There’s no way around it: Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has completely owned MLB’s home run leaderboard in 2022. He’s run away with it in such a fashion that he now has something in common with Babe Ruth.
As the calendar flipped from August to September, Judge had a comfortable 15-homer lead over the next-closest slugger. That’d be Kyle Schwarber of the Phillies, who finished August with 36 homers of his own. This is just the sixth time ever that a player has had a lead of at least 15 dingers entering the regular season’s final month.
It was done by Ruth the first five times, and then we had to wait 94 (!!) years before Judge joined him:
Led MLB by 15+ HR Through August
1920 Babe Ruth (44, G.Sisler 16)
1921 Babe Ruth (48, G.Kelly 22)
1924 Babe Ruth (42, J.Fournier 25)
1926 Babe Ruth (40, H.Wilson 19)
1928 Babe Ruth (47, H.Wilson 30)
2022 Aaron Judge (51, K.Schwarber 36)
— James Smyth (@JamesSmyth621) September 2, 2022
This specific tweet shows us two things. First, it’s a reminder of just how much better Ruth was compared to everyone else in the era he played in. Second, this puts some context around exactly how great Judge has been.
Once the slugging right-handed hitter collected his 50th dinger on August 29th, he became just the seventh player ever to hit the half-century mark before September. That seemed like a pretty exclusive club in itself. But when you’re in a two-person group that includes Ruth, that pretty much takes the cake.
If it wasn’t for Shohei Ohtani slugging 30-plus homers as a hitter and winning 10-plus games as a starting pitcher, Judge would be the American League MVP favorite. Even with that, he’s got a strong case, especially if he keeps blasting dingers at a historic pace.
With 51 homers and 113 RBI through 560 plate appearances entering Friday’s action, Judge is one homer and one RBI away from setting a new single-season career-high in each category (52 and 144 in 2017). He’s one of just a handful of Yankee sluggers to notch multiple performances of 50-plus homers, and his overall production in 2022 has been off the charts.
Judge’s 196 wRC+ is on track to be a new career-best mark, while his 8.3 fWAR has nearly surpassed his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2017 (8.8). As it stands at the time of this writing, that 8.3 fWAR is good for the ninth-highest in baseball since 2015, while that 196 wRC+ is the third-best mark (and second-best if we take out Juan Soto’s 2020 campaign).
The outfielder’s value to the Yankees has been tremendous. While earning $19 million this season, Judge’s performance has been worth more than $66 million, according to FanGraphs’ Dollars metric. He took a risk by betting on himself prior to this season, and it’s going to pay off handsomely this winter.
More on ESNY:
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• Yankees call up SS prospect Oswald Peraza
• Giants cut starting LB Blake Martinez in surprise move
• Three keys to Mets’ Mark Canha enjoying a huge August
• Knicks strike out on Donovan Mitchell deal; Jazz trade him to Cavaliers