Aaron Judge’s AL Home Run Record Chase is starting to feel real – The Ringer | Gmx Pharm

Thank goodness the trade deadline is over because now we can get down to what is truly the most interesting storyline of the rest of the MLB season. What, a Juan Soto blockbuster got your eyebrows up? Well, Soto has no shot at 60 homers. Do you think Luis Castillo could propel the Mariners to their first playoff spot in two decades? Well, Castillo isn’t chasing records on the fringes of high-profile free agency. You laughed at the unvaccinated Whit Merrifield’s trade with the Blue Jays? Well, Merrifield doesn’t cut it for baseball’s most popular team.

But those notable traits all apply to Aaron Judge, who leads the majors with 43 homers and has two months to hit more. While the baseball world focused most of its attention on the trade market, Judge sped up his already prodigious pace with 10 homers in 13 games since the All-Star hiatus. He has just won the American League’s Player of the Month award and Player of the Week award back-to-back.

But he has bigger plans. As a reminder, only five players in MLB history have hit 60 home runs in a season: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire (twice), and Sammy Sosa (three times) in the steroid era; Roger Maris and Babe Ruth in front of it. The AL record is Mari’s 61. And Judge is on track for 66 with 43 players in 106 team games.

This record chase is intriguing for obvious reasons – home runs are cool! Records are cooler! Judge is a Yankee! — and because of some more subtle factors. For example, as far as baseball fans know, Richter’s titanic total doesn’t come with contextual asterisks; it’s not just a product of a “juicy ball” or an extremely Homer-happy environment. The majors’ 1.08 home runs per game this season marks the lowest mark since 2015. The judge currently leads the Phillies’ second most prolific home run hitter, Kyle Schwarber, with 10 points, putting him on a pace for a season-ending lead of brings 15 home runs; The gap between first and second place hasn’t been that great since Jimmie Foxx led Ruth with 17 homers in 1932.

His record chasing isn’t just the result of his homer-friendly home field, either. Based on Baseball Savant tracking numbers, Judge has 26 “unquestionable” home runs or fly balls that would have cleared the fence at all 30 parks. No one else has more than 17. And that means 60.5 percent of Judge’s homers were good shots — the highest rate for any player with at least 20 things this season. (For a Yankee Stadium comparison, Judge’s teammate Anthony Rizzo has 27 homers but only nine no-doubts, a 33 percent odds.)

That also pays off for Baseball Savant of Judge’s Fly Balls this season he would expect having hit 44.2 homers so far – which means, if any, is his homer tally lower than the amount he earns, despite Yankee Stadium. (Rizzo, for another comparison, has 4.3 more home runs than expected by that metric.) If he were playing his games at another home park, Judge might have an even higher tally — if he were playing at Cincinnati, for example, Baseball Savant estimates he’s already hit 52 home runs.

Judge doesn’t need contextual boosts as his abilities already make him an extreme outlier. His average fly ball or line drive leaves the club at a staggering 100.4 miles per hour, easily a major-time record. He’s the MVP favorite, with league-leading wins via replacement and win probability totals, and the second-best wRC+ (via his .298/.386/.676 slash line) among qualified players. He’s not just an all-or-nothing slugger, but the most prolific slugger in the game in 2022.

Yet it is consistent even within this outlier form. He’s faced 18 opponents this year and homed 17 of them. (Congratulations to the Rangers for keeping Judge at bay for three games!) He’s homed 11 percent of his at-bats against righties and 11 percent against lefties. He’s homed 12 percent of the bats at home and 10 percent on the street. After a slow start in April (only six long balls), he hit 12 homers in May, 11 in June and 13 in July.

While Judge has always had immense strength – he hit 52 homers in 2017, a rookie record at the time – his continued health and a few small tweaks to his batting profile have propelled his home run tally into the stratosphere this season. He has a career-high fly ball percentage, with Statcast categorizing 38 percent of his balls batted — up from an average of 30 percent before 2022 — as flies. The judge’s grounder percentage is in line with his career ratings, but when he gets a ball airborne, it’s more often a fly ball than a line drive. And that’s important because over his career, 34 percent of Judge’s flyballs have turned into home runs, compared to just 7 percent of his line drives.

Judge also pulls the ball more than in any previous full season, with a pull rate of 46 percent, versus his usual mid-to-high 30s mark. Granted, he has the power and track record to homer all fields — but in his career, Judge has homed 26 percent of fly balls that went straight or to the opposite field, compared to a whopping 68 percent his pull side flies. In the Statcast era, this is unsurprisingly the highest ratio in the sport, so it’s a boon to Judge’s record-breaking run that he’s generating more left field flyballs than ever before.

