Another series, another bundle of home runs for Aaron Judge. The Yankees’ superstar has set a scorching pace this September, and on Sunday, he hit his 58th and 59th home runs in a victory over the Brewers. As is customary, I’ve updated our game-by-game odds of him reaching his 60th, 61st, and 62nd home runs in a given game the rest of the season. If you want to see Judge tying Babe Ruth, tying Roger Maris, or leaving every previous Yankees (and American Leaguer) in the dust with 62, you can see our predictions below.
One note: I’ve added a few bells and whistles to this projection to handle Judge’s rest situation. The Yankees have been more aggressive than I expected in terms of getting him into games this September. To reflect that, I’ve changed the way I handle an off day. Previously, I set a specific day and simply gave Judge no plate appearances that day. As we’re getting closer to that scheduled off day, and closer to some milestones, that deterministic way of handling a day off feels wrong to me.
Instead, I’ve created a stochastic Aaron Boone in my simulation. Starting with the second game of the Boston series, the fourth game in a run of nine games in nine days, Boone will consider giving Judge a rest. More specifically, there’s a 10% chance he’ll give him a rest in each game of the Boston series and each game of the subsequent Toronto series. After Judge has received one rest day, though, Boone won’t give him another for the remainder of the season. That works out to a 60% chance of a rest day in aggregate: 10% in each of the last three games of the Boston series and 10% in each game in Toronto. There’s no way of knowing if this is exactly right or not, but I think it comes close to reflecting how Boone will handle Judge.
With that in mind, here’s the distribution of when Judge hits his 60th home run, as obtained by simulating the remainder of the season a million times. If you want to see that one, get to the Bronx with haste:
Reaching 60 is now more a formality than a question. In fact, Judge’s odds of hitting 60, 61, and 62 are all extremely high, even compared to the already-elevated chances of hitting those milestones that I calculated last week:
Onward, then, to 61. In aggregate, there’s nearly a 50% chance that he’ll hit that one against the rival Red Sox:
In fact, Judge has set such a blistering pace in the past week that the Toronto series, once the best bet of seeing all three of his 60th, 61st, and 62nd home runs, is barely hanging on to its status as the series with the highest chance of seeing the Maris-beating 62nd. Barely hanging on is still hanging on, though; if you can only attend one game or one series, you should book a ticket for Toronto:
This is all subject to change, obviously. The Yankees have an off day tomorrow, but that’s been the only sure way to keep Judge off the board recently. Just for fun, I ran a few versions of higher numbers that Judge could theoretically reach. Per my numbers, he has a 45% chance of reaching the 65-homer plateau, a monumental tally. He has a 1.7% chance of reaching 70, which seemed unthinkable even at the start of the month. And I had to see how likely it was that he’d match Barry Bonds’ all-time record of 73 homers. It’s not likely, obviously; in fact, it only happened 780 times out of a million simulations — .08%, in other words. That rounds to never, but it’s notably not zero.
If you’d told me at the start of the year that someone stood any chance at all of matching Bonds, I wouldn’t have believed you. Judge’s 2022 season has been so good that he’s waking up the echoes of Bonds at his best. I don’t think there’s any better way to describe Judge’s season than to say that he’s bringing back the home run chase era of the early 2000s, all on his own.
Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.
With the record now highly in reach, I’m now wondering what the odds are that Judge finishes the year with an fWAR over 10.
Based on ZiPs, he’s probably got a 99% shot of finishing above 10. He’s already at 10.4.
Looking at Judge’s player page, his 2022 fWAR totals right around what he racked up for the 2.37 seasons from 2019 through 2021. The Yankees rate to be fools if they go to the $320 million-plus Judge is rumored to be asking for. Paying through the nose for career years especially when you owe Stanton and Cole an average of $65m for each of 2025, 2026, and 2027, is asking for trouble.
It’ll be interesting, anyway.
Eh, he’s their best player by a mile. Who are they going to replace him with? A not as good Carlos Correa who would command ~30M per year anyways? Just pay him. You’re the Yankees. If you’re going to let your homegrown player who’s a top 5 player in baseball, what are you doing?
