo Stanton will have destroyed the completion in the initial round, the second round would include NL captain, Troy Tulowitzki, taking on Todd Frazier. Though Frazier has hit his share of tape measure home runs over the course of his career, I don’t think he will have enough to overtake Tulo. And thus, it’s likely that Tulowitzki will move on to face Stanton in the next round.

After skipping the second round, Giancarlo Stanton would be taking on the previous round’s winner, Troy Tulowitzki. While anything can happen in a home run derby, and certainly has in the past numerous years, I don’t think Stanton will stumble in his quest for the championship round.

Final Round

If the final, championship round of this year’s home run derby is in fact Yoenis Cespedes and Giancarlo Stanton squaring off, it’s sure to be one of the best final rounds ever. Both Cespedes and Stanton have unbelievable power, and both have the strength and ability to put on long, amazing displays of power. Honestly, the final round could easily go either way, but to stick with my gut, your 2014 Major League Baseball home run derby champion will be Giancarlo Stanton, as many are already predicting.

Who I’d Like to See In the 2014 Home Run Derby

Due to the fact that the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star ballots are asking fans to once again vote for who they’d like to see participate in the home run derby (unfortunately, the votes are only a poll, and don’t actually count towards anything), it hasn’t yet been announced who the derby captains will be, as it had been by now each of the past several years. And therefore, not knowing when it will be revealed, I didn’t want to wait until then to give my take on who I’d most like to see in the derby, along with my reasoning for each pick.

While there are some players that I left off, for one reason or another, I feel the players I selected would make for a great 2014 home run derby, as they all have to ability to hit a good amount of home runs as well as doing so for big power. With the 2014 home run derby now around three weeks away, here are the players I’d most enjoy seeing take part:

American League

Nelson Cruz: One of the game’s most underrated power hitters, Nelson Cruz would be a fantastic pick for the home run derby next month. Currently leading all of Major League Baseball in home runs, Cruz would likely make it deep into the derby, possibly even reaching the final round. His ability to hit home runs seemingly at will and the overall power he possesses would make things very interesting in the derby.

Edwin Encarnacion: After breaking out back in 2012, hitting 42 home runs that season, Edwin Encarnacion has been in a groove ever since. Going on an absolute tear in May, Encarnacion has cooled down a bit as of late, but he would definitely thrive in a home run derby atmosphere. Though Target Field isn’t necessarily a hitter’s park, Encarnacion could easily make it one.

Jose Abreu: Although Jose Abreu is a rookie, he’s already done more than enough to prove that he belongs at the big league level. Coming over from Cuba to the White Sox, Abreu set a rookie record for home runs in his first month, and despite a minor setback due to an injury, Abreu hasn’t let up. If Abreu is in the derby, along with his phenom status and incredible power, he will be someone to watch closely.

Yoenis Cespedes: Winning the home run derby last season, Yoenis Cespedes is somewhat overlooked, playing for the Athletics, but he’s truly a major power threat every time he steps to the plate. Although I don’t feel he will win two years in a row, especially if the other players on my list are going up against him, Cespedes could very well surprise me, as he did in 2013.

National League

Giancarlo Stanton: If Giancarlo Stanton is one of the sluggers in the 2014 derby, I truly don’t think any other hitter stands even a slight chance. The guy is simply amazing, with arguably the most power in all of baseball. When Stanton hits a home run — which is often for him — you immediately know it’s gone. Stanton would put on an unbelievable show in the derby in a few weeks.

Evan Gattis: The true definition of a natural power hitter, Evan Gattis has raw power and can absolutely crush a ball when he squares it up. Although he likely wouldn’t make it terribly deep, with the immense talent that’s in the derby each year, he would hit his share of amazing blasts. Gattis isn’t necessarily a top pick for the derby, but I’d love to see him participate, just to see what he can do.

Carlos Gomez: While some of Carlos Gomez’s on field antics have rubbed people the wrong way, it’s a fact that he’s super-talented. Gomez isn’t a guy who hits an extremely high amount of home runs each year, but put in an environment where the only goal is to hit a homer, I think Gomez would do well. Given the underlying power that he has, Gomez might actually make it deep into the derby.

