As the Yankees prepare to open up the 2023 MLB regular season in the Bronx on Thursday, we have to wonder what kind of encore Aaron Judge has in store for us. After all, how do you follow up on a year in which you hit 62 home runs?
We’ve already talked about how Judge timed his performance perfectly. He nearly won the American League triple crown while setting the AL home run record. Instead, he settled for an MVP Award and the richest contract in franchise history, along with becoming the Yankees’ 16th captain.
Those are worthy consolation prizes, I think. But now, that stuff is in the past. What does Judge have in store for this season? There have been just nine performances of 60-plus homers in MLB history. And it’s been done by just six players: Judge, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris, and Babe Ruth.
USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale notes that just three of these players followed up their first historic season with 50-plus homers the following year:
Aaron Judge is trying to go where only three players have gone before in #MLB history, following up a 60-homer season with at least 50 HRs.
Babe Ruth: 60 in 1927; 54 in 1928.
Mark McGwire: 70 in 1998; 65 in 1999.
Sammy Sosa: 66 in 1998; 63 in 1999.
Sosa: 63 in 1999; 50 in 2000.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 28, 2023
Sosa gets a little extra star for doing it twice. But of course, both he and McGwire get also get asterisks for getting some “extra credit” to reach these heights.
Can Judge join this group? He does have a pair of 50-plus homer seasons under his belt already, but his 2022 performance was his first since that 2017 Rookie of the Year campaign. If you look at ZiPS (46 homers), Steamer (44), and ATC (42) projections, the expectation is he’ll be on the cusp.
And even if he gets off to a slow-ish start in the power department, hope will not be lost. The six homers he hit last April were his lowest monthly total of the year. Judge never hit fewer than nine in a month the rest of the way, which included four double-digit homer efforts.
The outfielder is also at the point in his career where he can start making some legitimate moves up New York’s all-time home run leaderboard. His 220 career dingers already rank 12th in Yankees history, and if things go how everyone in the Bronx hopes, he’ll be challenging Jorge Posada (275) and Derek Jeter (260) for eighth and ninth place, respectively.
It should be a fun — and interesting — year of baseball in the Bronx.
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You can reach Matt Musico at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.