By Edward Egros
FOX Sports MLB Betting Analyst
The class is back in session!
Other schools have a Spring Break, we have an All-Star Break. But our mission – before going on a road trip or to the beach – is to bet on the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game. I dug through the data and did the research for you, so let’s get to my best bets for the festivities. And as always, all odds courtesy of FOX Bet.
BEST ALL-STAR GAME BET
While the American League has dominated this show for the past quarter century, it’s the National League that is a slight favorite on the moneyline (-118). Due to potential late roster changes and management decisions regarding when to play against whom, it is difficult to get stats on who will do what and when.
A workaround is to simply look at the Statcast numbers broken down by league. First, here are some key metrics for AL and NL pitchers this season:
xFIP K% BB%
AL 4.02 22.2 7.9
NL 3.97 22.5 8.2
The NL has a slight advantage in strikeout rate, which translates to a lower xFIP, which probably more than makes up for the walk of a few more batters. However, if you look at the top of the full list of MLB pitchers sorted by K%, there is an equal mix of NL and AL pitchers.
As for the hitters:
xwOBA Avg EV
AL 0.331 88.5
NL 0.326 88
Here, the AL has an advantage thanks, in part, to a slightly higher average output speed. But this time, if you sort all of MLB by xwOBA, you see a few other American leaguers, including Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton.
Historically, what happens in exhibition is a relief pitcher who walks into a jam with an onslaught of non-stop batters. Again, it’s almost impossible to predict who that pitcher might be. However, it’s also more likely that enough of the AL’s hitters will string together more than enough hits to continue dominating the Midsummer Classic.
That means if you’re looking for a better bet, take the American League to win the All-Star Game. And if the NL takes an early lead, a live bet on the AL is another great approach.
ALL-STAR PLAY CHOICE: American League (+100 moneyline at FOX Bet, bet $10 to wI$20 total) to win the All-Star Game
Home run derby
Before diving into the numbers, it is important to understand the format.
The eight players will face off in a knockout tournament where each player has three minutes in the first two rounds – and two minutes in the final round – to hit as many homers as possible. Each player is ranked according to the number of home runs they have completed so far (more on that shortly).
While many will claim Dodger Stadium is more of a pitching park, Statcast tells a different story. His approach looks at a three-year rolling average of observed home runs and how well those pitchers and batters performed elsewhere. The verdict is that Dodger Stadium is actually average among MLB’s 30 baseball stadiums, which means the extra horsepower isn’t necessarily a greater requirement than it normally is.
The problem with parsing homeruns is that they’re not too predictive, which means that just because a hitter has a lot of dingers doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll keep throwing out-of-the-park deals. .
A statistic that is more predictive of future power is called barrel rate. When a hitter makes contact, if the exit speed is fast enough and the launch angle is in the correct range, they become a barrel, which means at least 50% of the time they go for a hit basic. Barrel rate is simply the percentage of times a ball hit qualifies as a barrel. I like to look at this stat to narrow down my choices.
Now, on to the numbers! For this exercise, I looked at each participant’s barrel rate this season and simulated the entire Home Run Derby 20,000 times! Here are the percentages of times each player has won the mock derby:
Kyle Schwarber: 27.72%
Pete Alonso: 11.68%
Corey Seager: 9.64%
Juan Soto: 15.19%
Jose Ramirez: 2.94%
Julio Rodriguez: 15.4%
Ronald Acuña Jr.: 13.28%
Albert Pujols: 4.17%
Given those numbers, here are two sluggers with real value I would bet on:
Kyle Schwarber (+300 on FOX Bet)
Not only does the Phillies outfielder have the highest barrel rate in the derby, he has the third-highest in MLB (21.7%). Hitting for average has been a problem this season with a BABIP of .223, but if he maintains his isolated power mark of .294, it would be the best for any season in his career.
Schwarber also ranks in the top 15 for average exit speed and hard hit rate (proportion of hits with an exit speed of at least 95 mph). With this regularity, it is difficult to imagine him getting tired during the tournament.
Julio Rodriguez (+850 on FOX Bet)
In 35 derbies, only twice has a rookie won it. Why could the Seattle prodigy be the third? Youthful energy aside, his potency should come as no surprise.
FanGraphs released an outlook report ranking its raw power as a 60/70 (pretty good). Rodríguez also has the highest barrel rate on his side of the group, meaning he wouldn’t have to face the toughest challenge in Schwarber before the final.
Two-time defending champion Pete Alonso is on his side, but experience may not matter in this tournament, as some might argue.
PICK: Kyle Schwarber (+300 at FOX Bet, bet $10 to win $40 in total) to win the Home Run Derby
LONG-SHOT PICK: Julio Rodríguez (+850 at FOX Bet, bet $10 to win $95 in total) to win the Home Run Derby
Edward Egros is a sports analytics broadcaster/writer, sports betting analyst, data scientist, and adjunct professor of statistics at Pepperdine University. These passions led him to become a cold brew enthusiast. Edward previously worked in local television, including at Fox’s Dallas affiliate covering the Rangers, Cowboys and high school football. Follow him on Jwitter @EdWithSports.
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