Sports | May 25, 2022 1:17 pm

Home Runs Are a Rarity This Season, Except If You’re Aaron Judge

Through seven weeks, MLB teams are hitting 0.99 homers per game, down 20% from last year

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees hits a two-run home run against the Baltimore Orioles
Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees hits a two-run home run against the Baltimore Orioles.
Jim McIsaac/Getty

Following a pair of pregame chats with home run king Barry Bonds, Joc Pederson of the Giants homered three times and drove in a career-high eight runs for San Francisco during a 13-12 win over the New York Mets on Tuesday.

“Just getting knowledge from such a good hitter and the way he thinks about baseball and hitting, it just helped to connect some dots to free my mind up at the plate,” Pederson said after the best night of his career. “I’m not ever going to be Barry Bonds. He’s the best hitter to touch a bat. But it definitely helped free my mind up in the box.”

Following his three-pack of taters, Pederson has 10 homers on the year, tied for 10th in all of baseball and seven dingers behind league leader Aaron Judge of the Yankees. The 30-year-old Yankees right fielder, who has five more homers than any other player this season with a major-league-leading 17 home runs, is on pace to hit more than 60 home runs this season and could do it if he is able to stay healthy and play 150 or more games for the first time in his career.

The power that Judge and to a lesser extent Pederson have displayed this season is exceptional — and it’s also the exception as home run totals this season have plummeted in Major League Baseball. Through seven weeks of play, MLB teams are hitting 0.99 homers per game, down 20% from last year (1.22) and 29% from the all-time high in 2019 (1.39).

Physical changes to the actual baseball are certainly a factor in the power outage and have led to balls carrying less on the same quality of contact and staying in the yard when they typically would’ve landed in the bleachers. Also, all 30 ballparks are now storing balls in humidors to standardize the amount of moisture they retain and that could also factor into the decreased offensive output.

“The ball ain’t the same as it used to be,” Milwaukee Brewers designated hitter Andrew McCutchen told ESPN in early May. “I used to be 165 pounds soaking wet here, flicking balls out. [Now] I’ve hit some that don’t continue to keep going…. Baseball players aren’t getting any weaker.”

He might be right. Perhaps it is possible that Judge, who is listed at 6 feet 7 inches and 282 pounds, is just getting stronger.