Sep 15, 2022 - Sports

The Japanese Aaron Judge chases single-season home run record

Munetaka Murakami
Photo: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

Aaron Judge isn't the only slugger chasing a home run record this season. America, meet Munetaka Murakami.

Driving the news: Murakami, 22, belted two more HR on Tuesday for the first-place Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, giving the third baseman 55 on the season.

Why it matters: That tied Sadaharu Oh for the most ever hit by a Japanese-born player. And with 15 games left, he's five HR shy of tying the NPB's single-season record of 60 (Wladimir Balentien of Curaçao in 2013).

By the numbers: Despite being just 22, Murakami is already a three-time NPB All-Star, entering this year with 103 HR across his first three full seasons. This year's stats: .337 BA, 55 HR, 132 RBI.

Between the lines: Murakami and Judge are both far outpacing their closest competition — NPB's second place has 39, MLB’s has 37 — and according to a teammate the dingers even look similar.

  • "He's definitely been hitting Judge-esque tanks," former Astro and current Swallows starter Cy Sneed told MLB.com's Jon Morosi. "Neither of them are hitting wall-scrapers."
  • Murakami could end up in MLB — eventually. MLB's international free agent rules suppress the earnings of players under 25, and neither he nor the Swallows have mentioned anything about such a move.

The bottom line: There's nothing quite like a thrilling home run race. Even though Judge and Murakami are lapping the field in their respective leagues, we can still watch them go toe-to-toe from an ocean away.

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