Yasiel Puig: As with Carlos Gomez, not everyone appreciates the flair that Yasiel Puig shows on a daily basis, but he’s undeniably one of the most exciting young players on the big league level today. Coming up as a rookie from Cuba in 2013, Puig helped to turn around a struggling Dodgers team, and I feel he’d put on a show in the derby (as long as he doesn’t do a bat flip after every home run).

So, those are my picks for who I’d like to see in the 2014 home run derby, up at Target Field, on July 14th. Odds are that not all of them will be selected, but I truly hoped the majority of them are in the derby. Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Who would you like to see participate? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Three-Year Anniversary of ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’

Today marks the three-year anniversary of the day I sat down to begin ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’. Starting this blog was more of a spur of the moment thing than it was me looking to begin a long term blog. At the time, I never could’ve imagined that I would keep at it long enough to be typing up a three-year anniversary post; to his day, I’m still surprised that I kept with it. But I’ve come to love blogging, and interacting with fellow baseball fans; and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

To commemorate the occasion, I’ve decided to take a look back at the past three years, as I did last year on the two-year anniversary, using a timeline, of sorts, to tell the basic story of how my blog came to be where it is now. The first twelve recaps are the exact same ones I covered last year, in case you missed them, with the rest being since last year (click the headers to be taken to each post):

‘Explanation of Me’ – My first blog post

As the header would suggest, this was the first blog entry I ever published. It covered who I am and the fact that I have no favorite team that I root for more than another team. While it does a decent job at getting the general point across, looking back, I’m fairly appalled at how horribly written it is. The post doesn’t flow, the grammar is terrible, and my punctuation is sub par. Given, I’m by no means a professional writer now (I’m sure there are tons of issues with this post) compared to my writing style now, it’s almost as if it was a completely different person who wrote that first post. I suppose, in a way, it was.

‘MLB Logo and Its Designer’ – My first interview post

I didn’t start out with interview intentions. I merely emailed Jerry Dior (the designer of the MLB logo) to ask him questions I had about the design process and the story behind the logo. It wasn’t until a month later that I had the idea of putting the questions into an interview format for a post on my newly established blog. In the days after posting it, I noticed that people seemed to have a good reaction to the interview, so it was at that point that I decided to begin interviewing ballplayers. The interviews took off from there. I’ve now conducted over thirty interviews, and plan on continuing to do them in the future, as long as the players continue to be willing.

July 23, 2011 – Signed Up for Twitter

This has nothing to do with my blog, but it has everything to do with its success. Signing up for Twitter not only allowed for a way for me to get in contact with ballplayers for interviews, but it also served (and still serves) as a way of spreading the link to each new post around to baseball fans everywhere. If it wasn’t for Twitter it’s very possible that I would’ve discontinued my blog, as my reader base wouldn’t have been as fast to grow.

How Bernie Williams Became My Favorite Player Ever

This is more of a personal entry than it is an informative one. In this blog post, I detailed exactly how Bernie Williams came to be my favorite player to ever play the game of baseball. There’s a great story behind it, but I really don’t want to say much more than that. If you’re truly interested, feel free to click the header to be taken to the post I did on the subject.

Bernie Williams’ Reflects On 9/11/01 – Ten-Year Anniversary

Yet another Bernie Williams post, but this one is more somber than the first. With the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 approaching, I decided to contact Bernie Williams on Twitter to ask if he’d be willing to share his own personal experience and memories from that horrid day. He agreed to it, and after a bit of back and forth conversation, of me detailing exactly what I wanted him to talk about, I received an email from Williams, containing a fairly long response. If you don’t read another blog entry from this anniversary post, I suggest you read this one.

The Blog Post That Put My Blog On The Map

Ozzie Guillen and the Miami Marlins played a large part in making my blog as successful as it is today. The article I wrote on the “new look Marlins” caused my blog to absolutely explode in terms of views. In the months following when I first posted the entry, I received day after day of several hundred view days. In all, that one post racked me up over 11,000 views, all by itself. While things have backed off slightly since then, I still have a fairly large reader base, and it can all be traced back to that one post.

Ranking After the 2011 Year of Blogging

After a year’s worth of blogging, I was fairly anxious to see how I would stack up against all of the great blogs around the MLBlogs community. I was fairly stunned when the results came out, stating that my blog was the 35th most viewed blog of 2011. That alone gave me a reason to continue blogging.

