Aaron Judge hit 62 home runs this season and beat Roger Maris’ long-standing American League home run record of 61 HRs.
However, only four batters finished with 40 or more home runs in 2022.
After Judge, there was a huge drop-off with Kyle Schwarber finishing second in the MLB with only 46 home runs. Pete Alonso and Mike Trout finished the year with 40 home runs apiece.
Overall, home run totals have been trending downwards since 2019.
Let’s take a look at the number of MLB home runs in 2022 and how it compares to recent seasons.
MLB Home Runs Are Down 23% Since 2019
Home runs have been trending down each year since 2019.
So has the number of players that have been able to hit 40 home runs or more.
Since the 2020 was shortened due to COVID-19, we will have omitted it from our analysis.
Last year, no batter hit more than 50 home runs but five batters hit more than 40 home runs, one more than this season.
In 2019, Pete Alonso led the MLB with 53 home runs. That year, baseball fans saw a total of 10 players hit over 40 home runs.
Only three batters hit 40 home runs or more in 2018.
Giancarlo Stanton led the league with 59 home runs in 2017. Aaron Judge hit 52 homers that year. Five batters total hit more than 40 home runs in 2017.
Below is a breakdown of total home runs from 2012-2022, which will not include 2020.
- 2012: 4,934
- 2013: 4,661
- 2014: 4,816
- 2015: 4,909
- 2016: 5,610
- 2017: 6,105
- 2018: 5,585
- 2019: 6,776
- 2021: 5,944
- 2022: 5,215
As you can see, there has been a significant drop in total home runs over the last two full MLB seasons.
Compared to last year, home runs were down 12.3% in 2022 and 23% compared to 2019.
In 2019, baseball fans saw 832 more home runs than in 2021 and 1,561 more homers than this season.
Why Are MLB Home Run Totals Down?
Next, let’s examine a few potential reasons why MLB home runs are down in 2022.
Is The MLB Tinkering With The Baseballs?
The MLB’s constant tinkering with the baseballs is one of the major reasons for the home run variance seen in recent seasons.
In 2019, pitchers were upset with the large amount of home runs, which prompted a deeper investigation into the home run boom.
Doctor Meredith Wills conducted her own examination in 2019. That year, the MLB began to machine dry the baseballs instead of letting them air dry. This would speed up the heating process and allow balls to travel further.
In 2022, the MLB wanted more balls in play and more action on the field. As a result, the league deadened the ball for the 2022 season, causing the ball to not travel as far as in recent seasons.
There were other signs that the league tampered with balls in 2022 too.
Exit velocity actually increased in 2022, yet the average distance of barrels dropped six feet this year.
Scoring and home runs also dropped significantly in 2022 as players took time to adjust the launch angle of their swings.
Pitchers Are Throwing Fewer Fastballs Than Ever
Pitchers are throwing off-speed pitches and breaking balls more than ever before.
In fact, over the last 20 years, fastball usage has decreased by more than 30 percent.
In 2022, fastball usage decreased to just 49.1%, the lowest mark since the MLB starting tracking the data back in 2002.
With more pitchers relying on their off-speed offerings, batters have not been able to sit on and square up fastballs from opposing pitchers.
Well-placed off-speed pitches are generally harder to hit and even more difficult barrel up. As a result, batted balls in play are more likely to stay inside the ballpark.
Recent trends indicate the MLB will need to make an adjustment to the balls once again if home runs are going to go back up in 2023.
During the juiced ball era, pitchers were complaining about losing control of their off-speed pitches, which also played a part in the home run boom.
Will MLB Home Run Totals Increase Next Season?
Home runs are the most exciting part of baseball and the MLB saw a very low home run total in 2022.
Since pitchers aren’t suddenly going to start throwing more fastballs, it seems more likely that the MLB will have to intervene once again.
Home run totals were down in 2017 and 2018, so the MLB made an adjustment to the ball the following season and home runs skyrocketed in 2019.
In all likelihood, the MLB will need to react and continue to tinker with the balls in order to generate more home runs next year.
With just 5,215 total home runs in 2022, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the number to jump back up to between 5,800 – 6,000 home runs in 2023.