When all is said and done, Aaron Judge will have had the greatest single season anyone has put together in MLB history.
And no, it’s not a prisoner-of-the-moment reaction. Or an over-the-top hyperbole.
This will be about facts, not feelings.
In the simplest of terms, it’s hard to hit in baseball. The average batting average has dropped to .244, the lowest since 1968 — the year of the pitcher.
It was so tough to hit back then that MLB lowered the mound after that season to give hitters a fighting chance.
Currently, the use of more, fresh relievers and guys throwing over 100 mph has stunted hitting. Also, the defensive shift has taken away many hits.
Despite it all, Judge, the New York Yankees’ slugger, has been able to excel like no one we’ve seen before.
Judge will simply have all the numbers as proof positive. And in baseball, stats reign supreme more than any other sport.
On Wednesday night, Judge took one more step toward a season to remember when he blasted a two-run homer against the Blue Jays in Toronto. It was his 61st of the season, tying Roger Maris’ American League record for most homers in a single season.
Judge has seven games left to hit one more home run and call the record his own.
That alone wouldn’t make it the greatest season ever. After all, other players hit more home runs in a single season, including Barry Bonds’ 73 homers in 2001. The MLB record book calls it the record. Even Judge calls it the record to beat. Hard to debate that.
But Judge will have done more than leading the game in home runs. His season is bigger and deeper than that. Judge will have led the league in virtually every offensive category. It’s an incredible feat.
As of today, Judge is the Triple Crown leader in the AL. He leads in HRs (61), RBI (130), and BA (.313).
The last Triple Crown winner was Miguel Cabrera in 2012. If Judge wins it, it will be the third since Carl Yastrzemski did it back in 1967. It’s nearly impossible to do. Only 14 players have done it since 1876. Plus, Judge can set a home run record in the same season.
But wait… there’s more! With a week to go in the season, Judge also leads the league in Wins Above Replacement, WAR Position Players, Offensive WAR, On-Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage, OPS, Runs Scored, Total Bases, Walks, Extra Base Hits, and Times on Base.
To add extra sauce to his season for the ages, Judge did it with a menacing backdrop second to none. There was pressure at every turn.
Before the season started, the Yankees offered Judge a $213 million contract extension. He turned it down. And despite a history of injuries, he bet on himself.
Judge also plays for the Yankees, on the biggest stage in sports. And the pressure to win is huge. No one is impressed by compiling numbers in losses. Worse, taking big swings in meaningless at-bats.
Judge, 30, has been on the clock all season long. He had to play for both his team and his financial future. Few players get cashed out in a big way this old. Normally, $300 million deals go-to players in their early 20s.
Nonetheless, there will be some MVP voters who will still vote for the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. We haven’t seen anyone hit and pitch on a daily basis since Babe Ruth in the 20s. It’s an incredible feat. But he’s not having the best season. If he was leading in the Triple Crown and a Cy Young candidate, there would be no debate.
The other thing that has to downgrade Ohtani’s season is that he hasn’t had a meaningful at-bat or pitching moment since May when the Angels’ season officially crashed and burned.
Judge, on the other hand, had to play in games that mattered all season long. The Yankees’ didn’t clinch the AL East until Tuesday night, with nine games left in the season. He’s had no freebies. When Maris hit his 61 homers, he batted .269. Judge beats that by a mile in an era that’s way harder to hit. Hence, Judge will stand alone in single-season greatness.