Aaron Judge’s greatness is more than just a home run record



CNN

Let’s be clear: I’d rather be audited by the IRS than see the New York Yankees win a World Series. I hate them and anyone who plays for them. That said, you’d have to be a fool not to recognize Aaron Judge’s historic season.

Yes, Judge is likely to break the American League record for tours in one season, which is impressive in itself. It’s so much more than that, however. A look at different metrics shows just how dominant Judge has been – and how he’s helped spark interest in the America’s favorite pastime.

The judge sits at 60 homers and is on course to find himself in the mid-60s. That means he will likely finish well ahead of Roger Maris’ long-standing American League record of 61 homers.

Judge is likely to miss the Major League Baseball record of 73 home runs. Anyone who has followed Judge’s pursuit will note that most people dismissed this record – held by Barry Bonds – or any home run season north of 61 home runs because all of these men were involved in drug scandals and would have used steroids. Obligations and Samy Sosa denied these allegations.

Aaron Judge's lead in the home race is an outlier in MLB history.

Whether or not you believe those other records are legit, what can’t be disputed is that records like Bonds’s happened during a time when home runs were flying out of the park faster than a Concorde jet. When Bonds hit 73 homers in 2001, Sosa hit 64. When Mark McGwire hit 70 homers in 1998, Sosa hit 66.

Currently, Judge is 20 home runs ahead of his closest competitor, Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Kyle Schwarber. Judge stands out not only for its overall total, but also for how outlier its performance is compared to the competition.

If you look at each 50+ homer season, the average difference between the person who hits 50+ homers and second place This year was only five circuits. All men who have hit 61 or more home runs have had, at most, nine home runs between them and the second – Maris beat Mickey Mantle by seven home runs in 1961.

Of course, Judge doesn’t just stand out for his home run prowess. He’s as close to the full package as a hitter as you can get.

Mantle’s 1956 season was the only one of more than 50 home run seasons in which the player also led his league – American or National – in batting average and RBI (RBIs).

Aaron Judge hits an RBI double against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Center on May 3 in Canada.

Judge has a real shot at joining Mantle as one of two men to hit for baseball Triple crown in the season they hit over 50 homers out of the stadium. The judge has clear tracks in home runs and RBIs in the American League. He traded heads with Boston’s Xander Bogaerts and Minnesota’s Luis Arráez for the batting average crown.

However, you could argue that metrics like batting average and RBI are obsolete in the age of advanced statistics. Don’t worry, if you’re someone trying to explain how amazing Judge’s season was, there’s evidence for that too.

Take a look at some of the stats that are generally preferred by game buffs. Judge is ahead of everyone in on-base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging percentage (OBPS), wins above replacement (WAR) and so on.

In fact, the judge’s basis plus slugging, adjusted for proxy and seasonal factors, is the sixth best of any player to hit more than 50 homers in a season.

Ultimately, Judge’s season is great no matter how you look at it.

Arguably Judge’s biggest weakness is that he’s doing it at a time when baseball is the the least popular it never was. Just over 10% of Americans say it’s their favorite sport to watch. It’s battling with basketball for second place next to the powerhouse that is the NFL.

Baseball was a clear fan favorite when Maris hit 61 homers. It was a clear second place when McGwire beat Maris’ mark.

Google searches tell the story, like the NFL more research MLB is looking in order of 3 or 4 to 1 (!) in the last week.

While this author is by no means a Yankees fan, he can relate to the increased exposure of baseball through Judge's exploits.

The judge, however, was able to burst. If you look at the best quarterbacks in the NFL – measured by ESPN Quarterback Rating (QBR) – The judge has more people look for it than anyone in the state’s top four.

I can only imagine how much more pressure Judge would be under if his historic season took place when many Americans actually cared about the game. Perhaps Judge’s season will help revive baseball in the most tiny and — while I can think of millions of other things I’d rather see than a Yankee succeed — it’s something I can live with.