Aaron Judge is still pursuing his 62nd home run of 2022, which would break the record he currently shares with Roger Maris for the most homers by an American League player in a single season.
Judge has two games left in which to hit No. 62, both against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. He did not homer when the Yankees and Rangers played Tuesday afternoon, but the two teams have another game Tuesday, beginning at 8:05 p.m. Eastern time, followed by the regular-season finale Wednesday.
Can Judge stand alone as the A.L.’s single-season home run king? That depends, in part, on the pitches the Rangers give him. Here is a simple way of estimating how many opportunities Judge may have remaining. We will update this estimate after each of his plate appearances.
Judge has two games remaining.
Judge’s longest streak without a home run this season was nine consecutive games, and he also had two seven-game droughts. Since his 61st home run last Wednesday, he has played five games without a homer, and there are two games remaining on the Yankees’ schedule. If this drought extends to the final seven games of the season, he would fall short of breaking the record.
We estimate that Judge has nine plate appearances remaining.
The Yankees have batted Judge in the leadoff spot for the past 22 games, partly in an effort to give him as many at-bats as possible. Through Monday, Judge had averaged 4.66 plate appearances per game this season when batting first. Using that average, we expect he will have roughly nine plate appearances over the final two games of the regular season.
We estimate that Judge will see 14 more pitches in the strike zone.
Since Judge hit his 60th home run 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 home run (or lose). In the Yankees’ 12 games from Sept. 21 to Oct. 3, pitchers delivered about 1.57 pitches in the strike zone per plate appearance by Judge, according to Major League Baseball’s zone charts (and counting intentional walks as plate appearances). That’s lower than his season average of 1.91.
We can’t know exactly what the Rangers’ pitchers will do in these final two games, but it’s a safe bet they won’t give Judge all fastballs down the middle. If they continue to pitch to Judge as other pitchers have in his most recent games, his nine estimated remaining plate appearances should work out to about 14 more pitches in the strike zone.
Of course, Judge could homer off a pitch outside the strike zone, and not every pitch within the strike zone is home run material. There are also discrepancies in M.L.B.’s various interpretations of which pitches crossed the strike zone. But this serves as a rough estimate of the number of hittable pitches Judge may still face.
We estimate that Judge has a 47% chance of reaching 62 home runs.
In the 2022 season through Monday, Judge received 1,315 pitches in the strike zone and homered on 58 of them, as tracked by M.L.B.’s zone charts. (His other three home runs came on pitches that were recorded by M.L.B. as either high or inside, or both, but we’re excluding those from this analysis.) That means he has homered on roughly 4.4 percent of pitches in the strike zone.
Now, time for some probability math. Let’s assume that each time Judge faces a pitch in the strike zone, he has an equal and independent 4.4 percent chance of homering — an overly simplistic assumption, but a fair one for this estimate. Given our estimate that Judge will face 14 more pitches in the strike zone, what are the odds that he’ll homer on at least one of those opportunities — that the event that has a 4.4 percent chance of happening will occur at least once in 14 tries? By the powers of probability, those odds are 47 percent.
Heading into the doubleheader Tuesday, we estimated Judge’s chances at 63 percent, so his probability of success dropped by about 16 percentage points after his five homerless plate appearances in the afternoon game.
Our original estimate of 63 percent aligned with how the sports books saw it. DraftKings, for example, on Tuesday morning, was offering -175 odds that Judge would hit at least 62 home runs this season, which implied a probability of 64 percent.
With each unsuccessful plate appearance against the Rangers, Judge’s chances will continue to tick downward, and he and his fans will probably sweat a little bit more. Or maybe Judge will hit a home run off the next pitch he faces, and all of these estimates will no longer be needed.