The New York Yankees are an iconic organization, whether we’re talking about baseball or pro sports in general. That’s what winning 27 championships will do, I suppose. When it comes to the Yankees home run leaders for a single season, though, it’s still dominated by players from yesteryear.
I mean, jeez, when looking at the top-15 most powerful seasons in Yankees history, only two players (Aaron Judge and Alex Rodriguez) have joined the club since 1961. Since one dude dominates the franchise leaderboard here, we’re going to take a bit of a different approach than usual and look at the 31 most powerful seasons in Yankees history.
Yankees Home Run Leaders: Top 11
Aaron Judge: 62 Home Runs in 2022
Judge is having himself the walk year of all walk years. With his 50th homer on August 29th, he became just the seventh MLB player to reach the half-century mark before September. This is also his second 50-homer season since debuting in 2017. He joins Ruth and Mantle as the only other Yankees sluggers to register multiple 50-homer campaigns.
After slugging six homers in April, Judge hit 12 in May, 11 in June, and 13 in July before hitting nine in August. He finished his year with 11 dingers in September/October to become the new American League single-season record holder. His 33 home runs prior to the All-Star break are among the most in baseball history, and he’s found a way to keep elevating his game.
Following a .618 slugging percentage and 174 wRC+ in the first half, those numbers have increased to .784 and 252, respectively.
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Roger Maris: 61 Home Runs in 1961
Entering 1961, Roger Maris already made his mark with the Yankees, as he was fresh off an MVP campaign that included 39 home runs and 112 RBI. He followed that up by not only setting the single-season home run record but also led the league in RBI for the second straight year (141) while winning another MVP.
What I love the most about his performance is that once April was in the books, Maris had just one homer and four RBI. From that point on, he didn’t finish a month with fewer than 10 homers or 21 RBI. When he played in Yankee victories, Maris slashed .298/.407/.702 with 47 home runs and 111 RBI. His 1.109 OPS in this situation was much different than the .757 mark he posted in losses.
Babe Ruth: Lots of Dingers in Lots of Years
Sure, Roger Maris owns the Yankees’ franchise record for home runs in a single season, but the rest of the top five belongs to Babe Ruth. Unsurprisingly, these performances are among the most home runs in a season in MLB history. And, of course, posting four different 50-homer seasons is a great way to get himself among the most home runs all time.
To make sure we have the specifics right, here are those four performances mentioned above:
- 60 home runs in 1927
- 59 home runs in 1921
- 54 home runs in 1920 and 1928
So, for those of you keeping score at home, Ruth slugged 50 dingers in consecutive seasons on two different occasions. And just for good measure, that second occurrence was just part of a six-year span where the Sultan of Swat hit 40-plus dingers each season. Are we surprised that he’s the Yankees’ all-time home run king? No, not at all.
In each of those 50-homer performances, Ruth posted an fWAR above 10.0, with three of them meeting or surpassing 13.0. His wRC+ was also at least 200 in each instance. I know those stats don’t mean a ton since they weren’t around when he played. However, it helps put in perspective just how dominant he was when using today’s advanced statistics.
Mickey Mantle: 54 Home Runs in 1961
Mickey Mantle was the other guy chasing Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1961, but he didn’t have as much juice as Maris. Mantle’s 54-homer output was the seventh of eight consecutive years he slugged at least 30 in a season. This was his final time getting past the half-century mark. While it was a single-season career-high for him, it obviously wasn’t one of the four times he led the league in that category.
Mick was quite consistent in all aspects of this performance. This was evidenced by the fact that he posted an OPS better than 1.000 in every month of the season, both the first half and the second half, at home and away, and against righties and lefties. However, June and July were on another level from a power perspective. During this span of time, he slugged 25 homers while collecting 59 RBI. July was his best month in the triple slash category, as he hit .375/.508/.854 in 124 plate appearances.
Alex Rodriguez: 54 Home Runs in 2007
Alex Rodriguez posted 13 consecutive seasons with at least 30 homers and 100 RBI. His 54-homer, 156-RBI output was the fourth-to-last time he accomplished the feat, and it was also the year he won his third and final MVP award. And, you know what? Nothing can be won in April, but a fast start can appropriately set the tone for the remainder of the year.
