Why Mad Bum Should and Should Not hit in the HR Derby

San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner created a stir Sunday by once again saying that he wants to participate a Major League Baseball Home Run Derby.

The 26-year-old pitcher does a majority of his damage from the mound, but this year he has been raising eyebrows and getting peoples’ attention with what he has been able to do at the plate as well.

Bumgarner has hit a pair home runs this year. One of those home runs came off of southern California pitching ace counter part Clayton Kershaw, which was actually the first home run Kershaw surrendered in 2016.

And, for whatever it’s worth, he is the two-time reigning Silver Slugger Award winner for pitchers.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy told his ace he won’t let him participate in this year’s Home Run Derby. But he didn’t say anything about 2017, right?

If there was ever a time for a pitcher to enter the MLB’s home run hitting contest, though, it may be now, with strikeout rates up, overall batting average down and the designated hitter debate once again at the forefront of league discussions.

Or is it?

Below are five reasons why he should, and five reasons why he should not, compete in a Home Run Derby.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 3.20.12 AM.png
If Bumgarner can hit one off Kershaw, he can hit one off some guy in a BP jacket, right?

Five Reasons He Should:

       1. Entertainment factor

The new format last year was a nice twist, but a pitcher in this year’s derby may take the cake.

Rule changes to the Derby last season brought great excitement, and an overall positive consensus of the changes would suggest that the rules will stay the same for this year’s contest as well. Those rules are shown below:

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 2.09.04 AM.png

If some change is good, more is better right?

No pitcher has ever participated in the Home Run Derby. Bumgarner is the active leader in career home runs amongst pitchers with 13, and is coming off consecutive seasons of four or more home runs.

The Derby is a very relaxed event, with both young players and veterans getting together in a backyard-like atmosphere.

So watching Mad Bum battle some of the best pure power hitters in the game would be great, and remind us all this is truly a game for big kids.

       2. Keep the debate alive

IF he does well, the debate has to continue as to which is right: DH or pitchers hitting.

All Bumgarner really has to do is not pull a Robinson Cano and hit zero long balls, and he adds another layer to the discussion. Multiple home runs for the Giants ace also is multiple points in the favor of those who believe pitchers should hit and the DH is a waste.

And could you imagine if he made it past the first round?

What if he blasts five or six into the seats at Petco Park, and his bracketmate hits less than him?

He could almost retire at that point. Actually, maybe he should wait until the end of the season to do that. It is an even year after all, his team will probably need both his arm and his bat in the World Series.

But you get the point.

The better Bumgarner does, the longer the debate goes on.

       3. Isn’t this reason enough?

If reasons number one and two weren’t convincing enough, maybe this will make you a believer:

In case you couldn’t tell, that’s Bumgarner blasting baseballs into parts of St. Louis’ Busch Stadium that not even the most feared hitters in the league can reach.

One long ball went over the Mark McGwire/McDonalds “Big Mac” sign in left field, the next into the upper deck!

That’s insane.

I guess chopping down all those trees in the forest during the winter is really paying off for him.

       4. Idea for future All-Star Weekends

So what if he does well?

What if Bumgarner not only knocks a few out of the park and puts on a good shot, but what if he advances to the second round too?

Better yet, what if somehow Bumgarner advances to the championship round?

Maybe that’s wishful thinking. But if he does well, exceeds expectations, consider this: a pitcher’s-only Home Run Derby.

Including play on Monday, exactly eight pitchers have hit a home run this season. Some are familiar names like Bumgarner (2) and Adam Wainwright (1), but most are not your prototypical sluggers.

That’s when they’re facing 90+ mph pitches, though.

If they were swinging against pitches going around 60 mph, they would stand a much better shot at hitting a few out.

Get everyone geared up for the actual Home Run Derby with a pitchers home run hitting contest.

       5. It’s not like it could hurt right?

No matter what your stance is on the DH/no DH debate, let’s be honest, we don’t expect pitchers to be great hitters. Fans don’t attend and watch baseball games to see the pitcher go 3-for-4 at the plate with a double and a couple of RBI.

Pitchers simply aren’t great hitters at the major league level.

So if Bumgarner does bad, there’s the excuse.

He’s a pitcher.

We’ve seen professional, prolific hitters struggle in the contest. The aforementioned Cano’s struggles in 2012; Yasiel Puig did the same two years later.

In all, there has been a total of 20 times that a player has hit zero home runs in a round. That list of 20 includes some of the best power hitters of all time.

Ken Griffey Jr. (1990). Mike Piazza (’93, ’94). Gary Sheffield (’96). Jim Thome (’97).

