Aaron Judge tracker: Yankees shine on pace for 66 home runs after linking Babe Ruth to 60th blast

Aaron Judge joined MLB home run royalty. The Yankees star hit his 60th home run of the season on Tuesday night, joining an exclusive roster of sluggers and bringing him one homer away from tying Roger Maris for the record for one season in the American League. Judge’s 60th home run tied him with Babe Ruth for the eighth in one season in MLB history.

Back in spring practice, New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge rejected a very reasonable seven-year contract extension worth $213.5 million. It was a bold decision, no doubt about it, and Judge has responded this season by doing what seemed impossible: he made himself more money. Some players would burst under that pressure. Judge not. He blossomed.

In addition to home runs, he also leads the league in walks, runs scored, RBI, total bases, percentage on base, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and both the FanGraphs and Baseball Reference versions of WAR. The race for the home run title isn’t one of those races at all.

Here’s the MLB home run standings as of September 20:

  1. Aaron Judge, Yankees: 60
  2. Kyle Schwarber, Phillies: 40
  3. Yordan Alvarez, Astros: 37
  4. Austin Riley, Braves: 37
  5. Mike Forel, Angels: 36

By hitting 60 home runs through 147 team games, Judge is picking up pace to hit 66 home runs this season.

There is a wonderful symmetry in Judge’s pursuit of Maris’ AL home run record. Maris, who passed away in 1985, hit 61 home runs in 1961. He also wore No. 9. Judge wears No. 99. Also, Judge hit his 203rd career home run on August 10, hitting the same number of home runs Maris hit with the Yankees.

“It’s always nice to see Dad get a little bit of publicity for his accolades in baseball. He’s accomplished a lot in the game. We couldn’t be more proud of what he’s accomplished. Sixty-one is a unique number,” Kevin Maris, one of Roger’s sons, told MLB.com in August. “…But (we) would be excited for (Judge if) he is able to accomplish (the) monumental task. It is something that is a unique record, one of the best in the sport. Hitting a baseball is not easy. When you achieve that, you’ve done it for a season, not just one game or one at bat.”

Single-season home run leaderboard

Before we go any further, I should note that only eight times in MLB history has a player hit 60 home runs in a season, and six of the eight came during the so-called Steroid era. What we’re talking about that Judge might do doesn’t happen often. Here are the eight 60-homer seasons in history:

  1. Barry Bonds, 2001 Giants: 73
  2. Mark McGwire, 1998 Cardinals: 70
  3. Sammy Sosa, 1998 Cubs: 66
  4. Mark McGwire, 1999 Cardinals: 65
  5. Sammy Sosa, 2001 Cubs: 64
  6. Sammy Sosa, 1999 Cubs: 63
  7. Roger Maris, 1961 Yankees: 61
  8. Babe Ruth, 1927 Yankees: 60
  9. Aaron Judge, 2022 Yankees: 60 (and still)

Giancarlo Stanton made MLB’s most recent run on 60 home runs, going deep 59 times in his 2017 NL MVP season. That includes a truly mind-boggling stretch where Stanton hit 30 home runs in a 48-game span. Ryan Howard hit 58 home runs in his 2006 NL MVP season. Even in this homer-lucky era, it’s not often a player gets a real run on 60 dingers.

What does Judge have to do for the rest of the season?

Judge must hit one home run in New York’s last 15 games to match Maris’ AL record, meaning he needs two home runs to break the record.

Here are the steps the judge must take to reach those milestone totals:

62 home runs (new AL record for one season)

2

7.50

61 home runs (similar to Maris’ AL record)

1

15.00

Judge’s current pace

2.45

The Yankee Stadium Factor

Judge is definitely playing in the right stadium to make a run on 60 home runs. Yankee Stadium is one of the most home-run-happy baseball fields in the major leagues, though Judge doesn’t fill its void at all with cheap cheap right-field porches. According to Statcast, Judge has hit only two home runs this season that would have been home runs at Yankee Stadium and only at Yankee Stadium: a 364-footer vs. Shane McClanahan on June 15 and another 364 footer against Jonathan Heasley on July 30.

That home run against Heasley was Judge’s 200th home run. He hit 200 home runs in just 671 games second least ever behind Ryan Howard (658).

It’s no surprise that Judge’s home run rate at home (one every 13.2 at bats) is higher than his home run rate on the road (one every 16.1 at bats). The judge can hit the ball from any part of any park.

What about his workload?

This is important. The Yankees have 15 games to go, but Judge may not play them all. The Yankees have been all-in on load management for years, and they rarely deviate from their rest schedule.

Judge has been perfectly healthy this season, not even a single daily injury situation, and he has started 140 of his team’s 147 games (he has been hit four times). At a similar pace, Judge would start 14 of New York’s last 15 games. Even one less start will reduce his chances of matching or bettering Maris’ AL record.

Despite a bad play, the Yankees are a postseason locker and the ultimate goal is to win the World Series (the judge would tell you that himself), so they’ll do what they think is best to make sure it ends. team in the best position is heading into October. That said, they are oblivious to the home run chase and its possible history, especially since it will put a lot of butts in the seats. How could the Yankees Judge sit at home in September?

My guess – and I emphasize that this is just a guess – is that the Yankees will revise their rest schedule a bit, and instead of giving Judge full days off later, they’ll give him more (possibly a lot more) time to DH. Judge’s rest schedule is definitely something to keep an eye on.