Last season, Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees engaged in his own personal pursuit of history, clubbing 62 home runs during a year where baseballs were not leaving the ballpark with great regularity. Though Judge set the single-season American League record for longballs, no one else in the AL or National League even had 50, and nobody besides Kyle Schwarber (46), Mike Trout (40) or Pete Alonso (40) even had 40.
This season’s home run leader, all-world player Shohei Ohtani, only had 34 deep flys last year, a substantial decrease from the career-high 46 round-trippers he smashed in 2021. Ohtani, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and could be angling to become the highest-paid player in the history of baseball, mashed his 35th home run of the 2023 last night against the Yankees. He could actually have a shot at making a run at Judge’s record if he keeps hitting during the final two and a half months of the MLB season.
With 35 home runs through 95 games, Ohtani is averaging about a home run every three games. If he stays healthy and continues to hit at that pace in the 67 games the Angels have remaining on their schedule, Ohtani will finish the regular season with 60 home runs on the year. He could certainly hit a wall and fall off of that pace, but it’s also possible the 29-year-old will regain the form he had at the plate during June, a month that saw him hit 15 home runs.
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Should Ohtani hit home runs in September and October with the frequency he did in June, he’ll easily get to 60 and have an excellent shot at surpassing Judge in the record books. To that point, it’s worth noting Judge had 36 home runs through 95 games last season, just one more than Ohtani has this year, before getting hot in the second half of 2022.
It’s tough to imagine Ohtani getting hot enough to make a run at Barry Bonds’s all-time single-season home run record of 73, but maybe, just maybe, he can pass Sammy Sosa (66, 64, 63) or even Mark McGwire (70, 65). “The AL home run record is within reach, but the overall home run record might be a stretch,” wrote USA Today. “If Ohtani wants to pass Barry Bonds’ record 73 home runs in one season, he would need to hit 38 home runs in the Angels’ remaining 67 games, or around a home run every two games.”
That being the case, Bonds probably has nothing to worry about. The same cannot be said for Judge.