But can this production take him to 60 or 62 or even 70 or 73 things? Last year, in a much friendlier league-wide homer environment, nobody hit more than 48; In 2019, the peak homer in MLB history, Pete Alonso led the rankings at just 53, as the spike benefited lower- and middle-tier homers more than the sport’s most prolific sluggers.

Since the steroid era, Giancarlo Stanton came closest in 2017. After a 12-homer in July and an 18-homer(!) in August — the latter being the second most in a month by any player in MLB history — he went into September with 51 things, and he was still up by the end of the month at 60 pacers. But he finished the season with just two homers in his last eight games to finish at 59.

Let’s examine the chances of Judge overtaking his current teammate and hitting the magic 60 homer threshold. First, we have to be optimistic that Judge won’t get injured or his chances are very slim – for extrapolation purposes, let’s assume he will play in 55 of the Yankees’ 56 remaining games.

The bad news is that Judge has never hit more than 26 homers in 55 games in his entire career — meaning he won’t hit McGwire’s 70 mark, let alone Bond’s 73, unless he raises his homer- pace to an unprecedented level for the remainder of the season.

But the good news is that if he aims a little lower he has a very good chance of hitting his target. If we look at every 55-game stretch of Judge’s season to date – games 1-55, 2-56, 3-57, etc. – we find that he hit at least 19 homers in each one. In other words, even if Judge spent the rest of the season repeating his at least Homer-prone stretch of 2022, he still had 19 more homers, taking him to 62 total – beating Ruth and Maris and giving him the new AL record as well as the highest total for any player not using PEDs been linked.

This chart shows the percentage of 55-game stretches this season that Judge hit every home run number:

Homer opportunities by Aaron Judge based on the 2022 season

Season HR Total HR needed Success rate in 55 games
Season HR Total HR needed Success rate in 55 games
50 7 100%
51 8th 100%
52 9 100%
53 10 100%
54 11 100%
55 12 100%
56 13 100%
57 14 100%
58 fifteen 100%
59 16 100%
60 17 100%
61 18 100%
62 19 100%
63 20 90%
64 21 79%
65 22 60%
66 23 50%
67 24 48%
68 25 17%
69 26 4%
70 27 0%

However, we can’t assume that Judge’s hot streak this season reflects his true level of talent. He’s set a new 55-game high for home runs this season, and throughout his career he’s averaged just 16 things per 55 games — sometimes in the single digits. It’s possible, although not entirely likely, that Judge will fall back to his career average in the next two months.

If we look at Judge’s entire career, not just the 2022 season, and repeat the same chart we created above, the odds don’t look quite so rosy. From that angle, Judge would expect to finish the season with 59 or 60 homers — meaning he’d be right on the border of Ruth and Maris and a new AL record, rather than a no-brainer to them by the mid-’60s to overtake.

Aaron Judge’s homer opportunities based on his career

Season HR Total HR needed Success rate in 55 games
Season HR Total HR needed Success rate in 55 games
50 7 100%
51 8th 100%
52 9 100%
53 10 97%
54 11 94%
55 12 86%
56 13 78%
57 14 69%
58 fifteen 61%
59 16 53%
60 17 44%
61 18 35%
62 19 29%
63 20 22%
64 21 17%
65 22 11%
66 23 6%
67 24 5%
68 25 1%
69 26 0%
70 27 0%

Despite his pace so far, there are also plenty of less fortunate ways Judge’s season could continue. He could hurt himself. The Yankees could give him more rest days with the AL East title and a playoff bye. Or opposing pitchers might stop throwing him pitches to crush: It’s a small sample, but the judge’s walk rate has increased from 11.3 percent before the All-Star break to 19.7 percent since then. According to Statcast data, pre-break pitches landed in the strike zone 48.0 percent of the time; since the break, that number has dropped to 40.6 percent. (He hasn’t started chasing more balls out of the hitting zone, but one wonders if that patience will last as he nears a record.)

Injuries aside, even with Judge slumping a bit, the second, career-based chart above shows he can still make a decent run at the milestone. He’s so far ahead of a 60 homer pace that he can overcome a bit of backsliding on the track. Either way, any remaining judges will be a must as it could potentially bring him a step closer to the story.

Judge won’t question Bond’s record, but Ruth and Maris haven’t been touched by an American League player in more than 60 years. It’s fitting that a Yankee has the best chance of bringing them down.

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