Similar to what Cody Bellinger did during his MVP campaign with the Dodgers in 2017, Rodriguez’s April was rather insane. In his first 106 plate appearances of the season, he slashed .355/.415/.882 with 14 home runs and 34 RBI. He posted an OPS greater than 1.000 on four different occasions in 2007, but the 1.297 mark he compiled in April was never surpassed. Rodriguez also hit double-digit homers in just one other month on his way to setting the single-season HR record for third basemen, which didn’t come until September when he slugged his final 10 taters.
Mickey Mantle: 52 Home Runs in 1956
The 1956 season was full of hardware for Mantle — both of the individual and team variety. During the regular season, he took home Triple Crown honors with a .353 average, 52 home runs, and 130 RBI. He also led the league in runs scored (132), slugging percentage (.705), and OPS (1.169). This performance helped him win his first of two straight MVP awards (he’d win a third later on), and the Yankees capped off this year with yet another World Series title. Not bad, right?
Mantle’s aforementioned consistency essentially held true in ’56 as well, but there were a few situations where he definitely leveled up. You know, like at home (.369/.472/.746 with 27 home runs and 67 RBI) and in the first half (.371/.471/.749 with 29 home runs and 71 RBI). Similar to his performance in 1961, one month in particular stands out from the rest. In this case, it was May. In 140 plate appearances, Mantle slashed .414/.507/.879 with 16 home runs, 35 RBI, and 35 runs scored.
Aaron Judge: 52 Home Runs in 2017
Mark McGwire set and held onto MLB’s single-season rookie home run record for a while after slugging 49 for the Athletics in 1987. His time atop that leaderboard ended in 2017 thanks to Aaron Judge. Along with setting this record and leading the American League in home runs, Judge easily won AL Rookie of the Year honors and nearly took home MVP honors as well.
Judge enjoyed hitting at Yankee Stadium, where 33 of his homers took place, and he also slugged 30 prior to adding his name to a long list of home run derby winners. He posted 10-homer efforts in both April and June, but it was his finish that was most impressive. The young outfielder struggled to a .680 OPS with just three homers in August but completely flipped the switch in September by posting his highest OPS (1.352) and home run numbers (15) for any month of the season.
Lou Gehrig: 49 Home Runs in 1934
Lou Gehrig had to hit in the shadow of Babe Ruth during the majority of his MLB career, but he made his mark in various ways. Just one look at his Baseball-Reference page and you’ll see how good he was because plenty of his stats are bolded. The 1934 season was just one of three times when the Iron Horse led the league in home runs, but he made it count by winning a Triple Crown. In addition to those 49 dingers, he also was atop the league leaderboards with a .363 batting average and 166 RBI.
He was good in all situations, but he essentially fit a legendary season into one half of play prior to the All-Star break. In his first 340 plate appearances, Gehrig slashed .414/.500/.821 with 30 home runs, 98 RBI, and 68 runs scored. The first baseman enjoyed three months of double-digit dingers, with two coming consecutively in July (12) and August (10).
He was limited to 11 games in April, so once the calendar flipped to May, he actually had just one homer and eight RBI to his name, which is pretty crazy to think about. Between May and September, he never posted a slugging percentage lower than .667 and finished better than .700 four times.
Yankees Home Run Leaders: The Rest
Here’s what the rest of the Yankees’ top-31 single-season home run-hitting seasons looks like at the moment:
- Babe Ruth, 1930; 49 home runs
- Lou Gehrig, 1936: 49
- Alex Rodriguez, 2005: 48
- Lou Gehrig, 1927: 47
- Babe Ruth, 1926: 47
- Babe Ruth, 1924, 1929, and 1931: 46
- Lou Gehrig, 1931: 46
- Joe DiMaggio, 1937: 46
- Tino Martinez, 1997: 44
- Curtis Granderson, 2012: 43
- Mickey Mantle, 1958: 42
- Babe Ruth, 1923 and 1932: 41
- Lou Gehrig, 1930: 41
- Curtis Granderson, 2011: 41
- Jason Giambi, 2002-03: 41
- Reggie Jackson, 1980: 41
To see the rest of this list, check it all out on FanGraphs.