As Aaron Judge chases a historic home run total in 2022, he’s also delivering one of the greatest individual seasons in baseball history.
Judge has put together an all-around performance that goes toe-to-toe with the all-time greats all while continuing to chase down Roger Maris’ American League home run record of 61 which the fellow Bomber set in 1961. Judge sits at 57 with 19 games to play as the Yanks head to Milwaukee to start a three-game series against the Brewers starting on Friday.
Judge is slashing .310/.413/.688, leading baseball in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, RBI and is just ten points behind Luis Arreaz from leading the AL in batting average.
He leads the MLB in home runs by 20 — Kyle Schwarber being the next closest with 37 homers. According to Elias Sports Bureau, It’s the first time that someone finished a day leading the league in home runs by 20 or more since Babe Ruth did it in 1928.
The adjusted numbers truly show just how dominant the Yankees’ star has been. Judge currently owns a 205 WRC+. Paul Goldschmidt owns the second highest WRC+ in baseball with 185. Judge, offensively, is 20% better than the second-best hitter in baseball this season.
Ruth’s 1927 season where he hit a career-high — and at the time record-setting — 60 homers registered a 213 WRC+. Mickey Mantle in his 1962 MVP season came in with a 192 WRC+, Maris in 1961 registered just a 162 WRC+.
In fact, Judge owns the fifth highest single season WRC+ since 1962, trailing only Barry Bonds’ 2001-2004 seasons and tied with Mark McGuire’s 1998 season when he hit 70 homers and smashed the all-time record. Unlike the players in front of him, Judge will not have an asterisk on this season.
This is not some performance in the midst of a juiced-ball season where everyone is putting up career-high numbers. Judge is an outlier in the midst of an overall down offensive season across baseball. League-wide OPS is .708 in 2022, the lowest it’s been since 2014 and just the second time since 1993 that it has dipped below .710.
Judge also currently has a 9.7 WAR, 2.7 wins better than Goldschmidt who is the only other player in baseball to have a WAR above 6. The last time the league leader in WAR finished the season leading by 2.7 wins was Bonds in 2002.
Then, there are the outside factors. Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million contract extension prior to the start of the season and single handily kept the 2022 Yankees from collapsing on themselves.
Turns out, betting on himself may have been the right move after all. The Yanks have also called on Judge to play center field for a majority of this season making 69 of 114 starts in the field in center due to shortcomings from other players.
Judge made all of those starts in center and has remained healthy to this point after being seen as “injury prone” earlier in his career. He played in 242 out of 384 possible games from 2018-2020, but played in 148 games in 2021 and has only missed four games this season. Asking the question of where the Yankees would be without No. 99 should lead to Hal Steinbrenner’s checkbook emphatically flying wide open this offseason.
The overall consistency of Judge this season has been equally impressive. The 30-year-old slugger had just one — somewhat extended — bad stretch of 22 starts from June 18 to July 15 where he slashed .179/.264/.411. Since then he’s slashed .376/.511/.856 with 26 homers in 52 games.
There’s bouncing back from a slump and then there’s setting the world on fire, which is exactly what Judge has done. In the midst of this torrid stretch, the Bombers were decimated by injuries and Judge was one of very few major league caliber hitters in Aaron Boone’s lineup and was given the task of carrying the Yankees. Opponents were pitching around him on most nights and he still managed to put together unfathomable numbers.
Judge, with his historic ‘22 campaign, is writing his name into Yankees royalty alongside the all-time sluggers in franchise history.