So if Bumgarner walks up to the plate and lays an egg instead of dropping bombs, it really does no harm.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 3.22.18 AM.png
That’s what the follow through on a home run swing looks like. Mad Bum 1, Kershaw 0.  Photo by Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

 

 

Five Reasons he shouldn’t

       1. Yes it can hurt

Bumgarner competing in the Home Run Derby can definitely hurt.

If he goes up there and lays an egg, two things happen: 1) Whoever he’s up against in the first round gets a free pass. And 2) It would ruin the credibility of the whole thing.

With the bracketed, head-to-head format that was adopted last year, whoever he is up against in the opening round is likely to get a free pass to the second round, especially if Mad Bum hits first in the pairing.

That was one of the few flaws with the 2015 Derby. Only one of the seven pairing ended with the first person to go in the pairing advancing to the next round.

And, yes, the Derby is a fun, relaxed event. However, at the end of the day, it’s still a competition that the players who are competing want to win.

The Derby, though spectacular last year, has lost some of it’s shine and pristine over the years.

Michael Wilbon said Monday on PTI on ESPN that the Home Run Derby is “a joke”, and compared it to the NBA Dunk Contest.

Don’t let it get that bad Major League Baseball.

       2. He could be like every other hitter

We’ve seen enough pro hitters fall into slumps after competing in the HR derby. It happens every year.

These guys change their swing just enough for the competition and then it sticks with them for the beginning of the second half of the season. Home run numbers go down, strikeouts and pop up outs go up.

Mad Bum could very well do the same thing.

Especially as a guy who doesn’t hit every day, it would likely be harder for him to fix any kinks in his swing than it would be for most everyday hitters.

Any dramatic struggles at the plate could also possibly hinder the Giants chances at winning the crown. Maybe that’s the real reason Bochy doesn’t want him to participate.

       3. Leave it to the true hitters

There’s no doubt Bumgarner can hit the baseball.

But let’s just leave it to the guys who hit all the time.

Hitting a home run any day of the year is a reward for hitters, so let’s reward the best hitters for all the hard work they do by rewarding us with the best show possible.

There is a much higher chance that Bumgarner struggles, possibly even over swings and pulls a muscle, than there is for an everyday hitter, whose body is trained to take hacks like the ones needed in the Home Run Derby.

Plus, there are so many good hitters in this league.

Through action on Monday, 55 hitters have hit at least 10 home runs this season. Mark Trumbo leads all of baseball with 19, followed closely by Nolan Arenado and last year’s Derby champ Todd Frazier.

Don’t take away a spot from one of the very deserving power hitters for a pitcher.

That would be absurd.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 3.22.44 AM
Let’s not forget that Bumgarner is one of the best in the game and a post season hero pitching on the mound and not hitting at the plate. At the end of the day, he’s a pitcher first and foremost.   Photo by Jason O. Watson / Getty Images

       4. If he struggles, the debate should end

If Bumgarner, or any other pitcher for that matter, would ever get the opportunity to participate in the Home Run Derby there would be added wait on his shoulders.

A pitcher’s not like the hitters who hit every day, part of the reason behind the designated hitter in the American League.

So unlike how so often in sports there is no way to settle a debate – which team is better, would a player from one era beat/out perform a player from another era – the Derby would serve as the battle ground to go a long way in settling this debate.

If Bumgarner hits one or two home runs he meets expectations; three or more he exceeds them. If he advances past the first round he may shift some people’s stances on the subject.

But if he hits none, doesn’t hit a single ball into the stands during his four minutes at the plate, then the debate needs to end.

The Derby, as great as it is, at the end of the day is basically glorified batting practice. If Bumgarner can’t hit any out when the pitcher is trying to let him tee off, then that needs to be the end of it.

No more pitchers hitting. Period.

       5. Don’t let IT happen

The Cleveland Cavaliers probably have a better chance at coming back from being down 2-0 to win the NBA Finals than Bumgarner does at winning the Home Run Derby.

What if it happened, though?

What if he won?

It would open up a bigger can of worms than the Steroid Era and Black Sox scandal combined… Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

It’s a bad idea to leave the possibility open.

If Bumgarner out hits seven power-hitting sluggers it looks awful for Major League Baseball. It’d be a nice story line, and maybe all press is good press, but it would be very bad for the league.

A pitcher defeating some of the best hitters in the game?

Get ready for the mayhem.

 

The 2016 All-Star break festivities get underway Friday July 8 in San Diego. The Home Run Derby is Monday July 11 from the Padres Petco Park.

 

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