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Here Comes the Judge

I’ve been pressed for time lately (okay, for the past three years thanks to my own book deadlines plus SABR deadlines) so I haven’t blogged about all the fantastic baseball things I’ve experienced. Just a few of them. One I did have time for was seeing the debut last year of Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin, who both hit home runs in that game, which was apparently historic.

Historic debuts don’t always presage more feats of historic proportions but as I write this we’re on the way home from two days at Yankee Stadium, during which we saw Judge hit what was almost certainly the longest home run outside of a home run derby that I’ve seen with my own eyes. In the old Yankee Stadium we once saw Alex Rodriguez hit the ambulance that used to park in the utility access area to the left of the visitors bullpen. I thought that might have been 465′? A fan we were enthusing with as we walked out of the stadium today said he remembered it as 483′. Either of us might have been right, a few of A-Rod’s homers on this list might have been the one we were thinking of and they range from 463′ to 488′–the longest homer by a Yankee in the HitTracker era according to a great post at River Avenue Blues. But 488′ is no longer the longest.

Today Judge hit the Bank of America sign behind the left field bleachers, a shot that Statcast measured at 495 feet. If the sign hadn’t been there it would have traveled well over 500 feet. It was literally breath-taking. It took me a few seconds to recover enough to scream.

The thing is, one massive home run doesn’t mean anything. But let’s look at it in the context of the 2017 season, and Yankees history.

Most recently, this homer is part of a jaw-dropping run offense by the Yankees. Here are the scores of their last 6 games:

L 4-5 Boston
W 8-1 Boston
W 9-0 Boston
W 8-2 Baltimore
W 16-3 Baltimore
W 14-3 Baltimore

Just counting the five-game winning streak, the Yankees have outscored opponents by a lot. (Okay, math: 55-9.) Those eight- and nine-run games felt like massive offensive output…until yesterday and today.

I follow a lot of interesting folks on Twitter these days, and it is great fun during the games to see them provide super interesting numbers like the following from Katie Sharp: “Yankees at 7 runs and counting today… Last time they scored 8+ runs in 5 straight games was more than 60 years ago.”

She also served up this wonderful bit of math: “9th time Yankees have run differential of +115 or better thru 60 games. They won World Series the previous 8 times.”

Who says numbers and stats aren’t fun?

Another from Katie that provides some context for the drubbing the Orioles received:
“Yankees now have 6 players with 10+ home runs. No other MLB team has more than 4 such players.”

Especially when combined with one I saw earlier (but have lost the attribution to, doesn’t appear to have been Katie but I could not find it while prepping this post…hmmm), that the Orioles are the only team in MLB with a staff ERA over 5.00.

Maybe the weekend’s offensive explosion was almost a guarantee.

Judge wants to deflect the credit from himself to his teammates and focus on how well the team is playing. He is Jeterian in that way. But let’s look at some of those numbers some more, from an individual standpoint.

Today Judge hit homers #20 and #21 on his season. It’s June 11th. According to the WCBS radio broadcast, you know who else hit their 21st home runs on June 11th? In 1927, Babe Ruth, the year he hit 60. In 1961, Roger Maris, the year he hit 61. Insert goggle-eyed emoji here.

Oh wait, Sweeny tweeted that helpfully, too:

By the way, here’s Didi Gregorius lifting up Ronald Torreyes in order to high five Judge.

Judge is 6’7″–tallest position player in the majors right now, and among the top 10 tallest ever (only two position players hit 6’8″: Tony Clark and Nate Freiman). Torreyes, on the other hand, is listed at 5’8″, but here he is next to corwin (upper left), who is only 5’4″: draw your own conclusions:

Ronald Torreyes is not very tall. CC Sabathia is. Brett Gardner just right. #yankees

A post shared by Cecilia Tan (@ctan_writer) on

There’s also the wee fact that Judge is leading the major leagues in homers right now. He’s also second in average (.344, only Ryan Zimmerman is ahead of him), and sixth in RBIs (47). He’s also second in OBP (to Mike Trout) and second in OPS (also to Trout). He also hit a second homer today which traveled a mere 402 feet and prompted the crowd to break into chants of “MVP! MVP!”

It’s June. Yankee Stadium doesn’t usually start anointing an MVP so early.

The second homer also prompted the Yankees bench to give Judge the “silent treatment,” a la the way many rookies are treated after their first home run. The video is priceless. The Yankees are very loose right now and we are enjoying every second of it.

No one in the mainstream media has uttered the words “next Derek Jeter,” because no one wants to be that kind of jerk, but you know people are thinking it/hoping for it. The comparisons to Jeter are being made constantly both because of the excitement generated by them both in rookie seasons is similar, and they have similar character and makeup. Judge’s team-first interview answers are straight out of the Jeter playbook.

I’ll also note that Judge is now the guy who always leads the team, first out of the dugout when the Yankees take the field. A role Jeter filled for nearly 20 years. Earlier this year we attended Jeter’s number retirement ceremony on Mother’s Day. For most of the past 20 years we kept reminding ourselves not to take him for granted because lasting greats don’t come along that often. (See also: Mariano Rivera) That we got to enjoy every minute of Derek Jeter’s time in the Bronx is a gift.

No one knows if the ride will be as long and ring-filled for Judge as it was for Jeter. We all realize that injuries and other factors can keep a hall-of-fame career from developing. But man, it is fun to be on the Judge bandwagon right now. The Yankees have gone all in on it, too, with concession stands chock full of “All Rise” merchandise and now a special “jury box” in right field called the Judge’s Chambers where the fans wear black robes and wield signs saying ALL RISE and GO YANKS.

Yankees fans are all in, too. Let’s put it this way. I lost count of how many Judge shirts and jerseys I saw over the past two days, and they were outnumbering Jeter shirts by about 4 to 1. Yesterday was season ticketholder “Photo Day,” and the person everyone wanted to get was Aaron Judge. We had to settle for a little video and a few face shots, no selfies, because two PR staff members flanked him to keep him moving. Otherwise he would have never made it through the line.

I forgot to mention: Judge is leading all of MLB in All Star voting right now. The phenomenon is not contained to New York.

Judge is bringing all of us a lot of joy right now. Here’s hoping we get to see him do it in October, too, because at his size, a World Series ring would look basically normal on his finger.

P.S. Gary Sanchez is also on fire and deserves a post/stat-tweet-storm of his own. Matt Holliday is mashing nicely, too. Did Gregorius is tearing up the place, also. And Brett Gardner is having a sudden power surge, too. And Aaron Hicks is like a completely different player from last year.

P.P.S. Today there’s a great Yankeemetrics post at River Avenue Blues that has even more fascinating numbers on this great run the Yankees are on, Judge, Sanchez, and more:

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