The Blog Post That Got Me the Most Views For A Single Day

While my post on the Marlins netted me the most views for a single blog post, the entry I posted on the Cleveland Indians-Carolina Mudcats exhibition game, for some reason, led to the most views in the history of my blog on a single day. I’m still not all that sure as to why, but people came flocking to my blog on that particular day, netting me a total of 892 views. I haven’t had a day since that’s received more than 615 views.

First MLB Game Recap Entry

Living in North Carolina, I don’t get the chance to attend an MLB game all that often. As a matter of fact, this particular post recapped the first MLB game I attended since starting this blog. Therefore, it was the first MLB recap I’d ever done. I’ve since done numerous MiLB recaps, and will undoubtedly be doing several more this season.

Trip To the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby

The all expense paid trip I received to the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby, courtesy of State Farm, is by far the best thing to ever come out of this blog. While I’ve been fortunate enough to experience several blogging related benefits since then – which range from getting free stuff, to meeting ballplayers in person that I’ve interviewed – I feel confident in saying that nothing will ever top this.

Triple-A National Championship Game

As the MiLB equivalent of a World Series game 7, the 2012 Triple-A National Championship game is the most significant minor league baseball game I’ve ever attended, thus it’s the most significant MiLB blog posts I’ve done. Getting to see the Reno Aces win the National Championship, along with meeting 2011 American Idol winner, Scotty McCreery, made this great game even better. (I plan on attending the 2014 Triple-A All-Star game in July, so that will probably top this.)

Ranking After the 2012 Year of Blogging

After coming in 35th at the end of the 2011 blogging year, I had no idea what to expect going into the 2012 results. While I received over five times the number of views this past year as I did in 2011, I was still eager to see where I would rank. When the rankings were posted, I was ecstatic to find my blog at the number 17 spot. I truly appreciate all of those who read my blog.

2013 Durham Bulls Fan Fest

I was really excited to attend this, as I had never been ON a professional baseball field. It was really cool to make my way, with my dad, out onto the field for a bit of catch. I didn’t take batting practice, though I could’ve, but if the Bulls have Fan Fest again anytime soon, I’ll be sure to take my shot at BP.

My Favorite Interview — Q and A With Negro Leagues’ President Bob Kendrick

Though not a baseball player, this was my favorite interview I’ve every conducted to this point in the history of my blog. Bob Kendrick is extremely knowledgeable of the history of the Negro Leagues, and he was very courteous throughout the process. I learned a lot about the Negro Leagues that I had no idea about. Take a look at it. You’ll probably learn something too.

Seeing Mariano Rivera for the Last Time

It wasn’t planned this way, but with Mariano Rivera announcing his retirement after the 2013 season, it happened to be that my dad and I were going to Baltimore for a game against the Yankees, and therefore he would be there. I was hoping to get an autograph, but even though that didn’t happen, seeing Rivera for probably the last time ever was memorable.

My Trip to Safeco Field In Seattle

Having only been west of the Mississippi River once (on my trip to the 2012 Home Run Derby), I was thrilled to visit this ballpark on my 24 day trip around the country. It is one of the best ballparks I’ve ever been to, located in one of the best cities I’ve ever been to. The Mariners lost, but all around it was a great time.

Chipper Jones’ Bulls Number Retirement Ceremony

As with Mariano Rivera, this was likely the last time I’ll ever see Chipper Jones, as he retired after the 2012 season. Coming back to Durham for the first time in twenty years, Jones had his number ten retired by the Bulls and gave a brief speech thanking the fans for everything. It was an incredible night out at the ballpark, and I doubt any night out at a minor league game will ever top this.

Recapping the 2013 Season Out At the Ballpark

This past season was the first full year that I have been into tracking the top major league baseball prospects and heading out to the ballpark to get an autograph from them. I plan on doing more of the same in 2014, and with the Triple-A All-Star game taking place in July, in addition to all of the top ranked talent that’s supposed to come, it’s sure to be an amazing year. (I’ll recap it all again after the season is over, as I did this past year.)

