Optimism for Aaron Judge surpassing his 2022 record in 2023, with a catch

Aaron Judge of the Yankees at Dodger Stadium on June 3, 2023.

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The 2022 season was all about Aaron Judge and his historic home run record. The Yankees power hitter delivered an outstanding offensive show last season inscribing his name in baseball history for good. Setting a remarkable record in the American League, he smashed an impressive 62 home runs.

Furthermore, Aaron Judge joined an elite group of players, becoming only the eighth individual in MLB history to achieve an OPS+ of 210 or above in a season with 600 or more plate appearances. Prior to Aaron Judge’s extraordinary performance in the 2022 season, the prestigious list of players who had achieved such a feat included legendary names like Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams,  Mickey Mantle, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds.

Considering the rarity of Aaron Judge’s outstanding performance in the 2022 season, it would not be unreasonable to assume that he might never achieve a similar feat, even with more impressive seasons in the future. However, based on his current performance in 2023, it has become reasonable to wonder whether he can replicate his success.

Let’s examine why Aaron Judge, who received the honor of being named the American League Player of the Month for May and has been performing exceptionally well since recovering from a hip injury, has the potential to surpass his own remarkable achievements:

Aaron Judge continues to press ahead

During last season, there was only a single stretch of 16 games in which Aaron Judge hit more home runs and achieved a higher OPS than his performance between May 13 and May 31. That remarkable period occurred from July 14 to August 1, 2022, when he belted 13 home runs and boasted an impressive OPS of 1.612.

This evidence indicates that Aaron Judge has maintained his prowess as a hitter, remaining true to his form during his record-breaking season. Some may even argue that he has improved, considering the quality of his contract and the expected statistics he has achieved. 

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge

Several renowned power hitters in the past have experienced peak seasons followed by a decline to consistently strong performances. A notable example is Roger Maris, a Yankees legend whose single-season home run record was surpassed by Aaron Judge in the previous year. In the season following Maris’ record-breaking 61 home runs to surpass Babe Ruth’s mark in 1961, Maris had the same number of at-bats (590). However, he hit “only” 33 home runs with an OPS that was more than 150 points lower.

After making an incredible comeback from a hip injury, Aaron Judge has demonstrated his enduring power and skill at the plate. His performance over the past two-plus weeks reaffirms that he remains a formidable threat, even following his remarkable single-season display, which ranks among the greatest in the game’s illustrious history.

Aaron Judge’s 2023 statistics similar to that of 2022

After 49 games, Aaron Judge’s 2023 statistics are remarkably similar to his performance in the previous year. Despite a relatively slow start, especially when considering Aaron Judge’s high standards, the superstar slugger’s performance is essentially on par with his performance through the same number of games last season. In fact, one could argue that he has slightly improved.

His batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage were .255/.349/.481 with six home runs through May 12. However, Aaron Judge’s power surge since then has resulted in 19 home runs this season and a remarkable 1.078 OPS. It’s important to note that Judge missed 10 games due to a hip issue. Nonetheless, when comparing his performance through the same number of games played last season, he had 19 home runs and a 1.034 OPS.

The 10 games missed due to his hip issue could potentially pose a challenge for Aaron Judge in his pursuit of surpassing his impressive 2022 season. It’s worth noting that he has played in nine fewer games compared to the Yankees’ 60th game of the previous year. As of this season, the team reached its 60th game on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

However, it’s important to note that Aaron Judge’s performance in the early stages of last year’s season was relatively slow. He had only hit one home run in his first 13 games. But as the season progressed, the power hitter showcased his power by hitting a home run approximately every 8.6 at-bats and maintaining an impressive OPS of 1.143. 

Aaron Judge is at Globe Life Field as the Yankees play the Rangers.

If Aaron Judge were to maintain a similar pace of hitting a home run every 8.6 at-bats and maintain a 1.143 OPS for the remainder of this season, considering the average number of at-bats per game and accounting for a few off-days, he would end the season with approximately 60 home runs and a slightly over 1.100 OPS. It is worth noting that Aaron Judge hit 62 home runs with a 1.111 OPS in the previous season. Therefore, there is a possibility that he could achieve similar or slightly better numbers this year if he continues his impressive performance.

Considering the margin of error in our rough calculations, which could be about +/-3 homers, it is not unreasonable to consider the possibility of Aaron Judge hitting 63 or more home runs in the 2023 season. This is particularly true when considering the impressive power he has been displaying and the strong contact he is making with the baseball.

Much better contact in 2023

Surprisingly, Aaron Judge is demonstrating even more consistent and powerful contact with baseball in the 2023 season than he did in the previous year. This development might have seemed unlikely at the beginning of the season, but Aaron Judge’s performance has defied expectations.

As of Saturday’s game, Aaron Judge has shown improvement in several key metrics compared to last year. His hard-hit rate has increased to 62.8% from 61.8%, while his barrel rate has risen to 30.1% from 26.5%. Additionally, his average exit velocity has improved to 97.1% from 95.9%. In terms of expected performance, Aaron Judge’s expected slugging percentage has climbed to .756 from .706, and his expected weighted on-base average has increased to .474 from .463. 

Aaron Judge explained to reporters that his approach at the plate involved focusing on getting ready to hit rather than overthinking about finding the perfect pitch. He emphasized the importance of simplifying his approach and being prepared to drive the baseball. According to the Yankees captain, the key was to stay focused and not let any opportunity to capitalize on a favorable pitch go to waste.

Lately, Aaron Judge has been capitalizing on his opportunities and not missing his pitch, resulting in a surge for the Yankees. In his absence, the team struggled with a 4-6 record. However, since his return and with Judge back in the lineup, the Bronx Bombers have been on a roll, winning 15 out of 22 games. It is worth noting that when Aaron Judge hits a home run, the Yankees boast an impressive record of 18 wins and only 1 loss.

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees.
Andrew Mills | NJ

Don’t dismiss the possibility of Judge delivering another outstanding performance following his historic season in 2022.

The caveat

Aaron Judge was without any injury break in his 2022 season. However, in 2023, he was already out of the Yankees lineup for 10 games. There is a possibility that his 2023 season may include a period of time on the injured list (IL) due to an injury to his big toe.

The outfielder was absent from Sunday’s lineup due to discomfort in his right big toe, which he injured when he collided with a latched door in the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium on Saturday. If reports find that the toe is indeed fractured, it may require approximately 4-6 weeks for proper healing. This may keep Aaron Judge out of action reducing his games and potentially putting a break in his chase for another record season in 2023.

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