Aaron Judge is still chasing his 62nd home run in 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 two games left to reach No. 62, both against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. He didn’t homer when the Yankees and Rangers played Tuesday afternoon, but the two teams have another game Tuesday, starting at 8:05 p.m. regular season Wednesday.
Can Judge be the AL’s single-season home run king? That depends, in part, on what pitches the Rangers give him. Here’s a simple way to estimate the number of opportunities remaining in Judge. We will update this estimate after each of his appearances on set.
The judge has two more games.
Judge’s longest streak without a home run this season was nine straight games, and he also had two seven-game droughts. Since his 61st homer last Wednesday, he has gone five games without a hit, and there are two games left on the Yankees schedule. If this drought extended to the last seven games of the season, he would fail to break the record.
We estimate Judge has nine more plate appearances.
The Yankees have beaten Judge to No. 1 in the last 22 games, in part to give him as many appearances as possible. Through Monday, Judge was averaging 4.66 plate appearances per game this season when first at bat. Using that average, we expect him to have about nine plate appearances over the final two games of the regular season.
We estimate the judge will see 14 more throws in the strike zone.
Ever since Judge hit his 60th homer on Sept. 20, opposing pitchers have been reluctant to give him pitches he can hit — after all, no one wants to give up a historic homer (or lose). In the Yankees’ 12 games from Sept. 21 through Oct. 3, pitchers threw about 1.57 pitches into the strike zone per umpire plate appearance, according to Major League Baseball’s zonal charts (and counting intentional walks like home plate appearances). That’s below his season average of 1.91.
We can’t know exactly what Rangers pitching will do in those last two games, but it’s a safe bet they won’t give Judge all the fastballs in the middle. If they continue to pitch to the judge like other pitchers have in his most recent games, his estimated nine remaining home plate appearances should add up to about 14 more pitches in the strike zone.
Of course, the judge could hit a home run outside the strike zone, and not all pitches inside the strike zone are home run material. There are also discrepancies in MLB’s various interpretations of pitches that went through the strike zone. But that serves as a rough estimate of how many hittable pitches Judge can still face.
We estimate Judge has a 47% chance of hitting 62 home runs.
In the 2022 season through Monday, Judge received 1,315 strike zone pitches and homered on 58 of them, as shown by MLB zonal charts. (His other three home runs came on pitches that were recorded by MLB as either high or inside, or both, but we’re excluding them from this analysis.) That means he hit one home run in about 4 .4% of lands in the strike zone.
Now it’s time to do some probability calculations. Let’s assume that each time Judge faces a pitch in the strike zone, he has an equal and independent 4.4% chance of homering – an overly simplistic assumption, but fair for this estimate. Given our estimate that Judge will face 14 more throws in the strike zone, what are the odds that he will hit at least one of those opportunities – that the event that has a 4.4% chance of occurring will occur at the least once in 14 tries? By the powers of probability, these chances are 47%.
Heading into Tuesday’s doubleheader, we estimated Judge’s odds at 63%, so his probability of success has dropped about 16 percentage points after his five homer appearances in the afternoon game.
Our initial estimate of 63% matched how the sportsbooks saw it. DraftKings, for example, Tuesday morning offered -175 odds of Judge hitting at least 62 home runs this season, implying a 64% chance.
With each unsuccessful appearance against Rangers, Judge’s chances will continue to dwindle, and he and his fans will likely sweat a little more. Or maybe Judge will hit a home run on the next pitch he faces, and all those guesses won’t be necessary.
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