Aaron Judge is still chasing his 62nd home run of 2022, which would break the record he currently shares with Roger Maris for most home runs by an American League player in a single season.
Judge has three games left to reach No. 62, all of which are against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The first game of a Tuesday doubleheader is now underway, but Judge has been unsuccessful so far, ending up in his first at-bat.
Can Judge stand alone as the AL’s single-season home run king? That depends in part on the spots Rangers give him. Here’s a simple way to estimate how many opportunities Judge might have left in the season. We will update this estimate after each of his record appearances.
We estimate that Judge has 13 record appearances left.
The Yankees have beaten Judge up front in the last 22 games, partly in an effort to give him as many hits as possible. As of Monday, Judge is averaging 4.66 plate appearances per game this season when he batted first. With that average, we expect him to have about 14 plate appearances in the last three games of the regular season. He’s had one plate appearance so far in the current game, so we estimate he has 13 plate appearances left.
We estimate Judge will see 20 more pitches in the strike zone.
Ever since Judge hit his 60th home run on Sept. 20, opposing pitchers have been a little more reluctant to give him pitches he could hit—after all, nobody wants to give up (or lose) a historic home run. In Judge’s 12 completed games since Sept. 20, pitchers have delivered approximately 1.57 pitches in the batting zone per Judge’s plate appearance, according to Major League Baseball zoning charts (and counting intentional walks as plate appearances). That’s less than his season average of 1.91.
We can’t know for sure what the Rangers pitchers will do in those last three games, but it’s a safe bet they won’t give Judge all the fastballs down the middle. If they keep pitching at Judge like other pitchers have been doing in his recent games, his 13 remaining plate appearances should result in about 20 more pitches in the strike zone.
Of course, the judge could home run from a square outside the hitting zone, and not every square inside the hitting zone is home run material. There are also discrepancies in MLB’s various interpretations of which pitches crossed the batting zone. However, this serves as a rough estimate of the number of hittable pitches the judge may still be facing.
We estimate that Judge has a 59% chance of hitting 62 home runs.
In the 2022 season through Monday, Judge received 1,315 strike-zone pitches and scored a homered on 58 of them, according to MLB’s zone charts. (His other three homers came on pitches that were MLB-registered as either high or inside or both, but we’re excluding those from this analysis.) That means he’s in the hitting zone on about 4.4 percent of the pitches Homer made.
Well, time for some probability theory. Let’s assume that each time Judge faces a square in the hitting zone, he has an equal and independent 4.4 percent chance of landing a homer—an oversimplified assumption, but a fair one for this estimate. Given our estimate that Judge will face 20 more pitches in the strike zone, what are the odds that he will homer on at least one of those occasions — the event, which has a 4.4 percent chance of occurring, at least once tried entering 20? According to the power of probability, these odds are 59 percent.
Heading into Tuesday’s doubleheader, we estimated Judge’s odds at 63 percent, so his odds of succeeding are down about four percentage points after he came out with his homerless plate performance.
Our original estimate of 63 percent was consistent with how the sports books saw it. For example, DraftKings offered a -175 odds Tuesday morning that Judge would hit at least 62 homers this season, which was a 64 percent probability.
With each unsuccessful plate performance against Rangers, Judge’s chances will continue to decline, and he and his fans will likely sweat a little more. Or maybe Judge hits a home run from the next place he’s facing and all those estimates aren’t needed anymore.