Ranking After the 2013 Year of Blogging

After my first year of blogging, I finished 35th on the top 100 list, in terms of views; after 2012, I finished 17th; and after this past year, I finished 8th. That’s truly amazing, in my mind, that I was able to do so, amassing over 75,000 views in 2013. I really had a fantastic time blogging in 2013, and with all of the great things that I foresee taking place in 2014, I think this is going to be the best blogging year yet.

Blogging Goals for 2014

This post wasn’t published all that long ago, but I wanted to include it nonetheless. Basically, this post covers my goals for the 2014 blogging year. I won’t waste time going over what each of my five goals are, for those of you who remember. (For those of you who’ve forgotten, and are curious, you can always click the header.) I plan on keeping to all of my blogging resolutions, which is better than I can say for my New Year’s Resolutions.

‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’ Fast Facts

  • Total number of words written to this point: 193,824
  • Total number of posts: 332
  • Average number of words per post: 584
  • Number of different country views: 124

As stated in previous posts, I hope to make 2014 the best blogging year yet; and that means posting content that you, the reader, enjoy reading about. So, if you have anything you’d like to see me do, or stop doing, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Final Baseball Game of the Year for Me

Tonight’s Bulls game versus the Pawtucket Red Sox will be my final game of the season.

The Bulls are in the final round of the Governors’ Cup Playoffs, against Pawtucket, in a best three out of five series, to determine the winner of the International League, and after Wednesday’s game, won’t play at the DBAP until April of next year.

Starting for the Bulls, in tonight’s game one, is their Ace, Jake Odorizzi, who has been outstanding all year; even more so in his past two home starts. On the mound for the opposing Red Sox is Anthony Ranaudo, who has also had a great season and is subsequently sure to pitch a great game.

As with any game I go to, I’m looking to try for autographs. Mainly, at this game, I’m hoping to get an auto from Pawtucket’s Matt Barnes and Bryce Brentz. Earlier in the season, when they first came to Durham, the Sox had Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Allen Webster on the roster, but I wasn’t able to attend, as I was across the country in Seattle — they’re all in the majors now.

But in the end, with two great pitchers, along with two outstanding teams, it’s sure to be an exciting conclusion to the season for me, regardless.

Overall, it’s been a really fun year, and I’ve been able to attend more baseball games (mostly minor league) this season than in all of the other years of my life combined; including a game at two different MLB ballparks (Safeco Field and Camden Yards) — the first time I’ve ever done so in the same year. Truly something when you think about it.

I’ve seen numerous MLB top prospects — Nick Castellanos, Billy Hamilton, Wil Myers, Francisco Lindor, Jameson Taillon and Courtney Hawkins, to name a few — and have gotten a good deal of autographs this season. (I plan to post a recap of it all in the next week or so.)

But as fun as this year has been, I’m already looking ahead to next season.

The Bulls are set to host the 2014 AAA All-Star game, in July of 2014, and I’m fully planning to attend. With so many top prospects in one place, it’s any autograph collectors’ dream. The festivities are also going to include a Home Run Derby, showcasing some of the best sluggers on the Triple-A level; many of which will become big league stars. So, obviously, that’s something to be excited about.

In addition to my readiness for the 2014 MiLB season, I’m also looking forward to the 2014 MLB season, as the schedule for each team is set to come out later today. I’m sure I’ll make it to one or two games next year — which games is yet to be determined — and therefore, I’m going to study the schedules to plan out which teams I’ll be seeing.

But even with the season almost over for me, there’s still tonight’s game left to be played.

And I’m going to make the absolute most of it.

Frontrunners For MLB Awards At the All-Star Break

The final MLB games until after the All-Star break were played on Sunday, and although the baseball world is buzzing about Yoenis Cespedes winning the 2013 Home Run Derby, with it being half way through the season, I figured I’d post a blog entry not on the derby, but on the players who I feel stand the best chance, as of right now, to win the three major awards of Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Cy Young. All three awards have several players who could be argued are worthy, but I have my own opinion as to who deserves each award the most.

Most Valuable Player Award

BS sp-orioles-twins-p30 lamAmerican League: It’s a two-man race for who deserves the MVP award for the American League. Both Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera have already posted numbers that would be a great full year for many players, and there’s still nearly three more months left until the end of the season. But I’m going to have to go with Chris Davis, as of right now. Davis has been one of the best players in all of baseball for the past year, and if he can keep up the pace, should be the AL MVP.

