In historical terms, Judge is enjoying one of the finest offensive seasons ever.
On Tuesday night, Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees became the ninth player in Major League Baseball history to have 60 home runs. He currently keeps company with the all-time single-season home run leaderboard:
- Barry Bonds | Year 2001: 73
- Mark McGwire | Year 1998: 70
- Sammy Sosa | Year 1998: 66
- Mark McGwire | Year 1999: 65
- Sammy Sosa | Year 2001: 64
- Sammy Sosa | Year 1999: 63
- Roger Maris | Year 1961: 61
- Babe Ruth, Year 1927 | Aaron Judge, Year 2022: 60
He will soon equal and exceed Roger Maris’ American League record for home runs in a season, and, if nothing else, he may even put some pressure on the players at the top of that list. But for now, let’s enjoy the moment and continue to pay attention to Judge entering the 60-homer guild. We’ll do that by providing a brief statistics overview of Judge’s season.
Baseball history’s many periods provide various circumstances, which impact everything, including home runs. Similar to how hitting a home run in 1968 was nothing like hitting one in 2000, hitting a home run in 1911 was quite different from hitting one in 1930. It was simpler to hit one this year than it was to hit one in 2017, when Judge’s current teammate Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 of them.
In light of this, let’s take a quick stroll through Judge’s season in contrast to those of his peers who hit 60 home runs.
Judge rules his peer group like no one else.
At the time of writing, Judge’s 60-homer total not only leads the league, but rules it. Kyle Schwarber of the Philadelphia Phillies is second with 40 home runs. If that gap holds up for the rest of the regular season, Judge will become the first hitter to lead the majors in home runs by a margin of 20 or more since Babe Ruth led the whole league in home runs by 23 in 1928. No player has led the majors in home runs by more than 14 since Jimmie Foxx in 1933. This season, Judge is crushing all opponents at a level not seen in over a century.
Judge’s 2022 season owes nothing to his home stadium.
Yankee Stadium is well-known for being a welcoming atmosphere for sluggers. However, Judge’s home stadium in the Bronx hasn’t helped his home run total all that much in 2022. First and foremost, he’s a right-handed batter, and Yankee Stadium favors left-handed home run hitters more than right-handed batters, owing in large part to the short porch in right field. There’s also the following:
- Home runs made at home by Judge in 2022: 30
- Home runs made on the road by Judge in 2022: 30
In addition, Judge has been more effective on the road this season in terms of OPS (a 1.148 figure abroad versus 1.097 at home).
According to Statcast calculations, Judge would have hit 61 home runs this season if he had played all of his games at Yankee Stadium instead of the 60 he had as of Wednesday morning. That’s the same amount he’d have if he played all of his games at Dodger Stadium, according to Statcast projections. He’d have more than 61 if he’d played in five non-Yankee stadiums.
All of this points to Judge’s exceptional level of contact. To be honest, no one now or perhaps ever smashes the ball with such a perfect mix of force and angle. Judge now leads the majors in average exit velocity off the bat, hard-hit percentage, and barrel rate (i.e., those balls that leave the bat with the perfect blend of exit velo and launch angle). Statcast expects his “anticipated” home run total for 2022 to be 0.8 homers lower than his actual total. That is 0.8 with a decimal.
Judge is confronting velocity that no other 60-homer hitter has seen.
Higher pitch velocity make things more difficult for hitters, which is why moundsmen strive so hard to improve their ability to throw the ball hard. In that regard, what hitters like Judge will face in 2022 is unprecedented in baseball history. This season, the average major-league fastball speed is 93.6 mph, the fastest on record. This year’s average slider speed is 84.5 mph, behind just 2021 and 2019. (84.6 in both cases). OKbet MLB fastballs averaged 89.0 mph in 2002, the first year of standardized and publicly accessible velocity statistics, while sliders averaged 80.4 mph.
Given that steep trendline and the fact that the other 60-homer seasons were before to 2002, it’s reasonable to presume Judge’s predecessors experienced nothing like the pressure he does on a daily basis. This is especially true for Maris and Ruth.
Furthermore, the proportion of sliders faced by today’s batters is at an all-time high of 21.8 percent, up from 12.1 percent in 2002. In Judge’s instance, sliders are often thrown harder than many of the fastballs encountered by previous generations more than a quarter of the time. The others on the list above cannot compete.
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