By the numbers: Putting into context Aaron Judge’s historic season
New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge made American League history on Tuesday when he belted his 62nd home run of the season.
With that mighty swing, the soon-to-be free agent broke a 61-year record set by Roger Maris back in 1961. He also took over sole possession of seventh-place on the all-time single season home run leaderboard and first-place for non-steroid era hitters.
All of that aside, just how great has Judge been in 2022? How does his season measure up against the best baseball has ever seen?
Let’s take a deeper look, by the numbers.
In MLB history, only 33 qualifying seasons — a pace of 502 plate appearances — yielded a wRC+ of 200 or better. With Judge expected to get Wednesday’s season finale off, he’ll be the 34th.
wRC+ is designed to quantify how much offensive value a player has and boil it down to one number, with 100 being the league average.
Judge has a wRC+ of 207, which is tied for 20th in MLB history. Only four players in American League history have a season with more weighted offensive value than Judge. Their names are Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig.
Pretty decent company to be in.
Judge will finish the season with 11.5 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs’ formula (fWAR). That mark ties him for 15th in MLB history and 10th in American League history among position players.
The gap between Judge and second-place Manny Machado (7.3 fWAR) is the same as Machado and 52nd-ranked DJ LeMahieu, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Brandon Drury (3.1).
The difference between Judge and Machado in fWAR is 32nd-ranked George Springer (4.2).
There are three 60-homer seasons in AL history. Also, there are three 60-homer seasons in Yankees history.
Judge surpassed Maris’ record in four fewer games and beat Ruth’s now third-place ranking in six more games. However, despite Judge needing six more games to beat Ruth by two round-trippers, it only took five more plate appearances.
For those basing their opinions on the degree of difficulty in achieving this plateau, Judge homered every 11.2 plate appearances this season, while Ruth homered every 11.5.
That represents Judge’s slash line in the second half of the season. Across 307 plate appearances, Judge hit 29 home runs, drove in 61 runs, walked 21.8% of the time and had a wRC+ of 252.
He also posted 6.6 fWAR in the second half, which positioned him atop the MLB leaderboard by 2.3 wins.
That’s how many walks Judge took since hitting his 60th homer on Sept. 20.
In that 14-game stretch, he walked at least once in 10 games and at least twice in five. To say he was pitched around after reaching the 60-homer plateau would be an understatement.
Those 18 walks came across 60 plate appearances. In 2022, 527 hitters have at least 60 plate appearances — 214 have fewer than 18 walks.
That’s the league slugging percentage in 2022, which is one final element in measuring how historic Judge’s season is.
For context, here are the league slugging percentages for the nine 60-homer seasons in MLB history.
- Barry Bonds (73) in 2001: .427
- Mark McGwire (70) in 1998: .420
- Sammy Sosa (66) in 1998: .420
- Mark McGwire (65) in 1999: .434
- Sammy Sosa (64) in 2001: .427
- Sammy Sosa (63) in 1999: .434
- Aaron Judge (62) in 2022: .395
- Roger Maris (61) in 1961: .399
- Babe Ruth (60) in 1927: .393
Only Ruth reached that plateau with a lower league slugging percentage, and it’s only by two points. There’s an argument to be made that Judge’s season is the most impressive in MLB history for a position player.