National League: It’s a little more of a challenge to pick one player for who will inevitably win the National League MVP, assuming they keep on playing the way they have been. With guys like Yadier Molina, Michael Cuddyer and Buster Posey in the running, it’s not a very obvious choice. I’m going to go with Michael Cuddyer, though. While Posey and Molina are having great years, Cuddyer is making a bigger individual impact on whether or not his team wins than anyone else in the NL.

Rookie of the Year Award

Wil+Myers+Tampa+Bay+Rays+v+Boston+Red+Sox+vTHBR4fXaxixAmerican League: This was the easiest of all of the categories, for me. There’s no doubt in my mind that Wil Myers deserves the American League Rookie of the Year award. Altough I gave a bit of consideration to both Nick Franklin and David Lough, I just feel that Myers is going to have an even better second half to the season than any rookie in baseball. If he can play to his full potential, he should be able to blow away all of the other competition.

National League: It came down to Yasiel Puig, Matt Adams, Jedd Gyorko, Evan Gattis and Marcel Ozuna, for the player I felt most deserved the National League Rookie of the Year award, as of right now. All of them have been having fantastic seasons, and while they should continue to have great years, I had to go with Matt Adams. I still like Puig, and feel he will be a super star for years to come, but Adams deserves the award, in my opinion. The way he’s been contributing is truly incredible.

Cy Young Award

Clayton+Kershaw+Los+Angeles+Dodgers+v+St+Louis+tphRSOeazpAxAmerican League: When you have to pick between Felix Hernandez, Bartolo Colon and Max Scherzer, for American League Cy Young, it’s not an easy choice. All have been having great seasons, and you can make an argument for and against each player. But after going back and forth between them, I ended up going with Max Scherzer. While it would appear an easy decision, with Scherzer’s record of 13-1, it wasn’t. Eight AL pitchers have a better ERA, but when you combine everything, I still have Scherzer for the Cy Young.

National League: I had several different pitchers on my list of players deserving of the National League Cy Young award, including guys like Matt Harvey, Jeff Locke, Adam Wainwright, Patrick Corbin, Jordan Zimmermann and Madison Bumgarner, but I didn’t go with any of them. I ended up going with Clayton Kershaw. While I’m a huge fan of Harvey, and could’ve easily picked him, Kershaw is having the overall better year, and that’s why I have him winning the award.

But there’s still plenty of time left in the season, and anything can happen.

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With all of that said, this will be my last blog post for a good bit of time.

I’m going on a 24-day road trip around the country, starting Wednesday, and won’t have the time to put in the effort necessary to keep up this blog. Though I hate breaking one of my original goals of blogging at least once every four days, it can’t be helped; but I’m still on pace for my goal of 100 posts for the year. At least I’m incorporating baseball into the trip, among numerous other things, as I’ll be attending the Mariners game in Seattle, on July 26th, versus the Twins. So that should be fun. (I haven’t decided yet if I’ll be blogging about the game.)

Therefore, this is all for awhile. I’ll be back in a month.

Cano & Wright Pick Their Home Run Derby Teammates

The players set to participate in the 2013 home run derby were announced on Monday, and for the most part, I’m not shocked with any of them. As a matter of fact, four of the six players I stated that I’d like to see in the derby this year were selected. (Not bad, if you ask me.)

My original list included Chris Davis, Yoenis Cespedes and Prince Fielder, for the American League, with Evan Gattis, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton for the National League; at the time, Gattis was healthy. Cano ended up selecting Chris Daivs, Prince Field and Yoenis Cespedes, all of which I wanted to see. Wright got Bryce Harper, as well as a couple of players I didn’t pick, in Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez, to participate, and while I would’ve like to have seen Stanton over Cuddyer, it is what it is.

With the field for the home run derby nearly set, I wanted to take a second to give my thoughts on how I feel the derby will go.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

I feel like Michael Cuddyer won’t last very long in the derby, probably not making it past the first round. He’s having a great year, but just doesn’t have what it takes to excel, in my opinion. Carlos Gonzalez and David Wright should do a bit better than Cuddyer, however, I see Bryce Harper outdoing them both, for the National League team. I could easily see him making it to the final round. Harper has the power, as well as the endurance needed, to thrive in a home run derby.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

I have Robinson Cano doing the worst of the four players for the American League. But it all depends on which Cano shows up. He has the ability to do well, having won the derby in 2011, however, he can also flop under pressure, as he didn’t hit a single homer last year. I feel Yoenis Cespedes will do fairly well, but it will come down to Chris Davis and Prince Fielder, in my mind, with Fielder winning out in the end; though, not by much.

