Hey, how was your weekend? Mine was pretty good. I spent Saturday meandering around Manhattan with my wife, stopping by the annual Big Apple Barbecue festival for some delicious smoked pork sandwiches, then played baseball with my friends Sunday morning and came home to grill up some cheeseburgers. It could have been better — I went 0-for-4 with a walk — but I’d call the weekend a success by the standards of most people who are not Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge.
And I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you, too, failed to live up to Aaron Judge this weekend unless by some chance you are a Major League Baseball player who went 7-for-8 with two doubles, two walks and three homers. And you’re not that, unless you are yourself Aaron Judge. (If you are Aaron Judge, hey, thanks for reading Aaron Judge! I love your work.)
Gaze upon Judge’s first homer of the weekend, which left his bat at an outrageous 121.1 mph on Saturday afternoon. The shot represents the hardest hit homer since Statcast began tracking such things at the start of the 2015 season, breaking a record Judge set in April:
Wow, can you imagine someone hitting a home run more impressive than that only one day later? I can, because I know about Aaron Judge. Here’s the 495-foot blast he hit on Sunday:
That home run went very far, 14 feet longer than the longest homer previously hit in 2017.
After a woeful 2016 cameo that saw him strike out 42 times in 84 at-bats, Judge now leads the Majors in home runs and WAR and ranks second behind only the injured (and utterly astonishing) Mike Trout in on-base percentage and slugging. Per Statcast, he is responsible for the four hardest hit baseballs this season, five of the top six, and nine of the top 15.
It’s nuts. This is nuts. The Yankees, expected by most to endure a downturn this season in the midst of their youth movement, have the best record in the AL East and, by OPS and homers, the most potent offense in all of baseball.
Judge is straddling a funny sort of line right now, 58 games into his rookie season: To skeptical stat-reliant baseball bros like myself, he’s right around the upper limits of when a performance stops looking like it could be a flash-in-the-pan small-sample-size dreamland and starts appearing real, but to anyone watching him on the regular this season, there’s no need for much doubt. Players might luck their way into inflated batting averages over short stretches or enjoy tremendous power surges before the league’s pitchers figure them out, but players do not often hit like Babe Ruth for a third of a season if they’re not really, really good. Which is to say: Calling Aaron Judge a real-deal Major League superstar after 58 games might seem premature to some and ruthlessly obvious to others.
Pessimistic Yankees fans old enough to remember 1990 inevitably cite another player when trying to avoid getting too excited about Aaron Judge: Kevin Maas, who burst onto the big-league scene midway through an otherwise miserable season for the Yanks and hit 21 homers in only 79 games. But Maas exists as a cautionary tale and the exception to expectations, and what Judge has done to date this season is undoubtedly more impressive than that of his predecessor among big-swinging 25-year-old Yankees rookies setting the world on fire for a short time: Judge could go 0-for-51 starting Monday and still wind up with a higher batting average, on-base percentage and slugging than Maas had in 1990 in the same number of plate appearances.
And there’s really nothing before this on Judge’s resume to suggest he’s anywhere near this good: By batting average, OBP and slugging, Judge was never as successful at any single minor league stop as he has been in 58 big-league games in 2017. But then, this is an era in which players, especially MLB players, can benefit from an enormous amount of information unavailable those that came before, and Judge arrived to spring training this season talking of an adjusted swing path that immediately appeared to pay dividends. Plus, in terms of both his enormous 6’7″, 282-pound stature and his ridiculous early-career performance, Judge is so rare among big-league ballplayers that it’s hard to cite precedents. This dude is unprecedented.
Point is, while it’s unlikely Judge — or anyone else, for that matter — is this good, every day he provides more evidence that he’s for real. And since we’ll have the next decade or so to determine if that’s the case, there’s no real harm in enjoying the massive homers for as long as they come. Home runs are dope, after all, and Aaron Judge is hitting them constantly. All rise and such.