Aaron Judge is putting together one of the most impressive power seasons in Major League history. While he may not be getting to Barry Bonds’ Major League record of 73 home runs, he's one homer away from the American League record of 61 held by Roger Maris.
And the chase has been fascinating to watch.
But it’s not just about that potential record-tying home run, is it? Every blast along the way is a meaningful one, whether it’s 53 (a new career high for him), or 59 (which gave him an American League record for a right-handed hitter), or 61, or 62 (obviously).
Which, really, is an interesting thing to think about. If you’re planning to see Judge’s home run chase in person, where might you want to be to catch a piece of history?
We of course can’t know exactly when and where Judge will hit however remaining home runs he’s got in him. But we do know exactly where he’ll be, because we’ve got the rest of the schedule. We know exactly where he’s homered in the past. None of this guarantees where any of his homers might land. But looking back might just help you look forward.
Where does Judge hit his homers in general?
While many power hitters favor the pull field -- note, for example, that Nolan Arenado pulled every one of first 26 homers this year -- Judge is an equal-opportunity masher. That speaks a little to his prodigious power, really; he’s so strong that he doesn’t need to get to his pull power to get it out.
Of all the players with at least 100 homers since 2017, when Judge played his first full season, only two players have had a higher share of their home runs go to the opposite field. He is pulling his homers slightly more this year -- nearly half of them -- but for the most part, he sprays those dingers all over the place. That makes for a fun spray chart; it might make it a little harder to know where to post up for a ball.
You might also think that because Judge hits his homers so hard -- at 109.1 mph, the third hardest of anyone with 10 homers hit -- he's probably clearing the fence by a lot. For the most part, that's true. As of Aug. 26, 162 hitters had 10 homers this year, and Judge clears the fence by an average of 46 feet. That's actually only 10th most, because other hitters get to call Coors Field and Fenway Park home, but it also means that sitting in the first row might not be the best bet.
Let’s look at each of the remaining parks he’ll play in and see how he's sprayed the bleachers there -- if he has at all.
At Rogers Centre, Sept. 28
Has Judge homered there before? Yes. 11 times.
A solid home run park for righties, Toronto’s Rogers Centre is No. 3 on Judge’s personal home run list, behind his home park and Baltimore’s Camden Yards. The spray chart here looks ... well, a whole lot like his career home run chart. He’s an all-fields baseball masher.
Unlike some of the other parks we’ve visited, where we’ve been able to say that there’s not a ton of outfield seating and therefore the options are limited, that’s not true here. The 100 level under the video board circles the outfield uninterrupted. For much of left and right field on either side of the video board, there are four levels of seats. There are so many outfield seats here -- and we’re not counting the views from the hotel or the Sportsnet Grill.
There are no right answers here, only wrong ones. You might remember back on May 3, when Judge crushed home run No. 9 into left field, leading to one of the year’s most heartwarming moments, when a Blue Jays fan picked up the ball and handed it to a boy in a Judge No. 99 jersey who immediately burst into tears. Who are we to say magic can’t happen twice?
Where you should be: Section 242. Give the ball to a kid.
The Yankees then head back home for their final homestand of the year, a quick three-game set against the Orioles from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, before ending the season with four games in three days in Texas.
At Yankee Stadium, Sept. 30-Oct. 2
Has Judge homered there before? Uh, yeah, once or twice. (117 times.)
Certainly no stranger to rounding the bases in the home pinstripes, Judge’s relatively equally aligned spray chart is a good reminder that despite the home run-friendly short porch in right, he often barely needs it. At home, he’s pulled 39% of his homers ... and gone to the opposite field for 39% of his homers. Never, ever, let anyone tell you he's "a product of the short porch." (Though "cheap" homers can be had there, to be fair, the park is relatively neutral overall.)
Where should you be? Section 236 in left, but a closer Section 105 in right. Just make sure you’re there to see it.
At Globe Life Field, Oct. 3-5
Has Judge homered there before? No. (He hit five at the previous Texas ballpark.)
That’s right, four games in three days, because Tuesday, Oct. 4, is a doubleheader. It’s difficult to imagine, with the division likely well in hand by this point, that Judge will really play both games in the outfield, or even at all. But if there’s a record in reach, the DH is an option should Aaron Boone choose to make use of it.
He’s played there just four times, all last season, without a home run. It’s hard to judge what this park is, given that 2022 is just the second full season of play there. In the shortened season of 2020, as well as in the playoff games it hosted that year, it seemed like an absolute cavern, a pitcher’s paradise. That held true last year too, but in 2022, it’s been at least a little easier for righties to go deep. (And somehow, quite good for lefties.)
The new Globe Life has a considerable amount of outfield seating, giving us a Toronto-esque problem. Let’s throw a dart at left-center field here.
Where you should be: Section 139 is a little farther away than Section 30 is -- just under it -- but it also hangs over its closer cousin, too. Don’t sit in a section below an overhang if you want to catch a ball. Sit in Section 139. Sit there for four games in three days.