Aaron Judge Might Deliver the Greatest Rookie Year in MLB History
Does baseball have a "face"?
Is there one player in today's Major League you can point to and say, "That's the guy. He represents the game."
There are a few Chicago Cubs who some believe could fill the bill...but the majority of those believers live in Chicago. Most everyone knows and loves Bryce Harper, and Mike Trout is the best player in the game, but neither of them has been able to transcend the game of baseball in the same way Stephen Curry and LeBron James have for basketball, or Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have for football.
That is, until now.
Baseball's face is named Aaron Judge.
And if there was any question about that heading into the All-Star break, last night's Home Run Derby erased all doubt.
.@TheJudge44 hit FOUR homers over 500 feet, including this 513-foot blast â€“ longest of the @Tmobile #HRDerby. pic.twitter.com/nWCYOQVVlY
â€” MLB (@MLB) July 11, 2017
In all, Judge hit 47 home runs, including 23 in the first round to beat an outstanding Justin Bour performance. He became the first rookie to win the Derby outright (Wally Joyner shared the trophy in 1986) and overcame excellent performances by Cody Bellinger and Miguel Sano to grab the title.
But it wasn't just that Judge racked up a heap of dingers, it was the way in which he hit them that was so breathtaking.
He crushed five balls farther than 500 feet. He hit homers by accident. He got jammed and he still sent the ball into the bleachers. And the inevitability of his victory didn't make the event any less dramatic.
Aaron Judge took over baseball with his performance and, if that wasn't enough, he's also on pace to have perhaps the greatest rookie season in MLB history.
With the unofficial first half in the books, Judge is batting .329. He leads the American League in on-base percentage (.448), slugging percentage (.639) and OPS (1.139). He also leads all of baseball in homers (30) and walks (61). And his Baseball Reference WAR (bWAR) of 5.3 is the best in the league. Below are his numbers prorated over a full season, and where they would rank among MLB rookie seasons all-time.
|Category||Amount||Rank||Current Record Holder||Amount||Year|
|AVG||.329||T-19||Shoeless Joe Jackson||.408||1911|
|OBP||.448||3||Shoeless Joe Jackson||.468||1911|
|OPS||1.139||1||Shoeless Joe Jackson||1.058||1911|
Judge is on pace to have the greatest power season of any rookie, but it can be argued he's having the best overall season by a first-year player. Only Trout's 2012 rookie campaign appears to be better than Judge's at this point...the operative phrase there being "at this point." There's still a whole lot of season left for Judge to damage.
But whether Judge is able to catch Trout's insane 2012 10.8 bWAR, it's clear he's lapped the Los Angeles Angels star as the marquee name in MLB. And it really isn't even close.