Good question for the Red Sox on Mookie Betts…
If we’re going to knock him for only being an 11 war player over a 270 game stretch, shouldn’t we at least acknowledge the historic seasons that occurred just before and after this cherry picked time frame? He’s been a 35+ million dollar player ever since his sophomore campaign and that should continue for at least a few more seasons.
The leaderboard on the fangraphs app has him at 10.4 currently
a player can produce negative WAR. if he went into a massive slump to end the season he could finish under 10.
Right. Hence nearly 100%.
i’m silly, i read your comment as a reply to sadtrombone and thought you were questioning why it was only 99% /facepalm
Are we really talking about “the AL record,” as if that’s a thing after interleague play?
Think of it as a polite way of saying “non-PED” record.
We have AL MVPs, CY Award winners, batting champions, and triple crown winners, so I don’t see why not.
All of FG’s projection systems have Judge finishing with 11+ WAR.
As far as fWAR goes I think the real question is going to be whether he can top Mickey Mantle’s 56-57 seasons for the best post-integration season of all time, non-steroids Barry Bonds division. That would be 11.4 and 11.5 fWAR.
This is pretty much my standard for evaluating the greats as well–post-integration, non-steroids division.
I will, however, nominate Pedro Martinez as the guy to beat. He has an 11.6 fWAR season (and if you are against fWAR for pitchers for whatever reason you so desire, he also has an 11.7 bWAR season too). Absolutely savage.
As to whether Judge could beat that? I’m sure if I had the formula in an Excel spreadsheet I could calculate that out, but if he merely keeps going in every game doing what he has this season, he’ll wind up at 11.6 fWAR. So he really only needs to play slightly above his current level to get to 11.7.
What’s the ceiling? Well, consider that yesterday he put up somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.5 fWAR in just one game. Let’s just say he puts up roughly that same value across two games instead of one (so, half that value per game). Seems pretty close to impossible, but if he does that over the remaining 16 games left he’ll add another 4 wins and 14.4 fWAR (!!!!), giving him literally the second highest fWAR of all time behind Babe Ruth’s 1923. And if he hits 16 homers over 16 games, then he’ll hit 75 homers, breaking the all-time home run record as well.
Sticking with Pedro we could also use his 12.2 RA9-WAR instead of the 11.7 bWAR. I think the major difference is a lack of a defensive adjustment, and I’d be hesitant on the accuracy of a defensive adjustment using modern defensive stats. Whatever kind of adjustment is being applied to a pitcher from 1999 would be even less reliable.
Martinez played in the steroids era
And Pedro wasn’t a saint…. there was more than just steroids available.
I love the Pedro comment. In my view he is the only pitcher to have a five year period equal to or better than Koufax and he did it in a hitter park during the peak of the homer era.
So, just for funsies, I did some quick math to figure out what Judge’s batting line would have to look like for him to get down to 10.0 WAR on the nose to complete the season. FWIW, I used the 66 PA he is projected to accumulate on the depth charts and assumed his non-batting runs stay the same, which is not really that huge of an assumption, his batting runs are a much larger magnitude than his other contributors. I also considered him to have 2 IBB and 0 SF for the remainder of the season, which is his current pace. A small assumption, but just for completeness.
For reference, his current triple slash is .316/.419/.701 with a wOBA of .461. He would have to lose nearly four batting runs to adequately reduce his WAR to 10.0, which works out to a wOBA of .233, somewhere in the Tucker Barnhart range this year. I simply took the ratio of this wOBA to his current wOBA and the number of PA to his current PA, and this produced a line of four singles, one double, three HR, and four unintentional walks over his remaining 66 PA. This is a slash line of .145/.230/.327 and a .233 wOBA. If you look at Judge’s 15 game rolling average (his projected number of remaining games) over the last six seasons, his lowest wOBA is .245 for a 15 game stretch.
So yes, it is highly unlikely that he finishes the season with less than 10 WAR.
And still hits 62
Ha, yeah, I noticed that too. The guy is having a ridiculous season.
Also, he’s doing all this while being a roughly average outfielder, playing more than half of his innings in CF. This season is an all-timer.