2014 Home Run Derby Preview: Yoenis’ Quest to Defend His Title

One year ago, our hero Yoenis Cespedes showcased his remarkable abilities when he crushed 32 bombs on his way to the 2013 Home Run Derby title. It was one of the most incredible displays of power in Derby history, and Yoenis was finally recognized as one of the elite power hitters in the game today. He concluded his glorious night with one of the greatest bat flips in the history of bat flips; a majestic flip signifying his superiority over the rest of the baseball universe:

Tonight, he returns to the Derby to defend his precious title. The only player to ever win the Derby in back-to-back years was Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and 1999, so history is most certainly against our hero. Also in his way is a significantly stronger group of competition compared to last year’s opposing crop of sluggers. Sure, Yoenis had to defeat the religious experience that was #ChristDavis, as well as Nationals phenom BRUCE HOOPER. But 2014 brings a whole new challenge; a challenge that may or may not rhyme with the words “Ziancarlo Blanton”.

This year’s home run contest includes ten hitters instead of eight, and a new format that I don’t entirely understand. I can reasonably assume that the main objective is still to hit as many gargantuan over-the-fence balls as possible. Under that assumption, here’s a preview of tonight’s extravaganza:

Derby competitors ranked by likeliness to win, from least likely to most likely:

10. Brian Dozier (0% chance to win)

  • This is a nice story. Brian Dozier is an awesome baseball player with more power than one might expect from a 5’11” second baseman. But no. There is absolutely no way this guy comes anywhere near the Derby crown. I do fully expect the Minnesota crowd to give him a hearty applause for every line drive he laces into the enormous gaggle of incompetent children attempting to field the baseballs. He might even hit a few actual home runs! Just a few, though. Just a few :(

9. Justin Morneau (0% chance to win)

  • This is an even nicer story! Morneau, the consistently concussed Canadian, returns to his old stomping grounds to prove to his former fans that he can still hit the ball out the park, and not just his friendly new Coors Field home. But again, the Derby is not about nice stories; it’s about ruthless destruction of baseballs into parts of the park that we don’t even know exist yet. I’m a big Morneau fan, and I genuinely hope he performs at a respectable level. Unfortunately, he doesn’t match up very well against some of the powerhouses in this year’s contest.

8. Josh Donaldson (0% chance to win)

  • A teammate of our beloved slugger, Donaldson has recently emerged as one of the premier third baseman in all of baseball. He’s certainly got the kind of raw power you wanna see in a Derby contender, but his swing just doesn’t quite scream HOME RUN CHAMPION to me like some of the others he’ll be competing against do. Donaldson is much more likely to seriously injure one of the juvenile outfielders with a screaming line drive than he is to hit a tape-measure bomb to the third deck in left field. He’s a fantastic baseball player, but he does not appear to have the best skill-set to win this competition.

7. Todd Frazier (0% chance to win)

  • Just when you thought the Derby couldn’t get any more DAD after Michael Cuddyer’s inspiring 2013 performance, here comes good ol’ Toad Frizzer. Frazier does have legitimate power, but it’s weird power. If you recall, Frazier’s the one that once THREW THE BAT AT THE BALL AND HIT A HOME RUN. It will be interesting to see if he employs that unique strategy tonight, although I’d imagine he’d be quickly disqualified for endangering the lives of those in the vicinity of his swing.

6. Troy Tulowitzki (0% chance to win)

  • Tulo might just be the best non-Trout player on the planet, and it will be fascinating to see how his elite intensity carries over into the Derby. The best part about Tulo this year has been the fact that he’s actually playing baseball almost every day, which we haven’t seen him do in nearly three years. Tulowitzki is heading into the All-Star break with a comical 1.048 OPS, and yes, of course you can attribute a lot of that to Coors Field, but HE IS STILL REALLY FREAKIN’ GOOD OKAY GOSH. Anyway, while Tulo has always had impressive power, he never really comes to mind as someone that can put on a crazy show in batting practice. As the captain, Tulo’s already achieved exactly what we were all hoping for, and that’s picking Yasiel Puig and Giancarlo Stanton to be on the NL team with him. Whatever Tulo actually does in the Derby probably won’t matter at all. How clever! Maybe Tulo will show up and hit lefty. He’d still probably out-homer Dozier.

5. Adam Jones (1% chance to win)

  • Jonesy is the first challenger that I’m giving any outside chance to win, and this is almost entirely because of what we saw last week at Nationals Park. Jones is certainly known for his power, but what we saw was far more impressive than anything we’ve seen in game for him. During his few rounds of batting practice during the series in Washington against the Nats, Jones was routinely parking balls way, WAY beyond the left-center field fence. He’s not gonna win, but he could totally win. He’s got more pop than you think.

