61. 65. 73.
Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols both hit home runs on Wednesday. Today we'll look at some home run milestones they're looking at.
61 Home Runs
Significance: The "Clean" Single-Season Home Run Record
Time Achieved: Seven Times
Last Achieved: 2001 - Sammy Sosa (64)
Last Achieved (Cleanly): 1961 - Roger Maris (61)
73 Home Runs
Significance: The Single-Season Home Run Record
Time Achieved: One Time
Last Achieved: 2001 - Barry Bonds (73)
As of August 11th, Aaron Judge currently sits at 45 home runs through 112 games played for the New York Yankees. This is a pace of about .40 of a home run per game, or one home run every 2.5 games. This would currently put him on pace for 65 home runs by seasons end, even when considering his occasional resting schedule that Aaron Boone likes to employ. Simple, enough. Right?
Well...maybe. It is important to look at where and how Aaron Judge is hitting this year and who is left on the schedule.
From here on out, the Yankees have exactly 50 games left this season. They have a perfectly even split with 25 games at home and 25 games away. For the away games, this is where (and who) they will be playing:
Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox): 5 games
Oakland Coliseum (Oakland Athletics): 4 games
Globe Life Field (Texas Rangers): 4 games
Angels Stadium (Los Angeles Angels): 3 games
Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays): 3 games
Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers): 3 games
Rogers Center (Toronto Blue Jays): 3 games
This is a good first step in trying to determine if that 65 number is too generous to Judge, if it is a solid benchmark, or if it is far too much. (Remember, it's been over 20 years since we've seen a player hit even 60 home runs!) If we look at Aaron Judge's 2022 spray chart for hits (and long outs into the outfield) and evaluate how he would've done if solely playing at the above 7 ballparks (8 if we also count Yankee Stadium), we can get a good metric for if the field itself plays favorably for Judge.
Here are Aaron Judge's home run numbers this year if he played every game at each of the above stadiums (including Yankee Stadium):
Yankee Stadium: 47 Home Runs (+2)
Fenway Park: 43 Home Runs (-2)
Oakland Coliseum: 46 Home Runs (+1)
Globe Life Field: 48 Home Runs (+3)
Angels Stadium: 47 Home Runs (+2)
Tropicana Field: 47 Home Runs (+2)
Miller Park: 51 Home Runs (+6)
Rogers Center: 47 Home Runs (+2)
This is a very promising sign for Aaron Judge. At all but Fenway Park, it would appear that the ballpark itself plays favorably towards how he has been hitting the ball this season. Heck, if I was Aaron Judge, I would be strongly considering playing for the Milwaukee Brewers next year if it means adding another 10 home runs a year to my yearly totals! (Interestingly, the Great American Ballpark of the Cincinnati Reds gives Judge the highest total at 53 home runs, while Comerica Park of the Detroit Tigers would give him just 37.)
However, knowing where they are playing is half the battle. The other half of the battle is how good the pitchers are that Aaron Judge will be likely facing over the next 50 games.
Now, because it would be too difficult (and by that I mean impossible) to predict what pitchers Judge is going to face exactly between now and the beginning of October, it makes sense to look at who is left on the schedule in general. These are the Yankees opponents for the rest of the season:
Tampa Bay Rays: 6 games
Toronto Blue Jays: 4 games
Boston Red Sox: 4 games
Baltimore Orioles: 3 games
Minnesota Twins: 3 games
New York Mets: 2 games
Pittsburgh Pirates: 2 games
Boston Red Sox: 5 games
Oakland Athletics: 4 games
Texas Rangers: 4 games
Los Angeles Angels: 3 games
Tampa Bay Rays: 3 games
Milwaukee Brewers: 3 games
Toronto Blue Jays: 3 games
Now that we have a good mix of 11 teams left to play against this season, lets take a look at some important numbers across these teams and their pitching staffs:
What we can see here is that, relative to the league averages for pitching, the Yankees- and Aaron Judge especially- will find themselves in a good position over the final 50 games of the season.
When it comes to ERA, the Yankees are set to face just 2 teams considerably below the rate (Tampa Bay, New York), and of the remaining 4 team below the average ERA of 4.00 they all have an ERA that is equal to or higher than 3.85. A similar pattern is found with FIP and WHIP, where the Mets and Rays are considerably better than most while most of the rest (except maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates) are comfortably near average, or worse. This helps defend the expected data above by ballpark.
Additionally, just 1 team (the Texas Rangers) comes out ahead of the league average on the most important statistic: Home Runs allowed per 9 innings (HR/9). While the league allows, on average, 1.1 home runs per game, the Texas Rangers are the lone team left on the schedule below that mark...with a HR/9 of 1.0. The Yankees are set to face just one team that is considerably above-average in preventing home runs in the remaining portion of the season. And, better yet, there are three teams with HR/9 rates above that 1.1 mark in the Athletics, Twins, and Blue Jays, whom the Yankees will play a combined 14 of their remaining 50 games.
The current expected number of home runs, based on his current home run total for 2022, for Aaron Judge is 65. Luckily for Judge, he is also set up perfectly for a final 50 game stretch, where he needs just 16 home runs to tie the "clean" record and just 17 to break that record. Additionally, he needs a healthy 28 to tie the all-time single-season record of 73 (and 29 to break that record).
To expect 73 (or 74) would be insanity. To average better than 1 home run per game over the final 30% of the season is and would be unheard of. However, we can consider 61 to be a low-water-mark for Judge as of right now.
Given his current home run rates for the season, the favorability of ballparks he'll be playing in to his hits portfolio, and the lack of much competition against teams that would seemingly prevent many home runs from being hit, I would say that the "clean" single-season record should be broken for the first time since 1961. To me, I think it's all but needing the ink to dry (or for Judge to remain healthy).
As best as I can predict, Judge will produce just the 9th season in baseball history with 60+ home runs. He'll be just the 6th player to do so. For my final guess-timation of how many home runs he will hit, I will go with a comfortable 67. He'll beat his pure-statistical output up until this point in the season, but he won't necessarily sniff the 70-home run plateau.