Aaron Judge’s chances of repeating as HR king

We were treated to one of the most spectacular individual seasons in MLB history in 2022, when Yankees superstar Aaron Judge broke the AL record with 62 home runs on his way to near-unanimous MVP honors.

Ahead of the 2023 season, bettors are already banking on a similar effort from the Bronx Bomber.

Oddsmakers aren’t expecting much from Judge to make history this time around, but the star slugger is serving as the clear favorite at BetMGM, leading the league in home runs (+550) ahead of Thursday’s start of the regular season. Is.

He also boasts the highest preseason total for home runs (43.5) – the only player to hit at least 40 homers entering Opening Day.

To no one’s surprise, the over is worth -120 on his home run prop, and Judge is easily the biggest liability in the home run leader market, with the highest percentage of tickets (12.3 percent) and total money wagered (17.5 percent). Is. Tuesday afternoon.

So, it’s fair to ask: Will he repeat as the home run king?

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees walks the bases after hitting his 62nd home run of the season against the Texas Rangers
Getty Images

There are some obvious reasons for skepticism.

First of all, we’ve never seen a player maintain such a historic home run pace:

The last eight times a player hit at least 60 home runs in a single season, he followed it up the following year with an average of 16.3 fewer dingers.

Such a drop-off would allow Judge to hit only 46 home runs next season – the same number that Kyle Schwarber had as the runner-up in 2022 and one less than the MLB leader in each of the previous six full seasons.

Judge’s epic home run pace in 2022 was also bolstered by historical outliers under the hood, suggesting some regression to the mean in 2023.

Last year, the Yankees star saw his hard-hit rate (61.9 percent) and home run rate (8.9 percent) both reach career highs.

He benefited from what was easily his highest fly-ball rate (38.3 percent)—seven points higher than his career average (31.3 percent) and 10 points higher than his rate from the year before (28 percent).

To that effect, Judge also posted the fourth-highest single-season home run to fly ball (HR/FB) rate (35.6%) in MLB history, with three of those coming in that 60-game season in 2020. There were two seasons. ,

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All three of those players saw their HR/FB rates drop dramatically the following year, and their home run production declined by an average of more than 20 percent.

In fact, we’ve seen the exact same type of regression from Judge before. In 2017, he hit 52 home runs and boasts a similar HR/FB rate of 35.6 percent in his 2022 campaign.

The next year, it dropped to 29 percent, and he hit 25 fewer home runs despite playing just 43 fewer games.

That’s another issue for Judge: He’s struggled to stay on the field.

While the former first-round pick has led the majors in home runs per game (0.31) since becoming a full-time starter in 2017, he has missed 168 of a possible 870 games (19.3 percent) during that stretch. Good for approximately 31.3 missed games per season.

Had he missed that many games last year, he would have been on pace to hit about 51 homers, barely enough to clear Schwarber (46) for the MLB lead.

Yes, Judge will play a career-high 157 games in 2022, but the last time he played in more than 150 games was in 2017, when he missed 50 games the following year.

Outside of that 2017 campaign, Judge didn’t even hit 40 home runs in a season until last season.

If he can stay healthy, he feels like a solid bet to exceed that mark and cash in on his pre-season total (42.5), but it’s still a long time for the 6-foot-7 slugger. There’s a big “if”.

Byron Buxton celebrates home run
Byron Buxton celebrates home run
Getty Images

And it’s even less likely that he maintains the historic efficiency that helped him pace MLB in homers a year ago.

If he doesn’t, he leaves this market wide open for someone else to claim the throne.

Keep an eye on the likes of Matt Olson (25/1), Byron Buxton (40/1), and Kyle Tucker (60/1) — all players with great running back power and upside in this market. ,

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