Arbitrary arguments are as much a part of baseball as spit and crotch scratching, so in the spirit of lazy September standings, here’s one between two of the biggest names in the league. Which accomplishment is more impressive: Ronald Acuña Jr’s 30 home run-60 stolen base club, or Aaron Judge reaching 250 home runs faster than any other player in MLB history?
After stealing his 60th and 61st base earlier this week, the Atlanta Braves right fielder is the founding member of a club that’ll likely end up being the 30-70 club, because he’s at 63 now with a little under 30 games left in the season. The last time a player came close to reaching 30 and 60, it was Barry Bonds, who had 52 and 33 en route to the 1990 MVP — his first.
Acuña is likely to take home his first MVP this year largely on the back of that stat even though Mookie Betts has arguably been the better all-around player. Be that as it may, Atlanta is on pace to have the best record in baseball when the season ends, Acuña is their best player, and that’s typically a pretty flawless application for the MVP trophy.
The thing about the 30-60 club is steals are weird. Atlanta attempts .99 steals per game this season, good for eighth in the majors. The new rules have made it safer to swipe bags, as even the slowest team is converting 72 percent of attempts, but that hasn’t ushered in an ’80s-type era of thievery.
If teams become even more aggressive, it’s reasonable that we could see a bevy of 30-60 entrants as more and more position players have that desired mix of power and speed. A guy like Julio Rodriguez would be a prime candidate if the Mariners sent him more. Ditto for Elly De La Cruz given a full season to get there.
For Aaron Judge, it took him just 810 games to reach 250 home runs, passing Ryan Howard (855) as the fastest slugger to reach that mark Friday with a solo shot off Justin Verlander. Before Howard, Ralph Kiner (871) was the fastest to reach 250 dingers in the ’40s and ’50s. While No. 99 has 30-something multi-homer games, think about that ratio of games to dingers. If you go to a Yankee game in which Judge is actually playing, there’s almost a 30 percent chance of seeing him hit one out of the park.
That’s insane, yet it tracks. Judge is the preeminent power hitter in baseball, and was so prolific in 2022 that he nabbed the AL MVP away from two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. There are five members of the 60 home run club, and Judge is one of them, but there aren’t a lot of rule changes, outside of lifting the PED ban, that could rapidly expand that group. While one could argue the emphasis on three-outcome at-bats results in more home runs, a hitter still needs serious power and skill to crank balls with that regularity.
There is something to be said for Judge’s injuries, because who knows if he hits 250 homers in 810 games if he appears in the first possible 810 games. Batters theoretically get better as they hone their approach, but Judge hasn’t had to do that on the job because he’s constantly hobbled. Kudos to him for not needing a ton of experience to improve, and depending on your allegiances, that could make his feat even more impressive.
My bias wants to steer me away from giving Yankees fans an iota of happiness, but that also applies to Braves’ fans, so hopefully that convinces you of my objectivity when I take Aaron Judge over Ronald Acuña in this pointless, but very fun, argument.