What Is The MLB Home Run Derby?

the mlb home run derby

The Home Run Derby is a fixture of the MLB’s All-Star Weekend, featuring baseball’s best sluggers showcasing their skills by trying to hit as many home runs as possible in an allotted amount of time. But how did this event come to be? Read on to learn about Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby.


History

The Home Run Derby was first held in 1960 as a TV show featuring Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays. The original contest featured nine innings, with each batter allotted three outs per inning. An out was constituted as any swing of the bat that did not result in a home run.

The original Home Run Derby was a small production to showcase the best hitters in baseball. Over time, the event has adapted and seen multiple rule changes. However, the overall idea has remained the same: batters face off in a home run hitting showdown. In the Modern Era, the Home Run Derby is played the day before the MLB All-Star game. It is a part of All-Star Weekend and is held in the same stadium as the annual All-Star Game. 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. holds the record for the most home runs in a single round of the Home Run Derby, with 40. Joc Pederson is just behind him, with 39 home runs in his best round. Both of these sluggers set their records in the semifinals of the 2019 Home Run Derby. Guerrero Jr. also holds the record for the most home runs in a single Home Run Derby, which he also achieved in 2019, when he managed to hit 91 home runs over the whole event.

Currently, Pete Alonso has the most all-time Home Run Derby home runs, with 174. This feat is especially impressive considering that Alonso has only competed in three Home Run Derbies, in 2019, 2021, and 2022.

No one team has dominated the Home Run Derby historically. However, the Yankees lead in Home Run Derby wins with four. 19 different MLB teams have won the Home Run Derby since its founding. 

Scoring and Format

home run derby scoring and format

The Home Run Derby pits eight of the league’s top sluggers against one another in head-to-head matchups. The derby is constructed in a bracket-style tournament, with the eight players who participate facing off against each other in four first-round matches, known as the Quarterfinal Round. After these four matches, the two winning players on each side of the bracket face off in a second round, called the Semifinal Round. The two winners of these rounds then face off in a Final Round to determine the overall winner. As in many other bracket-based tournaments, the eight players are typically seeded based on how many home runs they have during the MLB season thus far, with the player who has the most home runs matched up against the person with the fewest home runs, and so forth. 

Rounds

There are three rounds in the Home Run Derby. Half of the contestants are eliminated in each round as they compete in head-to-head matchups. Batters pick who will throw their pitches, and the pitches are thrown with the intention of giving the batter a good chance to hit home runs. This means that, in order to make hitting home runs easier, pitchers will often pitch slowly, rather than trying to make the batter strain to get the bat on the ball. The overall speed of pitches is similar to batting practice.

The format of each round is as follows: players receive a set period of time in each round to hit as many home runs as possible. In the first and second rounds, for example, each player has three minutes to hit as many home runs as they can, while in the third and final round, each player has two minutes. 

In each round of the Home Run Derby, players step up to the plate and begin to swing at pitches as soon as their time begins, with the higher-seeded player in each round hitting second. The first player hits as many home runs as they can in the set timeframe, after which the second player steps up and tries to beat that score in the same amount of time. Because of this format, it is not uncommon for the final scores of a round to be separated by only one point, because if the player who goes second beats his opponent’s score by one run, he automatically wins the round. 

If two competitors are tied in any given round, a tiebreaker will be held. Tiebreakers feature the same competitive format, with each player getting 60 seconds and no bonus time. If the two players are still tied after the 60 second tiebreaker, there will be a three swing swing-off. Each player can take as many pitches as they please, but only gets three swings to hit as many home runs as possible. This format will repeat itself until a winner has been decided.

Timeouts and Bonuses

As part of the timed rounds of the derby, each player in the event has access to a 45-second timeout per round, which they can make use of at any point during regulation. There is also a system of bonus time in place at the derby: all batters automatically receive 30 seconds of bonus time at the end of each round, which can be increased to 60 seconds if they hit a home run that travels longer than a certain distance. This distance varies by ballpark: for instance, at the 2022 Home Run Derby in Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, players received their 60-second bonus for hitting a home run of 440 feet or more. 

Purpose

The Home Run Derby is a part of the All-Star Weekend: a fun, competitive weekend of contests between the league’s best. The Home Run Derby is a chance for fans to see the power-hitting stars of the game compete to hit the most and farthest home runs possible against batting practice style pitching, a unique experience not found elsewhere in Major League Baseball. The Home Run Derby also gives baseball’s power hitters a platform to showcase their skills. Some players, such as Pete Alonso, have gained major notoriety for their success in the Home Run Derby.

FAQ

What do you get for winning the Home Run Derby?

Players who win the Home Run Derby are awarded a derby chain, a trophy featuring two stainless steel bats interlocking, and a cash prize. For example, Juan Soto was awarded $1 million for winning the 2022 Home Run Derby, along with the aforementioned chain. The chain reads “Derby Champ,” and features a plethora of diamonds across its face. There was a total of $2.5 million in prize pool money for the 2022 derby, so players like runner-up Julio Rodriguez also benefited financially from their participation.

How many players are in the Home Run Derby?

In its current format, the MLB Home Run Derby features a total of eight players. These players are seeded 1-8 and compete in a head-to-head, single-elimination tournament to decide the winner.

How are players selected for the Home Run Derby?

Players are selected on an invite basis from Major League Baseball, typically based on the player’s total home runs so far in the season or their overall reputation as a power hitter. A player’s home run total on the season is also looked at with scrutiny, factoring in difficulty of schedule and the frequency in which they’ve played in hitter-friendly ballparks. The reigning champion is automatically offered a spot as well, assuming they are not injured or suspended. Players can decline these invitations if they so choose, so the Home Run Derby is not guaranteed to feature the game’s best power hitters at all times.