Nobody wants to give up No. 61.
After doing his best Barry Bonds impersonation all season, Aaron Judge is getting the full Bonds treatment with history on the horizon. The Yankees slugger walked four times in five plate appearances against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday and remains one home run shy of tying Roger Maris for the single-season AL record of 61.
But the Yankees certainly don't mind. For now, at least. Judge came around to score twice in a 5-2 New York win that clinched the AL East over the division rival Blue Jays. The championship is the first for the Yankees since 2019 and their second since 2012. Judge and his teammates marked the occasion with champagne while his chase for history remains on ice.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 28, 2022
“We took everyone’s punches, we had to fight like hell for it," manager Aaron Boone told his team, per The New York Times. "And now we get that opportunity to go on and realize our goal of being the champion. This deserves to be celebrated.”
With the Yankees' postseason standing secure, pressure only promises to mount on Judge's home-run quest. With two more, he'll surpass Maris as the AL single-season home run king with 62. In the eyes of fans who don't acknowledge the steroid-era totals posted by Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, he'll be MLB's true single-season home run king. While that's a debate for another space, Judge's chase is pressure-packed regardless.
And what seemed like a forgone conclusion when Judge hit No. 60 on Sept. 20 is less of a sure thing with eight games remaining on the Yankees schedule. Especially considering that no one seems to want to give him something to hit.
Judge's walk rate since hitting No. 60 has spiked to 38.7% (12 in 31 plate appearances). His full-season walk rate while leading the AL in free passes is 15.7% (105/667).
By comparison, Bonds' astounding peak full-season walk rate in 2004 was 37.6% (232/617). While it's statistically absurd to compare a seven-game sample size to a full season, it's clear that pitchers are avoiding throwing balls over the plate. Nobody wants to be on the wrong end of that historic highlight.
For now, Judge is cool with it.
“I’ll take four walks for a win every single day," Judge said on Tuesday.
Let's see how he feels if he's still stuck on 60 in a week.