Aaron Judge chases historic home run totals

© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago on Thursday, I put my pre-trade deadline job aside long enough to drink a few beers while attending a Yankees-Royals game from Section 422 at Yankee Stadium. – unfolded like a pitching duel between Brady Singer of the Royals and Jameson Taillon of the Yankees. Singer struck out 10 in seven innings while limiting the Yankees to a fourth-inning single from Gleyber Torres, while Taillon scattered four hits on six frames. Both bullpen did their job as well, and the game went scoreless until the bottom of the ninth, when after Benintendi fouled to end a 0-for-4 night, Aaron Judge delivered the verdict on a medium-mid 95 mph. Scott Barlow’s fastball, sentencing him to exile 431 feet into the Royals’ bullpen.

The homer – who looked even cooler from our bird’s eye view right off plate’s third base, I swear — was Judge’s 39th of the year, tying the total he hit in 148 games and 633 plate appearances last year. It was also his third start of the season, tying the franchise record set by Mickey Mantle in 1949. None of the other sluggers in Yankees history – not Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson or Alex Rodriguez – never had three homers in a season for the team (Jackson had three for the A’s in 1971).

Judge then left the court three more times in the next two games against the ill-fated Royals, the second of those shots being a grand slam (his second of the year) and the third his 200th career home run. He added another in Monday’s series-opening win over the Mariners to take his major-league-leading 43, but went without a homer on Tuesday and missed Wednesday afternoon’s game. .

Even with that homer-free game on Tuesday, in his last 17 games dating back to July 14, Judge has hit 13 home runs while hitting .397/.519/1.064. While there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the 17-game stretches, it’s the most home runs anyone has hit this year, and tied for fourth in the last decade, once you have eliminated the overlapping sequences:

Most home runs in 17 games since 2013

SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

I have posted the earliest start date of each of these sequences. The judge’s total is the same for July 13 to August 1 as for July 14 to August 2.

From the start of the season, after turning down the Yankees’ opening day extension offer of $230.5 million for this year and his next seven years, we’ve been following the 30-year-old slugger’s progress as its performance improves its projections and increases its price. As of opening day, ZiPS predicted it would produce 5.1 WAR this year and 4.6 WAR in 2023; as of July 25, he had racked up 5.6 WAR and was slated for 5.6 next year. It’s now at 6.7 WAR this year, with our depth charts predicting it to add another 2.5, and I don’t think the wheel has stopped turning when it comes to next year’s total . Combine remarkable focus and preparation with the natural ability to smash baseballs at speeds of 115 mph and more and this is the result.

Aside from his WAR and his upcoming contract, with 43 homers in the Yankees’ first 106 games, Judge has the potential to hit some really big numbers that have some significance. Following his raw pace per game, he projects to finish with 66 homers in the Yankees’ 162 games, a total that would set an American League record. The various projection systems we offer at FanGraphs are not so optimistic; ZiPS and Steamer, the two we mix for our Depth Charts predictions, both predict it will add 16 this season, as does The Bat. 16 more homers would tie him with teammate Giancarlo Stanton’s 2017 total of 59 hit when he was with the Marlins – the highest single-season tally in the post-Barry Bonds era (as of 2008 ).

We can have even more fun than that. Since the projections we present are really a way to summarize a wide range of results, we can zoom in and examine the distribution to get a better appreciation of where the judge’s home run total may land. To that end, I rocked a rightfully weary Dan Szymborski out of bed after his post-deadline slumber so we could take a ride in the ZiPSmobile. You can’t get to Monaco’s Monte Carlo Casino from the East Coast, but you can get to a simulation of Monte Carlo!

For this one, Dan ran a million simulations to calculate Judge’s chances of hitting every home run total from 43, based on getting 225 extra AP, the total of his Depth Charts projection. :

ZiPS Final HR Probability – Aaron Judge (8/4/22)

At Least X Homers Probability
43 100.00%
44 100.00%
45 99.96%
46 99.85%
47 99.54%
48 98.86%
49 97.69%
50 95.78%
51 92.80%
52 88.65%
53 83.49%
54 77.25%
55 70.14%
56 62.54%
57 54.66%
58 46.83%
59 39.47%
60 32.68%
61 26.59%
62 21.32%
63 16.80%
64 13.14%
65 10.04%
66 7.56%
67 5.56%
68 3.98%
69 2.88%
70 2.03%
71 1.43%
72 0.96%
73 0.64%
74 0.43%
75 0.27%
76 0.18%
77 0.11%
78 0.06%
79 0.03%
80 0.02%
81 0.01%
82 0.00%
83 0.00%
84 0.00%

