We'll get to our regularly scheduled commentary about home run pace in a moment. First, we need to acknowledge a couple special achievements. First (chronologically), Aaron Judge delivered his 60th home run of the season. Babe Ruth was the first to mash 60 taters. Since then, the “60 Club” has been joined by Roger Maris, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and now Judge. Congrats to Judge on being the sixth human to hit 60 home runs. The Yankees have 12 more games for Judge to catch the likes of Maris, Sosa, and possibly even McGwire on the single-season record list. Bonds is seemingly out of reach.
Even more impressively, Albert Pujols turned back time and hit his 20th and 21st home runs of 2022. He's needed just 328 plate appearances for the feat. Of course, his success in his age 42 season isn't the only reason why he's earned his very own paragraph in this column about big flies. Pujols is just the fourth player in history to achieve 700 home runs. He joins Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Ruth. Imagine what he might have accomplished if he'd never traveled west to Los Angeles. The city of St. Louis sure seems like his spirit animal. Pujols reached these heights without any truly heroic single-season totals. His career-best of 49 home runs is tied for the 48th-best power season. He exceeded 40 home runs just six times.
Back to trivial talk about pace. Only 196 home runs were hit in the last week, lowering the seasonal pace to 5,240 home runs, a drop of 22 since last week. Most teams have 11 or 12 games remaining.
Kolten Wong, 4 HR
4 Others, 3 HR
Well, isn't this unusual? Wong, a relatively punchless infielder, led the week. In so doing, he also set a career-high for home runs – 15 in 469 plate appearances. His .254/.336/.440 triple-slash is also a career-best per his 117 wRC+. Wong has an affordable club option for 2023 and seems likely to remain in Milwaukee for another season where, apparently, his modest power plays up. In two seasons since joining the Brewers, he's hit 35 percent of his career home runs in just 24 percent of his career plate appearances.
Judge was one of the triple-dinger crowd. I have nothing else to add about the most prodigious slugger of 2022. Shocking, I know.
J.T. Realmuto has quietly carried the Phillies. After the first quarter of the season, he was batting just .224/.293/.321 with two home runs in 147 plate appearances. Over the next four months, he hit .300/.369/.553 with 19 dingers in 377 plate appearances. What started as his worst season in the Majors has officially become his best. Overall, he's batting .278/.347/.486 with a 131 wRC+. He's even set a career-high of 18 stolen bases in as many attempts.
A.J. Pollock, unfortunately, has not been able to stave off father time. His 494 plate appearances actually stand as the second-highest total of his career, but he's managed an unimpressive .242/.289/.391. He would likely have more value in a role where he's protected from disadvantageous matchups. As this week shows, there's still some jolt left in his bat. He just needs to be hidden from tough right-handers. Assuming he accepts his player option for 2023, the White Sox ought to look at how the Cardinals used Pujols. Pollock hit .287/.320/.643 against southpaws this season (the AL Central has some BAD lefties).
Last but not least is early-season hero Taylor Ward. Through early June, he batted .333/.443/.644 in 158 plate appearances. After returning from an injury in mid-June, Ward hit just .209/.288/.313 over his next 260 plate appearances. However, over the last month, he's back to batting .356/.400/.567 in an even 100 plate appearances. Add it all together, and he's hit .274/.357/.460 with 21 home runs in 518 plate appearances. He figures to be a contentious player as fantasy touts prepare their preseason rankings for 2023.
My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders
There was no change in the 10 names projected to finish atop the home run leaderboard. Alonso and Walker moved up a couple spots while Trout and Ohtani subsided a tad. Judge is now projected to tie Sosa for the sixth-best single-season homer total with a plausible shot at third All-Time. That's currently also Sosa with 66 dingers.
Just for fun, I went back to the first episode of the season to see how the tool performed. Wins included Alonso (44 projected), Ohtani (41), and Trout (40). The tool missed big on Judge (38) and failed to anticipate outages from Vladito (46) and Joey Gallo (42). Injuries intervened with Brandon Lowe (41), Salvador Perez (40), and George Springer (40). The final member of the original Top 10, Nolan Arenado (41), only fell off the pace in recent weeks.
Ozzie Albies, finger, out for season
Trevor Story, heel, late-September
Avisail Garcia, hamstring, late-September
Ramón Laureano, hamstring, out for season
Julio Rodriguez, back, early-October
Tyler O'Neill, hamstring, late-September
Albies just can't catch a break this season. A return during the playoffs is possible. He's been thoroughly out-played by Vaughn Grissom this season. Story's been banged up for a few weeks now. He initially intended to return already. Garcia's first season in Miami was a disappointment. He might return in time for October. Rodriguez is also hoping to return in early October. Back issues tend to be complex and unpredictable.
Brandon Lowe, back, late-September
Jorge Polanco, knee, early-October
Lourdes Gurriel, hamstring, late-September
Nick Castellanos, oblique, late-September
Willson Contreras, ankle, late-September
Franchy Cordero, ankle, out for season
Mike Moustakas, calf, out for season
Brett Baty, thumb, out for season
Brandon Belt, knee, out for season
Jared Walsh, shoulder, out for season
Byron Buxton, hip/knee, out for season
Joey Votto, shoulder surgery, out for season
Matt Carpenter, broken foot, early-October
Miguel Sano, knee, early-October
Alex Kirilloff, wrist, out for season
Kris Bryant, foot, late-September
Adam Duvall, wrist, out for season
Ryan Jeffers, thumb, late-September
Mitch Garver, TJS, out for season
Jorge Soler, back, out for season
Trevor Larnach, abdominal strain, mid-September
Jazz Chisholm, back, out for season
Austin Meadows, both Achilles, out for season
Anthony Rendon, wrist, late-September
Mike Zunino, shoulder, out for season
Royce Lewis, torn ACL, out for season
Contreras recently resumed baseball activities. It's unclear if he'll return this season. Bryant's return is also up in the air after a lost first season in Colorado. Rendon is taking batting practice and could rush back around the end of the month. Don't expect much out of him. Lowe's timeline remains uncertain. Gurriel is with the Jays but has yet to be activated. It's not looking good for Carpenter's return bid – at least not by the end of the season.
Castellanos wants to skip a rehab assignment, but the Phillies might make him play a game or two anyway. They've actually gotten really valuable hitting out of their glob of backup right fielders in his absence.
In Twins news, Polanco is aiming at the final series. Larnach is dealing with wrist soreness. He probably won't make it back. There are no recent updates on Sano. Jeffers should resume active duty early next week. Buxton has now been ruled out for the season.
Carlson has returned to find himself in a center field platoon. The Cardinals have quite a few good outfielders. Rizzo returned to the lineup last Sunday and thumped a homer.