4. Jose Bautista (1% chance to win)

  • We have a complicated history with Mr. Bats. A while back, Jose Bautista followed us on Twitter. This was certainly not any sort of achievement; Jose Bautista follows everyone on Twitter. What happened several weeks later was significantly more impressive: Jose Bautista unfollowed us. What could the BBQ have POSSIBLY done to get Joey Bats to click the unfollow button? How did he even notice us in his presumably insane news feed full of random weirdos? There are many questions left unanswered. What we do know is that Joey Bats can still hit some moon shots. He’s hit some crazy home runs in-game against the woeful Twins in Target Field, like this second-deck shot from 2011. He’s certainly weird on the Internet, but he can still mash with the best of them. I expect an impressive performance from Sir Bats.

3. Yasiel Puig (3% chance to win)

  • Do we love Puig? Of course we love Puig. He’s a ridiculous baseball player with an even more ridiculous personality. There’s no one quite like him, and he’s got the kind of raw power to win this competition. His subtle rivalry with Yoenis is one that has been bubbling ever since he started tearing up the National League early last year, and tonight’s Derby might elevate the competitive Cubans to another level of competitive Cuban-ness. Puig is a wildcard though, and while we can be sure he’ll hit some obscene bombs to deep left field tonight, there’s an equally good chance that he pops some balls up in the infield. He’ll certainly have fun with it, but I’m not convinced he has the focus to win the entire thing.

2. Giancarlo Stanton (5% chance to win)

  • There are a lot of very smart people that believe that this competition is already over; Giancarlo has more power than any other non-Wily Mo Pena hitter in the world, and he should steamroll the competition in his first ever Derby. I absolutely love watching Giancarlo hit baseballs hilariously far distances with ease. He’s amazing. He’s younger than George Springer! He has a legitimate chance to dethrone our hero from Granma. I have no inside info regarding how badly Giancarlo wants to win this competition, but I can guarantee you the Derby crown doesn’t mean as much to him as it does to La Potencia.

1. Yoenis Cespedes (90% chance to win) (click here for our official Derby preview video)

  • Here’s the thing everyone needs to understand about Yoenis Céspedes Milanés: he lives for the long ball. He may not pimp them like Big Papi, flip them like Puig, or crush them like Giancarlo. Those aesthetics are unquestionably great. But they simply can’t match Cespedes on a spiritual level. ‘Tonight, every ball that travels from Yo’s barrel to the outfield seats will mean so much more than any other home run. As each ball flies into the great beyond of Target Field,  take a moment to appreciate the simplest thing we have in life: the dinger. A man, his bat, his eyebrows, and Chris Berman screaming “BACKBACKBACKBACKBACKBACK”. Tonight, we believe. 

 

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Backyard Baseball Pitcher Rankings and .gifs

Last month, I wrote a whole lot of words ranking the 30 original Backyard Baseball kids as major league free agents. You can read that gargantuan post by clicking here. However, these rankings ignored the kids’ pitching ratings. So here we are! These rankings are based on the usual HOW MANY BASEBALLS rating system. Players whose ratings were tied were ranked according to my experience pitching with or batting against them.

(a huge thanks to Bailey Bowers, who made these .gifs, along with the original .gifs of all the Backyard kids’ swings, which you can see by clicking here)

1. Angela Delvecchio – 10/10 baseballs
angela
Repertoire: Heat, Slowball, Left Hook, Right Hook, Intentional Walk

Notes: She’s the best, and it’s not close. Her long hair helps to hide the ball when she brings it behind her head before whipping it towards the plate at blinding speeds and with insane movement. Batters have no chance. She’s probably the only NUMBER ONE STARTER among the Backyard kids, and justifiably so. Along with the immense talent, Delvecchio brings the Italian spunk that you just can’t find in Anthony Rizzo or Alex Liddi.

2.  Luanne Lui – 9/10 baseballs
luanne_lui
Repertoire: Heat, Slowball, Left Hook, Right Hook, Intentional Walk

Notes: Luanne has easily the most deceptive delivery among all Backyard pitchers. Her ability to juggle her beloved teddy bear and throw strikes is unparalleled in the baseball universe. Her pink teddy definitely hinders her ability to field, but she’s striking out so many batters that it doesn’t usually matter. Unless she’s got Dmitri backing her up at second base, like in this .gif, in which case, she might be running some crazy high BABIPs. Stuff wise, she’s one of the premier arms. The ball just explodes out of her hand and she knows when to use her secondary stuff. Luanne fails to really ever leave the mound, as her right foot finishes tilted on its side on top of the mound, but hopefully she can learn to use her whole body and drive towards the plate in the future.

