There are many compelling aspects to this Yankees season, but with the addition of Giancarlo Stanton, many are excited to watch the potential home run race between the reigning MVP and his counterpart, 2017 AL Rookie of the Year, Aaron Judge.
While we’re all hoping for a teammate home run battle that could challenge Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle‘s record total of 115, the Yankees as a team look poised to challenge the all-time record of 264 home runs by a team set by the 1997 Seattle Mariners.
That Mariners team was led by a vintage Ken Griffey Jr. who hit 56 home runs on his own and was in a race with Mark McGwire (and Tino Martinez for a while) to break Maris’ single-season record. Junior was complimented by 40 bombs from Jay Buhner (oh what could have been…), but interestingly, Paul Sorrento was the only other Mariner with over 30 home runs that year. It was a true team effort though, as all nine regulars hit at least 11 home runs.
So what are the chances the 2018 Yankees can break the Mariner’s mark? Last year, led by the aforementioned Judge’s 52, the Yankees led the league with 241 home runs. Will the addition of Stanton plus a health Greg Bird be enough to put them over the edge?
Returning Players | 2017 Total | 2018 Projected* | +/-
Aaron Judge 52 43 -9
Gary Sanchez 33 32 -1
Didi Gregorius 25 20 -5
Brett Gardner 21 15 -6
Aaron Hicks 15 14 -1
Greg Bird 9 19 +10
Jacoby Ellsbury 7 8 +1
New Players | 2017 Total | 2018 Projected* | +/-
Giancarlo Stanton 59 57 -2
Neil Walker 14 19 +5
Brandon Drury 13 14 +1
*Projected Home Runs from ZiPS
Key Losses: Matt Holliday (19 ), Starlin Castro (16), Chase Headley (12), Todd Frazier (11)
Dark Horses: Miguel Andujar, Billy Mckinney, Tyler Austin, Tyler Wade, Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier
Huh. When you add up the ZiPS projections of the players most likely to be in the starting lineup, we get 241 home runs, the same total as last season. Keep in mind though, that this analysis isn’t accounting for part-time players. Last year Cris Carter had eight home runs, even Ji-Man Choi contributed two! This year, look to the dark horses to provide those additional home runs.
Even if some of the projections are off — for instance, I think if Judge is healthy he threatens 50 again, and Bird threatens 40 — there will be injuries, some performances will be off, and all sorts of things that happen during the baseball season will happen again.
That being said, the number of home runs are increasing across all of baseball and have been for several years. Obviously, they will peak at some point, but it may not be this year. We’ll be keeping an eye on the power numbers this year and hopefully, these Yankees will make a run at history.