New ‘Clean Home Run King’ challenge, 3 challenges for Otani

Stamina – opposition and… ‘transfers’먹튀검증
35 homers match last year’s jersey pace…double-duty burden-bigger variable than pitcher avoidance-trade to NL

Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani runs to second base on Mickey Moniak’s grounder during the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Angels Stadium on Tuesday. Anaheim | AP

Can Shohei Ohtani (Los Angeles Angels) claim the title of “cleanup hitter”? Ohtani leads both major leagues with 35 home runs as of Tuesday. If he hits 28 more home runs in the remaining 65 games, he will break the American League (AL) home run record set last year by Aaron Judge (New York Yankees) in one year.

Last season, Judge hit 62 home runs. It took him 61 years to break Roger Maris’ 1961 record of 61 home runs.

There are three other players in the National League (NL) who have hit more home runs in a single season – Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire – but all have been implicated in banned substance allegations. As a result, it’s often argued that the true home run king is Jersey.

Right now, Ohtani’s home run pace isn’t much different than what he had last season. Through 97 games, Ohtani has 35 homers, while Judge had 37 last season. Here’s the catch. In his final 65 games, Judge hit 27 home runs. At 0.41 home runs per game, he picked up the pace at the end of the season. If Ohtani wants to surpass him, he’ll need to hit 0.43 home runs per game for the rest of the season. This is an even more daunting task for Ohtani, who is already physically demanding as a two-hitter.

He’ll also have to overcome pitcher’s block. The Angels’ batting order was left wide open when slugger Mike Trout went down with a broken bone on the fifth. Opposing pitchers will be reluctant to go toe-to-toe with Ohtani. Ohtani started in the No. 2 spot against the Yankees at home, but went 1-for-4 with four strikeouts.

The biggest variable is the possibility of a trade for Ohtani. The Angels beat the Yankees 7-3 on Sunday to move to 49-48 and over the .500 mark, but they are already nine games behind first-place Texas.

With the Angels’ chances of making the postseason dwindling, speculation continues that Ohtani, who is in the final year of his contract, will eventually be traded. If an in-season move becomes a reality, it’s unclear how it would affect his home run pace. A move to the NL, which counts seasonal records separately, would eliminate the possibility of an AL home run record.

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