Why the 2022 season filled with Aaron Judge is more impressive than it sounds

New York Yankees player Aaron Judge became the author of the ninth season of the 60th home game in Major League Baseball history Tuesday night. Here’s the company he keeps now — for example, the home’s one-season leaderboard:

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

Quite unexpectedly, he’ll soon equalize and surpass Roger Maris’ MLS record for home runs in a single season, perhaps even putting some enthusiasm on the names topping the list above. For now, though, let’s savor the present and focus on Judge joining the 60 homer’s guild. We’ll do that by putting the judge’s season into a quick statistical context.

Different eras throughout baseball’s history lead to different circumstances, and this affects everything — home workouts included. Homer hitting in 1911 was very different from hitting one in 1930, just as hitting one in 1968 was nothing like hitting one in 2000. Heck, even hitting one in 2017, when fellow current judge Giancarlo Stanton unwound 59 of them Heck, it was an easier feat than hitting one this year.

So with that in mind, let’s take a short walking tour of Judge season compared to that of his 60-strong peer group.

A judge controls his peer group like no one else

As of this writing, the 60-year-old Judge not only leads the league, but outperforms it. In second place is Kyle Schwarber from Phyllis With 40 home runs. If that margin continues through the remainder of the regular season, Judge will become the first player to lead major teams in domestic competitions by a margin of 20 or more since Babe Ruth in 1928 skipped the entire league by 23 Homers. No player has topped even 14 majors since Jimmy Foxx in 1933. This season the judge has dominated all newcomers at a level he hasn’t seen in nearly a century.

The 2022 season for the judge does not owe much to his stadium

Yankee Stadium is rightly known as a player friendly environment. However, Judge’s pitch inclinations at the Bronx haven’t helped him much with his home score in 2022. First, he’s a right-handed hitter, and Yankee Stadium makes more use of home hitters than he does right-handed hitters, thanks in part to Pretty much to that short balcony in the right field. There is also this:

  • Judge’s 2022 competitions at home: 30
  • The Judge’s 2022 house spans the road: 30

Additionally, Judge has been more productive on the road this season in terms of OPS (No. 1.148 abroad versus 1,097 at home).

According to Statcast estimates, the judge this season if he played all of his games at Yankee Stadium would have reached… 61 home runs instead of the 60 he already had as of Wednesday morning. That’s the same number, again according to Statcast estimates, that he would have had if he played all of his matches at Dodger Stadium. He would have had over 61 if he played his matches at five non-Yankee stadiums.

All this speaks of the quality of communication of the elite judge. Honestly, no one today – perhaps ever – hits the ball with such a perfect combination of power and angle. The judge is currently driving majors in average exit velocity off the bat, hit percentage, and barrel rate (i.e. those balls that leave the bat with the perfect combination of exit exit and launch angle). More broadly, Statcast estimates that its “expected” total for its land run for 2022 will be 0.8 homeowners shy of the actual total. Yes, that’s 0.8 with a decimal number.

Judge facing speed has no other 60 experienced hitter

High hitting speeds make things more difficult for hitters, which is why court guys work so hard to increase their ability to throw the ball hard. Speaking of which, what players like Judge face in 2022 is unprecedented in the history of baseball. This season, the Major League speedball average is 93.6 mph, the highest ever. This year’s slider average comes in at 84.5 mph, which is only late 2021 and 2019 (84.6 either way). Back in 2002—the first year of standardized and publicly available speed data—MLB’s speedballs averaged 89.0 mph, and the pass was 80.4 mph. Given this steep trend line and given that the other 60 seasons took place before 2002, it’s safe to assume that his peers never experienced anything like the heat that Judge faces daily. This doubles as for Maris and Roth.

Also, the percentage of slides that hitters face today is at a record high – 21.8 percent versus 12.1 percent in 2002. In Judge’s case, he sees sliders — sliders often thrown more aggressively than many fastballs encountered in previous generations — more of a quarter of the time. Others in the list above cannot come close to it.

The judge also faces more shooters

It has long been known that the increasing familiarity between batter and jug favors batter. The more times a hitter sees a particular pitcher, the better he is likely to perform. On this front, the judge stands alone in his lack of familiarity. Regarding the players on our list ordered by the number of different shooters seen during the seasons of note:

  • Judge, 2022: Face 244 different pitchers (and counting)
  • Sosa, 1999: Encounter 215 different pitchers
  • Sosa, 2001: Encounter 213 different pitchers
  • Sosa, 1998: Encounter 211 different pitchers
  • McGuire, 1998; Bonds, 2001: Encountering 201 different pitchers
  • McGuire, 1999: Confronting 198 different shooters
  • Maris, 1961: Encounter 101 different shooters
  • Ruth, 1927: Encounter 64 different pitchers

The judge has watched the most, and it’s not a close race.

These days, teams are using shooters in the game more than ever. Beginners’ workloads are restricted so that they avoid, when possible, facing the opposing team’s lineup for the third time in a given game or working on a high pitch, Which is when speculators take advantage of a huge advantage. Instead of picking meat from the bones of a tired starter, they are faced with a series of powerful painkillers that tend not to work more than one frame at a time.

On a game level, today’s hitters benefit from facing a tired bowler at a much lower rate than in the past. Joe Sheehan on his excellent baseball newsletter I recently determined the percentage of backs of plates that come against starting pitchers working through the opposite order for the third (or more) and throwers facing the order for the second (or more) – that is, “tired” pitchers. Note how the percentage of these board appearances broke off over time, as well as the percentage of hits that came against tired pitchers:

1967

26.9%

28.9%

1982

27.6%

29.4%

1997

22.3%

23.6%

2012

20.0%

20.9%

2022

13.7%

15.1%

Here’s another trend that undoubtedly works against Judge in 2022, and therefore, works with other hitters of the Holy Ledger of Sixty. In related matters, teams in 2022 use an average of 4.29 shooters per game. In 2001, this number 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 mix of considerations that help put Judge’s output this season in additional context.

  • He is the only member of the 60-house club to play a center of excellence. This season, the judge has spent the comfortable majority of his 1,042 defensive and 2/3 innings at center field. That probably poses little financial loss compared to what Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Maris and Ruth are carrying. The judge won’t be in the middle moving forward, as with Harrison Bader’s activation, but he will still end up being a key midfielder for the season.
  • Unlike Ruth, Judge did not benefit from playing against an artificially limited competition—that is, an all-white competition.
  • Unlike Maris, Judge did not take advantage of the promotional staff weakened by the expansion. All employees affected by the expansion draft, Maris achieved 13 out of 61 times in his home against the expansion Angels And the elders.
  • McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds all benefited from facing an array of league promotions that were still being jeopardized by double rounds of expansion in 1993 and 1998. It is difficult to quantify compared to the effects of double expansion.

Considering the fact that Judge has–flash flyer–60 runs at home and has a very real shot at the Triple Crown, it’s not an absolute courage to say he’s having an historic 2022 season. But in a fuller light, his work this year has become even more surprising. Now go in amazement.

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