July 17, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Bryce Harper wins 2018 Home Run Derby

In the midst of a season of disappointment and frustration, last night's Home Run Derby was a much-needed moment of rejoicing in Our Nation's Capital. Hometown favorite Bryce Harper prevailed over Freddie Freeman in Round I, and then over Max Muncy in Round II, in both cases relatively stress-free. Harper had 26 seconds remaining when he hit his deciding 13th home run in Round I, and 1:11 left when he did likewise in Round II. In contrast, the final Round III against Kyle Schwarber was a showdown of titanic proportions, and things didn't look good after the halfway mark, as Harper got off to a slow start. The guy pitching to him (his father, I think) kept throwing bad pitches, throwing Harper off balance. He had easily qualified for the 30 bonus seconds by hitting two homers over 440 feet, and it seemed that he was going to need that time just to have a chance to tie Schwarber, who had hit 18 home runs. But after his second rest break, Harper finally got into the groove, and hit nine homers within the space of 50 seconds! He managed to tie Schwarber 18-18 after his regular four minutes were up, and all he needed to do was hit one homer in the bonus time. In fact, he had about 15 seconds left when he hit his 19th and final home run in Round III, achieving the triumph that Washington fans had craved for so long.

Ordinarily, I'd say that this event was a mere side-show spectacle, but under the rather somber circumstances (the likelihood of no postseason games in D.C. this year) I feel obliged to make a big deal out of it. So, for the sake of posterity, here is an unofficial "scoreboard," based on the pencil notes I was keeping during the actual event last night:

Round I Round II Round III
Jesus Aguilar
Rhys Hoskins
17 20
Alex Bregman
Kyle Schwarber
16 21 18
Bryce Harper
13 13 19
Freddie Freeman
Max Muncy
17 12
Javier Baez
. (Denotes

Surprisingly, the only previous time that Harper was in the Home Run Derby was 2013, when Yoenis Cespedes (then with the Oakland A's) beat him in the final round. In the final round of last year's Home Run Derby, Aaron Judge defeated Miguel Sano.

Bryce Harper HR Aug. 2015

Bryce Harper hits his 31st home run of 2015, then leading the National League;
see my Aug. 25, 2015 blog post.

All Star Game 2018: preview

As usual, this year's All Star Game is full of names that I am only vaguely if at all familiar with, so I look forward to getting better acquainted with the rest of the MLB top stars. Just like last year, Max Scherzer is the starting pitcher for the National League. Play ball!

The American League has won the last five All Star Games, though last year it went into extra innings. Intriguingly, the American League has scored exactly twice as many runs as the National League in the last three years, and each year the run totals declined by two and one runs, respectively. By definition, that trend cannot possibly continue.

2018 All-Star Game Starting Rosters
Position National League American League
C Wilson Contreras
Wilson Ramos
1B Freddie Freeman
Jose Abreu
2B Javier Baez
Jose Altuve
3B Nolan Arenado
Jose Ramirez
SS Brandon Crawford
Manny Machado
OF Bryce Harper
Mike Trout
OF Matt Kemp
Aaron Judge
OF Nick Markakis
Mookie Betts
DH Paul Goldschmidt
J.D. Martinez
P Max Scherzer
Chris Sale

Nationals players are in bold face; Nats closing pitcher Sean Doolittle was also selected, but he is on the disabled list.
SOURCE: Washington Post

By comparison, four (4) Nationals were in the starting lineup last year, including the two above plus Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy. Both of them spent most of the first half of this year on the disabled list, essentially disqualifying them. It's worth noting that a prominent former Nat [was supposed to be] an All Star on the American League starting lineup this year: Wilson Ramos. [However, he is on the DL and will be replaced by Salvador Perez of the Royals.] (Another former Nat, relief pitcher Blake Treinen, is a reserver All Star representing the Oakland A's.) Interestingly, both catchers' first names this year [were going to be "Wilson": Wilson Contreras and Wilson Ramos.]

Would this be a good time to point out that the Nationals are in dire need of a catcher who can hit the ball on a regular basis? Is there even a slight chance that the solid but stuck-in-third-place Tampa Bay Rays could trade him to the Nationals by the August 1 trade deadline?

Adios soon to Machado

And speaking of premature trade talk, it is all but given that the Orioles will trade away Manny Machado in the very near future. It's a sad sign of how bleak the situation is in Baltimore this year, but at least there is nowhere for them to go but up. Just ask the former cellar dweller Houston Astros!

Nationals Park

Nationals Park tweak

I thought I had posted this already, but more than a year after the fact I have tweaked the Nationals Park main diagram to include the new "MGM National Harbor Dugout Club" row of seats along the first base line. (See the photo of it in my October 11 blog post from last year.) This had the effect of reducing foul territory by about 300 square feet, from an estimated 23,100 to 22,800 square feet. As far as I can determine, it is the only significant modification to Nationals Park since it opened just over ten years ago. In the near future I will update all the Nationals Park diagram variants to be consistent.