Will Shohei Ohtani Break the American League Home Run Record?

Aaron Judge stole the American League MVP award away from Shohei Ohtani in 2022 by hitting an AL-record 62 home runs. Will "Shotime" one-up him in 2023?

Chris Vasile - Publishing Editor at Covers.com
Chris Vasile • Publishing Editor
Jul 8, 2023 • 05:19 ET • 4 min read
Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Angels MLB
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels are the luckiest team on earth.

Not only have they had the services of Mike Trout - who many consider to be the best player in baseball - for the past 13 seasons, but they also employ Shohei Ohtani, who some say is slowly taking over that title. Combined, they have four MVP awards and one Ohtani ROY honor over the last 13 years.

Some teams go decades without having an elite talent, let alone two, and for Ohtani, this season appears to be all about what he can accomplish from an individual perspective.

The 2023 AL MVP odds race appears all but wrapped up in Ohtani’s favor, as he is the current MLB HR title odds favorite and he still in the Top 5 in 2023 AL Cy Young odds.

He is currently on pace to hit 59 home runs, which puts him in the conversation of potentially reaching Aaron Judge’s home run record of 62 set just last year.

Let’s take a look at what the sportsbooks have to say about Ohtani’s chances at making history this season.

Odds for Shohei Ohtani to break American League home run record

Shohei Ohtani Yes Shohei Ohtani No
+1,500 -7,000

Odds courtesy of FanDuel as of July 8, 2023.

Records are made to be broken

Before we take a deep dive into Ohtani’s stats and how I believe the second half of the season will go for the Angels superstar, let’s break down the top five home run outputs in the American League throughout the history of baseball: 

Year Player Home runs Team
2022 Aaron Judge 62 New York Yankees
1961 Roger Maris 61 New York Yankees
1927 Babe Ruth 60 New York Yankees
1921 Babe Ruth 59 New York Yankees
1932 Jimmie Fox 59 Philadelphia Athletics

If this list feels outdated to you, it’s because it is. Outside of Aaron Judge who broke Roger Maris’ AL home run record that stood for 61 years, you must go back to 2002 for the last time someone got within five home runs of Maris, and that was Alex Rodriguez, who hit 57 bombs.

What Judge did last year was special and it was a treat to be able to watch such an incredible record get broken, but something tells me with the way things are trending in baseball right now, we won’t have to wait another 61 years for a new AL home run king.

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Ohtani's 2023 season trajectory

As the number of ways to describe Ohtani’s brilliance is dwindling, his home run count and production for the Angles are steadily increasing. He’s got a slash line of .296/.383/.650 and he’s already driven in 68 runs and added 31 home runs – all before the All-Star break. The easy way to answer the question of ‘will Ohtani break Judge’s record’ is to just double his production and, voila he’s tied the record.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Ohtani runs the risk of injury both at the plate and when takes the bump every fifth day, and any sort of missed time would put Ohtani behind the season-long pace required to hit 63 longballs. He’s currently dealing with a blister which caused him to be removed early from a pitching start, but he did stay in the game as the DH.

If we compare the pace Ohtani is on this season to Judge’s pace from last year, you’ll in the table below that Ohtani was 15 games behind Judge when hitting his 25th home run of the season. He’s since tightened the gap to just two games when he crushed No. 30. 

Home run 2023 Ohtani 2022 Judge
No. 25 Game 77 Game 62
No. 30 Game 84 Game 82

It also took Judge 95 games to hit home run number 35, and Ohtani is sitting on 31 long balls heading into the All-Star break with 91 games played. He’s slightly behind pace, which leaves sportsbooks undeterred. Why?

Factors at play

Surroundings: Most people I talk to hate the fact the Yankees play in a shoebox of a ballpark, and it certainly helped Aaron Judge in his pursuit as he had 30 dingers at home. Yankee Stadium ranked as the third-best stadium to hit home runs behind Dodger Stadium and Great American Ball Park last year.  

This year, Ohtani gets to play 81 games at Angel Stadium, which is the fifth-best stadium to crush dingers at, and he has hit 15 of his 31 home runs in front of the LA faithful. A little more home cooking and we could be witnessing history, again.

Situation: It seems that every year we believe this is the year the Angels finally take a step forward behind Ohtani and Trout and make a push for the postseason, but every year they end up falling short. Ohtani has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and with Mike Trout out of the lineup for extended time, teams may just decide to avoid pitching to him at all costs and let others beat them. If this did occur, it would be unfortunate as we would miss out on moonshots like this:

Desire: The Angels find themselves three-and-a-half games out of the final wild card spot and with speculation surrounding Ohtani’s future in LA, it’s human nature for a player to wonder about what greener pastures would look like. While I’m not saying Ohtani would/will do this, if the Angels don’t make a push soon, Ohtani may force his way out of town.

The price is right

I, for one, am a very big Ohtani fan. What he does at the plate on a nightly basis is incredible in addition to being one of the best pitchers in the entirety of Major League Baseball. I would love nothing more than for him to supplant Judge from the AL home run throne and hold the record for the foreseeable future.

He’s going to need a ton of breaks to go his way including health and production from the rest of the lineup so that pitchers are left no choice but to pitch to him.

Given the odds, Ohtani breaking the home run record seems like a longshot, but we’ve not seen this caliber of talent grace our TVs and social media feeds on a nightly basis in a very long time.

I say he does it – but, just.

My best bet: Shohei Ohtani to break the AL home run record: Yes (+1,500 at FanDuel)

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