There are seven weeks left in the Major League Baseball season and oddsmakers are already making it a formality that New York Yankees slugger Aaron judge is going to win the home run title. With about 45 games left in the season, the outfielder has already hit 46 home runs, and leads the next closest player by 12.
Fantastic action every single night, allowing fans to get in on wagers on game results and totals. However, the futures bets can be a great choice. There is a great race to see who will win the homerun title this season with Aaron Judge entering August with a commanding lead, hitting 10 more homeruns than Kyle Schwarber.
Is Judge the right pick? That is a good question. The truth is that there are a lot of factors that determine the success of someone in hitting the long ball. It is not just about their ability to hit for home runs. There are a lot of great sluggers out there who have no protection surrounding them, meaning they receive a lot more intentional walks and see very few pitches to hit during at-bats.
To better gauge this, look at the number of walks a slugger has received. This includes intentional walks. In the case of both Judge and Schwarber, both have walked a little over 50 times in over 100 games. That means that they are free swingers and have the green light to hit in any situation. Those will help to drive up numbers.
Plus, their ground out/air out (GAO) matters as well. Are they hitting the ball in the air? This is not always a great indicator, but there are instances where it paves the way for telling you how well the hitter will do and driving the ball toward the fences. For example, this season Judge has a ratio of 1.08 ground outs per air out. Yet, he is leading baseball in homeruns. On the other end of the spectrum, Kyle Schwarber has a 0.81 ground out to air out ratio. He is getting the ball into the air a lot.
Why are all of these important? Let’s go one-by-one:
Pull% – Pull% is the percentage of batted balls hit to the pull side as defined by Baseball Info Solutions, which tracks these by hand. There were 2,304 home runs hit in 2020. Of those home runs, 1,386 were hit to the pull side per FanGraphs. That is 60.2% of the home runs that were hit.
In 2019, there were 3,954 homers hit to the pull side out of 6,776 total home runs. That accounted for 58.4% of the home runs.
FB% – You have to hit the ball in the air more often than not to hit a home run. Line drive home runs are possible. Ground ball home runs are not.
K% – A strikeout is not a ball in play. Guys that hit home runs will strike out, because they are often patient hitters or guys that have big, long swings that generate power, but I try not to focus on guys that are going to fritter away a high percentage of plate appearances.
BB% – Similarly, a walk is not a ball in play. When you add BB% and K% together, those could be a lot of plate appearances without the chance to hit a home run.
HR/FB% – When you hit fly balls, do you generate a lot of home run power? Was there an outlier from the previous season? To that end, did you hit a high percentage of your fly balls out of the ballpark? Guys that hit a lot of ground balls can often carry really high HR/FB%, but not have enough fly balls to support a high home run total.
Barrel% – A Barreled ball has an expected batting average of .500 and an expected SLG of 1.500. The more barrels, the better.
Fly Ball Distance – Give me a guy that is regularly able to hit the ball a long way. Some fly ball guys also hit a lot of pop ups, which are just wasted plate appearances. I’d rather not focus on those.
Hard Hit% – Much like Barrels/PA or Barrel%, you want guys that make a lot of hard, violent contact. Hard Hit% is a measure of the percentage of batted balls hit at least 95 mph.
Park Factor by Handedness – Home games make up 50% of the schedule. Hitters that have good offensive environments are more likely to have success than those that do not. This one is last for a reason because elite power hitters can hit for power anywhere, but I do want to consider the home ballpark in the equation.
Home Run Leader Odds
Home Run Leader Pick & Prediction
As of August 8, some sportsbooks were still offering odds on other players. Judge was at -1400, clearly expected to win the homerun crown. For those looking to understand those odds a little, one had to bet $1400 on Judge winning the home run title just to win $100. He is a lock to hit the most homeruns this season, it would appear.
On August 8, Philadelphia Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber, currently second with 34 home runs, was placed at +1000. Schwarber has a couple of intangibles in his favor that could help them win this title. It starts with the fact that he is hitting .210, striking out 144 times in his first 111 games. For the Phillies outfielder, it has been feast or famine. Either he is hitting home runs or barely hitting the ball, as 34 of his 86 hits have been for homers. Very rarely is he going to be pitched around, so he is going to have every opportunity to swing away.
Houston Astros DH Yordan Alvarez (+2000) has 31 home runs in 102 games, hitting .296. He has two things going against him. First, Houston has played 119 games, but he has only appeared in 102 of those contests. Had he appeared in every game, he could very well have 40 homers at this point, but those missed games are going to cost him. Plus, Alvarez is the only real power threat in this Astros lineup. No one is going to give into him and let the DH beat them. So, he will be pitched around a lot over the final seven weeks of the season.
Atlanta Braves outfielder Austin Riley (+3000) is the only other player with 30 home runs. With only about 25% of the season still left to play, having at least 30 home runs at this point is pivotal. Riley is a superstar, potentially the MVP of the National League. He has a lot of help in the lineup, which means teams are not going to pitch around him. However, 16 home runs behind Judge is a lot. He is simply too far back.
Will He Hit 61?
With oddsmakers sure that Judges going to win the homerun crown, the shift is now to how many home runs he will hit. There are two different options that are available, over 61.5 and over 71.5. With New York having 48 games left at the time this article was written, expecting him to hit 26 homeruns in that few games seems improbable. However, in 25 games since the All-Star break he has hit 13, a pace of a little more than one home run every two games. He would have to keep up a similar pace over the remaining seven weeks and that is unlikely. However, the odds for reaching that mark are set at +2200 to go over and -25,000 to go under, so it might be worth throwing a few dollars on him to top the mark.
The other mark is set at 61.5 with the odds set at +160 to go over, and -190 to go under. Oddsmakers clearly believe that he has a legitimate shot of reaching 62 homeruns this season, and his recent pace of home runs would make it appear that he will do just that.
While Barry Bonds is considered to be the record holder for home runs in a season (73), many baseball purists rightfully believe that the homerun title still belongs to the New York Yankees Roger Maris, who hit 61 in 1961. All three players who have eclipsed that mark – Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa – have been linked to steroids, and their homerun numbers were likely set through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Judge would be the first to break Maris’ mark who is not linked to PEDs in any way.
For those looking to get in on the action, choosing Judge to go over 61.5 may be a smart investment. Regardless of whether you are a Yankees fan or not, he has proven over the last few weeks that he can get on a run that could easily catapult him to 65 or more. Even if he had a slump where he hit one or two homeruns over a 15-game stretch, he still could respond with eight or nine in the next 15.
Hitting 25 home runs in 48 games is not likely to happen. However, hitting 16 in that same period is likely what Judge is going to do.