The judges plan to hit the 50-homerun plateau almost 96% of the time and set a personal best with 53 or more homers about 83.5% of the time. If he hits 53 home runs, he’ll surpass Jim Thome’s 2002 total for the most by any player in a year on the run…sort of. Rodriguez hit 54 homers in 2007 before exercising his opt-out and then re-signing with the Yankees, while Bonds set the single-season record with 73 in 2001, and after no offer of multi-year agreements has been received, agreed to binding arbitration on a one-year contract with the Giants for 2002. It was something that teams and free agents could do at the time, when the system was pressing players towards a deadline to return to their previous squads without missing the first month of the season. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether Rodriguez’s or Bonds’ situation supersedes Thome in terms of representing a walking year, while noting that neither of their avenues are open to the judge – hence my reluctance to cite them as true parallels.

Going past A-Rod’s 54 homers would mean hitting more home runs than any Yankee since Roger Maris in 1961, and more than any AL player since the Blue Jays’ José Bautista in 2010. The judge said about a 70% chance of putting these men in the rearview mirror by hitting 55 or more home runs.

He has 39.5% to hit at least 59 homers, which would match Stanton; a 32.7% chance of reaching at least 60, which would match Ruth’s record total in 1927; and a 26.6% chance of hitting at least 61, which would match Maris. He has a 21.3% chance of eclipsing Maris and setting the franchise record. For what it’s worth, from August 2 of last year to August 1 of this year, Judge hit 61 home runs in 159 games and 694 plate appearances, with a .294/.376/.650 line, a 184 wRC+ and 5.6 WAR. It rocks !

When it comes to Homer, there’s more. Skipping Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire’s 63-70 homer seasons that are no longer records (and not remembered so fondly by many), Judge has a 0.64% chance of hitting at least 73 to match. to Bonds, and a 0.43% chance of surpassing him for the single-season record. In the simulations Dan has done, Judge even has a 1 in 500,000 chance of hitting 84 home runs! Here is what the table above looks like in graphical form:

And here is the distribution for each discrete total:

It should be noted that all these probabilities take into account the drop in circuits this year. Through Wednesday, teams were averaging 1.08 homers per game, down 11.9% from last year’s 1.22 per game and down 22.8% from the all-time high 1.39 per game, set in 2019; it’s the lowest home run rate since 2015, when teams hit 1.01 per game. Yet Judge still does what he does, heading into August with a legitimate shot at Maris, if not Bonds.

The other thing to note about these odds is that they depend on playing time. The judge has faced long absences in his career due to injury a few times. Last year was the first time since his 2017 rookie campaign that he played more than 112 games, and while some of his injuries were flukes (the chip fracture in his wrist in 2018 comes to me in mind), not all of them were. Taking that into account, ZiPS projects Judge for 211 AP over the rest of the season, Foggernaut for 234; these two averages and a bit of human intervention explain how the depth map projections reach 225, the number we chose to use as the basis for this model. For what it’s worth, Judge has averaged 4.25 AP per Yankees game (including the ones he missed), but that 225 total only requires 4.02 per game over the remaining 56 games of the season. crew. Obviously, his odds drop significantly if he’s anywhere near 225, but he has a little cushion built into that playing time.

And of course, even if he remains available, Judge must remain quite hot. Less than seven weeks ago, I wrote that this Yankees team was set to challenge the franchise record of 114 wins and the expansion-era record of 116 wins; their record of 49-17 (0.742 winning percentage) projected to 120-42 in 162 games. A 14-15 record since the start of July has thrown cold water everywhere; their tempo is now down to just 107 wins, and their starting pitcher, who was behind that first run, is showing signs of waning. Perhaps Judge won’t continue to hit dingers at such a prolific pace that he can eclipse Maris or even Mantle and A-Rod, but particularly in New York, against the backdrop of his pending free agency, the suit will eclipse him. guarantees plenty of attention, and as long as he has a chance of getting those big numbers, we’ll keep our sights on him.

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