I’m not much for pitcher wins, as they involve so many factors beyond how well someone pitched, but with Justin Verlander getting all kinds of attention for reaching 20 victories it’s at least worth noting that the NL wins leader is now Ian Kennedy.
Kennedy picked up his 17th victory with seven innings of one-run ball against the Padres yesterday, lowering his ERA to 3.03 and improving his K/BB ratio to 161/49 in 187 innings.
Kennedy, who was acquired from the Yankees in the massive three-team deal that also saw Curtis Granderson go to New York in December of 2009, has won eight of his last nine starts while the Diamondbacks take control of the NL West.
And while his win total is on the fortunate side his overall performance is no fluke, as Kennedy is a former first-round pick and top-ranked prospect whose career was derailed by injuries. He was plenty good last season with a 3.80 ERA and 168/70 K/BB ratio in 194 innings for Arizona and now he’s emerged as a potential Game 1 playoff starter at age 26.
Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.
Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.
Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.