2023 MLB picks, predictions: Can Aaron Judge repeat as home run king?

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In 2022 we had one of the most spectacular single seasons in MLB history, when Yankees superstar Aaron Judge broke the AL record with 62 home runs en route to near-unanimous MVP honors.

Ahead of the 2023 season, bettors are already lining up a similar effort for the Bronx Bomber.

Oddsmakers aren’t expecting quite the history from Judge this time around, but the star slugger is the clear favorite at BetMGM to lead the league in home runs (+550) ahead of Thursday’s regular season opener.

He also boasts the highest preseason home run total (43.5) – the only player priced to hit at least 40 entering Opening Day.

To no one’s surprise, the top goes to -120 in his home prop, and Judge is easily the biggest liability in the home lead market with the most tickets (12.3 percent) and money (17.5 percent) bet. Tuesday evening

So it’s fair to ask: Will he repeat as home run king?

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees rounds the bases after hitting his 62nd home run of the season against the Texas RangersGetty Images

There are some obvious reasons for skepticism.

First, we’ve never seen a player maintain such a historic home run pace:

The previous eight times a player had hit at least 60 home runs in a single season, he followed it up with an average of 16.3 fewer dingers the following year.

That drop would put Judge under 46 homers next season — the same number as Judge’s runner-up Kyle Schwarber in 2022 and less than the MLB lead in each of the previous six seasons.

Judge’s epic home run pace in 2022 was also fueled by historic hype under the hood, suggesting a regression to his 2023 average.

Last year, the Yankees star increased his slugging rate (61.9 percent) and home run rate (8.9 percent) to career highs.

He easily hit his highest fly-ball rate (38.3 percent), seven points higher than his career average (31.3 percent) and 10 points higher than his previous year’s rate (28 percent).

On top of that, Judge also posted the highest single-season Home Run to Fly Ball (HR/FB) rate (35.6%) in MLB history, with two of the three seasons above him coming in that 60-game 2020 season. .

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All three of those players experienced a dramatic decline in HR/FB rate the following year, and their home run production dropped by more than 20 percent on average.

In fact, we’ve seen this exact type of regression from Judge before. In 2017, he hit a whopping 52 home runs and had the same HR/FB rate as his 2022 campaign at 35.6 percent.

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The next year, that dropped to 29 percent, and he hit 25 fewer home runs despite playing in 43 fewer games.

That’s another matter for the judge: it was difficult for him to stay on the field.

Despite leading the majors in first-round picks since becoming a full-time starter in 2017, he has lost 168 of 870 games (19.3 percent) in 2017 over that span. Approximately 31.3 games lost per season.

Had he missed that many games last year, he would have been on pace to hit roughly 51 homers, which would have tied Schwarber (46) for the MLB lead.

Yes, Judge played in 157 games in 2022, but the last time he played more than 150 games was in 2017, when he missed 50 games the following year.

Outside of that 2017 campaign, Judge didn’t even hit 40 home runs in a season until this past season.

If he can stay healthy, he looks like a strong bet to surpass that mark and match his preseason total (42.5), but that’s a big “if” for the 6-foot-7 slugger.

Byron Buxton celebrates a home runByron Buxton celebrates a home runGetty Images

And he’s even less likely to maintain the historic efficiency that helped him pace MLB home runs a year ago.

If he doesn’t, that leaves this market open for someone else to claim his throne.

Look at guys like Matt Olson (25/1), Byron Buxton (40/1) and Kyle Tucker (60/1) – all players with the potential and upside to make a run in this market at a much juicier price. .

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