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Why Aaron Judge’s home run-filled 2022 season is even more impressive than it seems

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New York Yankees player Aaron Judge hit the ninth 60-home run season in Major League Baseball history Tuesday night. Here is the company he now holds—that is, the all-time single-season home run leaderboard:

  1. Barry Bonds, 2001: 73
  2. Mark McGuire, 1998: 70
  3. Sammy Sosa 1998: 66
  4. Mark McGuire, 1999: 65
  5. Sammy Sosa, 2001: 64
  6. Sammy Sosa, 1999: 63
  7. Roger Maris, 1961: 61
  8. Babe Ruth, 1927; Aaron Judge, 2022: 60

Barring completely unforeseen circumstances, he will soon equal and surpass Roger Maris’ American League record for home runs in a season, and heck, maybe even turn up the heat on the names at the very top of that list above. For now, let’s enjoy the present and focus on Judge’s entry into the 60-man guild. We will do this by placing Judge’s season in a brief statistical context.

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Different eras in baseball history create different conditions, and that affects everything, including home runs. Hitting Homer in 1911 was very different from hitting in 1930, just like hitting in 1968 was no match for hitting in 2000. an easier feat than hitting one this year.

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With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at Judge’s season versus that of his 60-man peers.

Judge dominates his peer group like no other

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As of this writing, Judge’s 60 homer not only leads the league, it dominates it. In second place is Kyle Schwarber of the Phillies with 40 home runs. If that lead continues through the end of the regular season, Judge will become the first batsman to lead the majors in home runs by 20 or more since Babe Ruth led the league with 23 homers in 1928. Since Jimmy Foxx in 1933, no player has led a major by even 14 points.

Judge’s 2022 season owes little to his home stadium

Yankee Stadium is rightfully known as a slugger friendly environment. However, Judge’s home stadium trends in the Bronx didn’t help his home runs much in 2022. First, he’s a right-handed batter, and Yankee Stadium benefits left-handed home runs more than right-handers. handed batters, thanks in large part to being a short porch in right field. There is also this:

  • Umpires home runs in 2022 at home: 30
  • Umpire’s 2022 away home runs: 30

In addition, Judge has been more productive on the road this season in terms of OPS (1.148 overseas vs. 1.097 at home).

Statcast estimates that if Judge played all of his games at Yankee Stadium, he would hit… 61 home runs this season instead of the 60 he had as of Wednesday morning. That’s the same number that, again, Statcast estimates he would have if he played all of his games at Dodger Stadium. He would have over 61 if he played his games in five non-Yankee baseball stadiums.

All this speaks of Judge’s elite quality in communication. Frankly, no one today – and probably never – hits the ball with such a perfect combination of power and angle. The referee currently leads the majors in terms of average batting speed, hard hitting percentage and barrel speed (i.e. those balls that leave the bat with the perfect combination of batting speed and launch angle). More broadly, Statcast estimates his “expected” total home run tally for 2022 to be 0.8 homers less than his actual tally. Yes, that’s 0.8 with a comma.

Referee faces speed no other hitter has faced with 60 homers

Higher pitching speeds make it harder for hitters, which is why hitters work so hard to maximize their ability to hit the ball hard. Speaking of which, what batters like Judge will face in 2022 is unprecedented in baseball history. This season, the average major league fastball speed is 93.6 mph, the highest on record. The average slider speed this year is 84.5 mph, only behind 2021 and 2019 (84.6 in both). Back in 2002 — the first year of standardized and publicly available speed data — MLB fastballs averaged 89.0 mph and sliders 80.4 mph. Given this clear trendline, and that other seasons featuring the 60th Homer occurred prior to 2002, it’s safe to assume that his peers haven’t experienced the heat that Judge faces on a daily basis. This doubles for Maris and Ruth.

In addition, the percentage of sliders that today’s forwards face is at an all-time high of 21.8% versus 12.1% in 2002. – in more than a quarter of cases. The others on the list above can’t come close to that.

The referee also faces a lot of pitchers

It’s long been known that rapprochement between batter and pitcher is good for the batter. The more times a batter sees a given pitcher, the better he is likely to perform. On this front, Judge stands apart due to his lack of familiarity. Take a look at the players on our list, ranked by the number of different pitchers seen during marked seasons:

  • Judge, 2022: 244 different pitchers clashed (and the number is growing).
  • Sosa, 1999: 215 different pitchers clashed.
  • Sosa, 2001: 213 different pitchers clashed.
  • Sosa, 1998: 211 different pitchers clashed.
  • McGuire, 1998; Bonds, 2001: 201 different pitchers collided
  • McGuire, 1999: 198 different pitchers clashed.
  • Maris, 1961: 101 different pitchers collided.
  • Ruth, 1927: 64 different pitchers clashed.

The referee has seen the most and it’s not a close race.

These days, teams are using more pitchers per game than ever before. Starters have a limited workload to avoid, whenever possible, meeting the opposing lineup for the third time in a given game or working with more innings, when batters get a big advantage. Instead of tearing meat from the bones of a tiring rookie, they face a succession of hard-fought pitchers who typically only work one frame at a time.

On a playing level, today’s hitters benefit from meeting a tired pitcher much less often than in the past. Joe Sheehan in his excellent baseball newsletter recently determined the percentage of plate appearances that come from starting pitchers pitching in reverse order a third time (or more) and pitchers facing the same order a second time (or more), i.e. “tired” pitchers. Notice how the percentage of these plates appearing decreases over time, as does the percentage of hits on tired pitchers:

YearPercentage of total plate appearances compared to tired pitchersPercentage of total hits versus tired pitchers
















Here is another trend that is sure to work against Judge in 2022, and by extension works for other hitters in the Holy Book of the Sixty. In terms of related matters, teams are using an average of 4.29 pitchers per game in 2022. In 2001, this figure was 3.63. In 1961 it was 2.44 and in 1927 it was 1.82.

Other considerations

But wait: that’s not all! Finally, here’s a hodgepodge of considerations that help put Judge’s results this season into additional context.

  • He is the only member of the 60th Homer club to play in the premium position. Judge has played most of his 1,042 2/3 innings defensively in center this season. It probably requires a bit of physical loss compared to what Sosa, McGuire, Bonds, Maris, and Ruth endured. Judge won’t be in center moving forward due to Harrison Bader’s activation, but he will still be a major center fielder this season.
  • Unlike Ruth, Judge did not benefit from playing against artificially limited, that is, completely white, competition.
  • Unlike Maris, Judge didn’t benefit from the downsizing of the expansion. All employees were hit by the expansion draft, and Maris earned 13 of his 61 home runs against the expansion Angels and the Senators.
  • McGwire, Sosa and Bonds benefited from facing a league pitching pool that was still compromised by double expansion rounds in 1993 and 1998. this is more difficult to quantify than the effects of double expansion.

Considering the fact that Judge has a 60 home run hit and a real shot at the Triple Crown, it’s not too bold to say he’s having a historically great 2022 season. However, in a fuller light, his work this year becomes even more amazing. Now go in amazement.


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