I could easily see a final round of Bryce Harper and Prince Fielder.

If indeed Harper and Fielder make it to the very end, I think Fielder has too much pop for even a young phenom like Harper to compete with. So, for the second straight year, that’s who I have winning–Prince Fielder. It shouldn’t come as a real surprise. Not many people have the home run hitting ability of Fielder.

Prince Fielder is going for home run derby title number three, as well as a win in back-to-back years. Both are feats that only Ken Griffey Jr. has ever been able to accomplish, and if all goes as I see it playing out, Prince Fielder will soon join him.

Who I’d Like To See In the 2013 Home Run Derby

It was recently announced that Robinson Cano would once again be participating in the home run derby, for the third year in a row. After winning the derby in 2011, Cano failed to hit a single homer in 2012, but it’s highly unlikely that he will let that happen again. Cano was once again named the captain of the American League, with David Wright receiving the honor for the National League. Both now have the task of selecting three more players from their given league to participate in the derby.

With the 2013 home run derby exactly a month away, I figured I’d post this entry on which players I’d most like to see participate.

American League

Chris Davis- After blasting a career high 33 home runs last season, Chris Davis is well on his way to another career season. In just 67 games, Davis has already hit 22 homers, leading all of major league baseball, and I feel he’d be a great player to take part in this year’s home run derby. Not only do I feel Davis would go deep into the derby, cranking out numerous home runs per round, but I feel he would put on a fairly good show. Davis can hit long balls with the best of them, and I hope to see him in the 2013 derby.

Prince Fielder- It’s no secret that Prince Fielder is a major threat to win a home run derby, having won twice in his career. After winning the derby last year, I’d love to see Fielder in this year’s derby to give him a chance to defend his title. It wouldn’t be all that surprising to me if Fielder happened to win the derby once again. He has the power and endurance needed to stay in the derby for a long time, and therefore it would be great to see Fielder participate in July.

Yoenis Cespedes- I’m not sure just how many home runs Yoenis Cespedes would hit in a home run derby, but I’d love to see him take part in this year’s derby, if merely for his power alone. Not many guys in all of baseball can slug a ball as far as Cespedes can–launching balls deep into the outfield seats at the spacious Oakland Athletics ballpark makes it all the more impressive. To me, although I don’t think Cespedes would go to deep into the derby, he’d certainly put on a show. And I’d love to see him take part.

National League

Evan Gattis- One of the best stories of the season–going from janitor to major league baseball player–Evan Gattis isn’t someone you’d necessarily have heard of if you don’t follow baseball fairly closely. But even so, the power he possesses, and the story that goes along with him, is enough for me to want to see Gattis in the home run derby. Gattis has already blasted 14 homers, in this his rookie season, and therefore should at least be considered for the derby in July, in my opinion.

Giancarlo Stanton- It was a major disappointment last year when it was announced that Giancarlo Stanton was planning to participate in the home run derby, only to have him injure himself shortly before the actual event. Stanton would’ve put on a fantastic show, and thus, as long as Stanton is fully healthy, I wouldn’t see why he wouldn’t take part in the derby this time around. If in fact Stanton is one of the eight sluggers in the 2013 derby, I could easily see him making it to the final round, and possibly even winning.

Bryce Harper- After Stanton was forced to forgo the 2012 derby, I wanted to see Bryce Harper as his replacement, but instead the world saw Andrew McCutchen. No offense to McCutchen, but I knew he wouldn’t perform all that well, and by hitting just four home runs, he proved me right. Harper on the other hand, would put on a show; and an amazing one at that. I would love to see Harper (assuming he’s completely healthy by then) take part in this year’s HR derby. Guys with his talent don’t come around all that often.

So, those are my picks for who I’d like to see in the 2013 home run derby, up at Citi Field, on July 15th. Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Who would you like to see participate? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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