The other contestants are Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Joe Mauer, Brandon Inge, Carlos Pena, and Nelson Cruz. There will be competition and a large power display with these participants (mainly from the NL competitors), but I think Howard will win.
In front of his home crowd, Pujols is the favorite. All pressure is on him. But Howard will be in his home town, St. Louis. He has had success at Busch Stadium, and could bring that success into the derby.
In 2006, Howard hit eight in the first round, ten in the semi-finals, and five in the finals, totaling 23 home runs. Howard had an advantage by batting last, so he knew how many homers he needed.
Howard returned to the 2007 derby trying to protect his crown, but he hit only three home runs. However, the 2007 Home Run Debry was one of the worst in recent memory. AT&T Park, a pitcher’s park, was not made for a home run competition.
At Busch Stadium, the dimensions are 336 in left, 390 in left center and right center, 400 in center, and 335 to right. It is a fair park, however Howard has 7 home runs in 63 at-bats at Busch. His best shot at winning is pulling it to right, and occasionally to straight-away centerfield. He may get into trouble if he starts hitting to the opposite field or right-center like he did in 2007.
Here are my predictions for Howard for each round:
Round One: 13 HR (On a side note, I’m predicting Mauer, Pujols, Fielder, and Howard to advance to semis)
Semi-Finals: 8 HR
Finals: 7 HR, Howard edges Pujols for win.
Remember, the first two rounds are added together, but the two finalist start fresh in the Finals.
I expect it to be much like 2006, with the only difference being that Ramon Henderson will not be pitching to Howard. Howard will be bringing his former high school coach, Deron Spink.
If you’re worried about Howard falling into a slump after the derby, think again. Howard batted .355 with 30 HR and had a 1.206 OPS after the 2006 HR Derby. In 2007 he batted .280 with 26 HR and had a 1.016 OPS after the HR Derby.
Howard isn’t going to break Josh Hamilton’s record for most home runs in a round (28) or Abreu’s record (41 total), however I expect him to a put on a show.