Spin Cycle: Judging the HR history book 

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New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has amassed a whopping 59 home runs as the final stretch of the MLB regular season gets underway, but that is hardly news to anyone. Judge’s chase of baseball lore has been well-documented all season long given his absolutely ridiculous home run pace (not to mention his amazing ability to drive the ball well over the confines of the outfield wall as opposed to whacking up wall-scrapers), but at the same time, it feels as though people don’t realize just how impressive of a season that Judge has conducted. 

Here’s an extensive list of players that have hit more home runs in a single season than Aaron Judge has in 2022: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris and Babe Ruth. That’s the extensive list. Only five players have hit more home runs than Judge this year, and while the Yankee outfielder still has time to bump his numbers up, the timing of his breakout performance further cements Judge’s 2022 campaign as an all-time-great. 

We are in the midst of an age in baseball history where baseball players are penalized extensively for using performance-enhancing drugs. That wasn’t always the case, and there was an era where baseball was dominated by steroid use. Two of the most famous players to take advantage of the PEDs? Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, who are coincidentally MLB’s two highest single season home run hitters. For what it’s worth, Sosa, too, has been accused of steroid use during his career, though he never admitted to using it while playing. That means if we’re looking at an even playing field where steroids are a non-factor, then Judge trails only Maris (61) and Ruth (60) for the most home runs hit in one season. 

As of Monday night, Judge has 16 more games to hit two home runs to tie Maris, so it is a very real possibility that Judge is able to do so, even as early as this week if he continues to homer in bunches like he has been over the last several weeks. Were Judge to pass Maris’ mark of 61 home runs, then he’d break the American League home run record (the players ahead of Maris all played for National League teams) as well as the Yankees all-time single season record. If you aren’t familiar, the Yankees are one of, if not the, most storied franchises in the history of professional sports. For a franchise that has been the home of too many superstars to count through the years, the title of “franchise home run king” is one of the highest honors to carry. Especially when that honor hasn’t been touched in 61 years. 

Though home runs have been Judge’s calling card all year, he’s been more of an all-around producer and subsequently finds himself firmly entrenched in the race for the American League Triple Crown Award. Well, “entrenched” may not be the appropriate term to describe how Judge is currently faring in the Triple Crown race — he is the Triple Crown race. With major advantages in both the home run and runs batted in departments, the only statistic that Judge doesn’t find himself atop of in the AL is batting average. 

With a batting average of .316, Judge only trails Minnesota’s Luis Arraez and is tied for second with Boston’s Xander Bogaerts in the AL. Over the past week, Judge has absolutely torn the cover off of the baseball to the tune of a .500 batting average in his last 10 games. Though .500 is a difficult pace to keep up with, his recent performance has raised his batting average drastically and positions Judge well to finish his 2022 campaign on a strong final note. Arraez and Bogaerts may very well slump below their current batting averages to pave the way for Judge to overtake the two, which would make Judge the first Triple Crown winner since Miguel Cabrera with Detroit in a special 2012 season. Before that, the most recent Triple Crown winner was Carl Yastrzemski for Boston in 1967. 

Aaron Judge is in the midst of a truly historic statistical showing during the 2022 regular season. Everyone knows that he’s knocking on the door of home run history, but far too few are aware of the fact that Judge’s performance comes during a period where players aren’t meant to match the monstrous outputs of the PED-era players. Not to mention that he’s making both AL and Yankee history, which itself is a monumental feat, on top of his chase for the AL Triple Crown. Very rarely can you judge a book by its cover, but in this case, I’d call it fair to judge the home run record book and its validity. If one thing is clear from the 2022 season, it’s that the history book has finally been Judge-d. 

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