New York Yankees slugger and AL MVP frontrunner Aaron Judge will look to swat his 61st home run of 2022 on Wednesday night in Toronto (he's leading off though the Yankees are resting a lot of regulars after clinching the AL East). His next homer will tie Roger Maris' American League single-season home run record. Maris hit 61 home runs with the 1961 Yankees. With eight games remaining, Judge has a chance to pass Maris and own the record outright.
Judge hit his 60th homer last Tuesday and is 5 for 19 (.263) with three doubles, 12 walks, and eight strikeouts in the seven games since. The seven-game home run drought is tied for his second longest of the season — Judge went seven games without a dinger from April 14-21, and a season-high nine games without a homer from Aug. 13-21.
"Not at all … That'll come," Judge told reporters, including ESPN, when asked whether he is concerned about his home run drought following Tuesday's AL East-clinching win.
Given the year he's had and the fact his next home run will carry historical significance, it's fair to wonder whether Judge is pressing at the plate. That may be — we can't get inside Judge's head to know for certain — but the signs point to a hitter who's staying within himself. Here are three reasons this is just a home run drought more than a hitter who is pressing.
1. Judge isn't chasing
The telltale sign of a slumping/pressing hitter is chasing out of the zone (and also taking hittable pitches in the zone). They fall out of their usual approach and begin doing things they don't normally do at the plate. Judge has been one of the most disciplined hitters in the league the last few years and that trademark discipline remains intact. The numbers:
- Seven games preceding 60th homer: 24.6% chase rate
- Seven games since 60th homer: 20.7% chase rate
- Season average: 23.1 percent chase rate
- MLB average: 29.1 percent chase rate
Judge is actually chasing less since he's hit his 60th home run, which is understandable because teams aren't pitching to him all that much. Judge walked four times Tuesday and he drew all four walks after falling behind in the count, including once after being down 0-2 and once after being down 1-2. Judge is still very difficult to put away. Hitters who are pressing typically aren't.