Move over, Roger Maris: New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has hit his 62nd home run of the 2022 MLB season, setting the single-season record for the American League.
His 62nd home run — which came in the Yankees’ final series of the regular season — moved him past Maris, who held the previous Junior Circuit record with 61 home runs in 1961. Judge also broke Maris’ famed franchise record — previously set by Babe Ruth when he hit 60 in 1927. Now, Judge joins Ruth and Maris as the only AL players to hit 60 or more home runs in a season.
So how did he do it? Let’s break down Judge’s road to 62.
On the most basic level, Judge hit 30 of his 62 home runs at Yankee Stadium — one every 10 at-bats. He’s hit 32 on the road — one every 8.8 at-bats. Mostly, Judge just doesn’t hit many cheap home runs. His shortest of the season was a 355-foot shot to right, but it came at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. He has hit three 364-foot home runs this year at Yankee Stadium. I reviewed those three:
April 22 off Tanner Tully: Line drive into the third row of bleachers in right field. Not a monster blast and maybe not out at every park, but not one I call a cheap home run.
June 15 off Shane McClanahan: Just over the fence in right-center. Definitely a Yankee Stadium home run given its dimensions in that area of the park.
July 30 off Jon Heasley: Another cheap one in the same vicinity as the homer against McClanahan. In fact, if a fan didn’t reach out to make the catch, Royals right fielder MJ Melendez might have hauled it in.
So, Judge has received a couple gifts from his park. But he’s homered just as often on the road. That doesn’t mean he would have hit this many in every park. Statcast, using just raw distances of his home runs, estimates Judge would have just 49 home runs if he had played all his games at Comerica Park (where right-center is particularly deep). But he would have 70 if he played all his games in Cincinnati or Colorado. So no real home-field advantage here. Sit back and appreciate his feats of strength.
Judge’s Most Valuable Homers
What have been Judge’s biggest home runs? We can rank his top seven home runs by win probability added, which simply tells us how much the odds of the Yankees winning the game changes after each play (or, in this case, each home run), given the score, inning and number of outs and baserunners.
1. May 10: Walk-off against Jordan Romano of the Blue Jays to give the Yankees a 6-5 victory
The most dramatic of Judge’s home runs sent Yankee Stadium into a frenzy as he crushed a 1-2 slider into the second deck in left field in the bottom of the ninth, a 414-foot blast off one of the better closers in the game. That kicked off a stretch of eight home runs in 13 games for Judge.
2. July 28: Walk-off against Scott Barlow of the Royals to give the Yankees a 1-0 victory
Judge’s 39th home run came with one out off of a first-pitch, 95-mph fastball from Barlow, a 431-foot shot over the bullpen in center field. This came during his post All-Star blitz.
3. June 26: Walk-off in the bottom of the 10th off Houston’s Seth Martinez to give the Yankees a 6-3 victory
With runners at first and third and two outs, the Astros elected to go after Judge. Martinez got a swinging strike on a first-pitch slider but came back with another slider and Judge didn’t miss, sending a low liner over the fence in left-center. Judge nearly cost himself a home run though: He started making a turn for the dugout after reaching first base, before he was reminded to finish his trot around the bases.
4. May 22: Home run off Kendall Graveman of the White Sox that tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth
Graveman tried to slip an 0-2, 97-mph sinker past Judge, but left it up in the zone and Judge drilled into the second deck in left field (although the White Sox would win the game with two runs in the top of the ninth).
5. July 22: Three-run homer off Baltimore’s Tyler Wells to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the third
This one doesn’t seem so dramatic, but it came with two outs (win probability goes up) and with two runners on, meaning the Yankees’ chances of winning the game increased significantly. Judge would add a second home run off Wells as the Yankees held on for a 7-6 victory.
6. Sept. 28: Go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the seventh off Toronto’s Tim Mayza
Judge’s record-tying 61st home run of the season made an impact. At 117.4 mph, the line drive was also Judge’s hardest-hit home run of 2022.
7. Sept. 13: Game-tying home run in the top of the eighth off Boston’s Garrett Whitlock
This was Judge’s second game-tying home run that day, coming off a 1-1 slider he lifted over the Green Monster. If you factor in game importance — mid-September, with the Rays having clawed closer to the Yankees — this home run deserves a higher ranking. Oh, in the top of the 10th, the Red Sox intentionally walked Judge with a runner on third and two outs. It backfired, as Gleyber Torres would later smack a three-run double and the Yankees won 7-6.
By the way, average WPA for Ruth, Maris and Judge:
He hits … well, everything
Thanks to the marvels of modern pitch tracking, we know everything about the pitcher-batter confrontation. And I mean everything. One of the coolest Statcast numbers found at MLB’s Baseball Savant site is how each batter fares against different pitches, broken down into overall run value produced.
The best hitter in baseball in 2022? Aaron Judge against sliders, with a run value of plus-28.
The second-best? Aaron Judge against four-seam fastballs, with a run value of plus-26.
To show how Judge has dominated the sport, the only other hitter with a run value over 20 against a single pitch is Alvarez against four-seamers, at plus-21.
Look at Judge’s numbers against individual pitches:
1.276 OPS against curveballs
1.269 OPS against two-seamers/sinkers
1.262 OPS against four-seamers
1.107 OPS against sliders
.803 OPS against changeups
And in limited results, a .779 OPS against cutters and .476 against splitters (2-for-14). Anyway: Judge is punishing everything.
His big improvement in 2022 has come against sliders. From 2017 to 2021, he hit .217/.331/.408 against them, while hitting over .300 against four-seamers and two-seamers. Last season, he ranked 90th in run value against sliders at plus-3 — and as we just saw, he’s No. 1 in 2022.
That all adds up to 62 home runs … and a slice of baseball history.