The Home Run Derby is going to have a very different look this year, and that's thanks to some significant changes to the format.
The rules in place last year allowed for eight participants and 10 "outs" for each in the first found. The four highest totals advanced, got 10 more outs, and then the top two met in the finals, again with 10 outs.
However, the 2014 Derby, writes MLB.com's Mark Newman, is moving away from that structure in a big way. Here's how things will work on July 14 at Target Field ...
- 10 participants, five from each league (to be chosen by captains Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista). Each hitter gets seven outs in the first round, and the top three totals from each league advance.
- In the second round, we go to a bracket format. The No. 2 and No. 3 totals in each league from the first round face off, again with seven outs. The hitter with the highest first-round total in each league gets a bye through to the third round.
- In the third round, the winner of No. 2-No. 3 matchup faces the No. 1, seven outs each. That's the case for each league.
- In the finals, the winner of the AL bracket meets the winner of the NL bracket, again with seven outs for each.
I immediately see two advantages. One, a hitter who absolutely unloads in the first round is rewarded with a bye and some time to recover. Think back on Josh Hamilton and Mark McGwire, who, despite jaw-dropping first-round totals, seemed to hit a wall and cede the title in later rounds. As well, the seven outs per round rather than 10 should make the whole thing move a bit more quickly. Let's face it: Pacing has been a serious problem with the Derby in recent years.
All in all, these sound like common-sense changes that should breathe some life into the event.