3. Amir Khan – 9/10 baseballs
amir_khan
Repertoire: Heat, Slowball, Left Hook, Right Hook, Intentional Walk

Notes: Widely regarded as one of the most dominant closers in the game, Amir brings power and confidence to the mound to back up his impressive array of pitches. The fastball can sit anywhere between 97-100 with sink and run and cut and tilt and shape and other words for pitch movement. With such a ridiculous heater, Amir barely throws any off-speed stuff because he is so confident that he can blow hitters away with ease. While this has worked for him so far against elementary schoolers, it will be interesting to see how he adjusts when facing major league hitters who can square up velocity. For now, Amir will just keep throwing gas. Mechanics wise, Amir is pretty clean but doesn’t appear to have the biggest stride towards the plate. Sure, you can blame it on his tiny legs because is a small child, but you also might question his lack of desire to maximize his potential. Definite question marks.

4. Kenny Kawaguchi – 7/10 baseballs
kenny_kawaguchi
Repertoire: Heat, Slowball, Left Hook, Right Hook, Intentional Walk

Notes: Far and away the most controversial Backyard pitcher/player in the game, Kenny combines paraplegia with an obnoxious sense of self-importance whenever he takes the field. Don’t even get me started on all the balks this kid is probably getting away with, but more importantly, does he have to spin? It appears that he is throwing the ball so hard using only his upper body that it propels him and his superchair to do a complete 360 before the ball even reaches home plate. It’s safe to say that no one has ever seen this delivery before. Kenny has a distinct advantage on the mound in that every batter facing him for the first time allows him to strike them out because they feel bad for him. This has skyrocketed his K/9 rates in his brief career thus far, and is probably not the best indicator for performance going forward. Don’t get me wrong; Kenny is a great pitcher, with one of the better slowballs in the game and a devastating right hook at times. But don’t underestimate the risk with this pitcher.

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All The Fantastic “Angels In the Outfield” .gifs

My favorite movie ever is Angels in the Outfield. It reminds me of when I was 6 years old and my biggest concern was whether or not Delino DeShields got a hit that day. I recently re-watched and .gifed all the best parts. There are two categories: Triscuitt Messmer and not Triscuitt Messmer.

NOT TRISCUITT MESSMER

George Knox is done with your shenanigans. He’s also done with the post-game spread. Also, what are those red plastics cups doing in the clubhouse? Maybe the Angels sucked in the beginning of the movie because they were too busy partying like teenagers. 

This how we all feel when we watch Jose Fernandez. Angels goofball pitcher Whit Bass must have seen into the future or something. Also of note: another player on the Angels with a fish name. First Whit Bass, then Tim Salmon, and now Chris Iannetta. 

Triscuitt Messmer

Okay so basically the Angels catcher Triscuitt Messmer is the best thing ever. It’s a Japhet Amador body but behind the dish. He has the social skills of Zack Greinke with Asperger’s and the accent of a bleacher creature. The base running is easily base-clogger status, but his #want is off the charts. Let’s take a closer look at Triscuitt… (also, his name is Triscuitt) 

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#RIG Rankings, Number 5: Aroldis Chapman

 #RIG #RIG #RIG #RIG

#rig is more than just a metric or a scouting term or a joke. It’s way of life. It’s everything and nothing at the same time. Our dad Jason Parks described #rig as “#swagger only more penis specific.” We want to take his perfect idea and perfect it, which doesn’t make sense at all.

Coming in at number 5 on our rig rankings is Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman. With a schlong like kong, he patrols the pitcher’s hump like a man on a mission, but not a Morman mission, a more-man mission.

Photo Evidence:

  • Take a closer look at the pictures below and you can see how baseball pants don’t do their job as much as they assist the #rig to explode and explore. Good thing the Cuban national team wore tight red pants. Chapman loses points for how hard I had to look to get these shots. If I google your name, pictures of your wang shebang should be right there waiting for me.
  • #RIGrade: 60

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 5.28.39 PM Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 5.23.16 PM

Confidence:

  •  Aroldis did this:

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.gifs From Last Night: Walk Off Walk Off Flame

White Sox vs. Indians

In which Ramon Troncoso realizes he plays for the Chicago White Sox as the fans behind him cheer with glee. I’ll be honest, I had no idea who Ramon Troncoso was before I looked up number 40 on the White Sox, but he certainly sounds like a reliever and this just looks like a reliever who is quite relieved to not be relieving any longer. What a relief. (boooooooooooooooooooo)

Here we see 93 year old Jason Giambi throwing up his helmet and catching it. Clearly he decided that scoring was not the priority here and he just wanted to show everyone on his team that he still has really good hands. (Sidenote: he doesn’t). It’s unclear why the Indians were given the victory seeing as Giambi never scored but I suppose the umpires were so impressed with Jason’s coordination that they decided the deserved the W anyway.

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