Wednesday afternoon, MLB announced this year’s competitors for the 2015 MLB Home-Run Derby; amongst them, Blue Jay Josh Donaldson.
After winning the voting for the starting position at third base, Donaldson earned himself the right to compete against Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the first round of the revised derby format that’s uniquely characterized by head-to-head timed rounds with bonus seconds awarded for long-distance home runs.
This will be Donaldson’s second year in-a-row competing in the derby, falling well short last year as he was eliminated in the first round.
Pitching to Donaldson will be his private hitting instructor Bobby Tewksbary who’s been by Donaldson’s side since his breakout in 2012.
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Donaldson, since his breakout, has the 11th most home runs major league wide and is currently 8th this season with 21 homers and counting. His average home run distance this season is 408 feet, not good enough to reach the bonus time alone. However, Donaldson has hit homers exceeding 420 feet– the minimum bonus threshold if accompanied by a second– nine times this season although he has never reached the 30 second bonus awarded to a 475 foot home run in this year’s derby.
His closest to that mark was on April 23rd againstChris Tillman
and boy did it travel. In total, it flew 469 feet, so yeah, a 30 second bonus isn’t completely outside of his potential.
A bigger issue with Donaldson in the derby is the possibility of it tampering with his swing and thus affecting his MVP-calibre season he’s had thus far. Although there is no direct correlation between derby appearances and second half performance, it’s hard to argue with players likeJose Bautista
‘s second half in 2014 where he saw his batting average declined by 14 points and on-base percentage by 13 points.
Giancarlo Stanton‘s 2014 back-half wasn’t much better, hitting 11 less home runs than the first half. I know you’re thinking, yes but he missed significant time with a facial injury but in reality, he had just two less plate appearances in the second half than the first.
But of course, correlation doesn’t equal causation. There are a plethora of other factors that could lead to a second-half fall off including fatigue and team competition. That said, you can’t ignore what’s happened to a couple of baseball’s best in the most integral part of the season.
Either way, I suppose it’s a building block for Jays fans that they will see one of their own in the mid-summer classic’s fireworks show. Whether or not it complicates his second half remains to be seen; for now, sit back and look at just how dominant he’s been thus far.
I know I will.