Like the free agent target post earlier this week, this is actually a difficult post to write. Aaron Judge just had the best season by a player other than Barry Bonds since 1957. That’s not just my lifetime; that’s the lifetime of everyone that writes here and a whole bunch of you reading. We just have never seen it before.
2022 Statistics: 157 games, 696 PA, .311/.425/.686, 62 HR, 207 wRC+, 11.4 fWAR
2023 Contract Status: Free agent
Not only had we never seen this kind of season before, it is perhaps the single-most-covered season by any player in baseball history. I’ve certainly written more about Judge than any other player, and so much of this season for the Yankees and baseball writ large involved Judge as the protagonist.
When the Yankees were rolling, back when they were unquestionably the best team in the game, Judge was crushing walk-off home runs:
And in the second half of the season, when the Yankees were a .500 club, Aaron Judge was simply unconscious. A 251 wRC+ from the All-Star break on, seven-plus wins down the stretch, it’s not exaggerating to say that Judge was the only thing worth watching at various points in the Yankee season.
I think a lot about how strong Judge’s floor is. Yes, he can absolutely explode for an 11-win season, blowing the lid off what we thought his ceiling was, but he’s more than that. His career wRC+ is better than Paul Goldschmidt, Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr. — the presumptive NL MVP and maybe the two best young players in the game.
League-average wOBA this season was .310. There was exactly one week of the season where Judge’s 10-game average wOBA was below that mark. Every player has hot and cold streaks — Judge’s hot streaks are just “he’s the greatest hitter to ever play the game” and his cold streaks are “huh, this guy can really impact a lineup.”
And then, there’s the strikeouts.
I’ve said before that the perception Judge is some home-run-or-strikeout, boom-or-bust hitter is just patently untrue, and hasn’t really been true since his 2016 debut. Those 27 games colored his performance for a lot of casual fans or fans of teams that don’t play the Yankees that much. Judge is as complete a hitter as you’ll find in the game, and took steps forward this season.
Almost since debuting, his strikeout rate has dropped until the boom-or-bust rookie now gets sat down at a tick above league average.
The other thing that’s amazing about Judge is that green line, his swing rate. He owns the Statcast charts, and you’d think a guy with 100th percentile exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate would want to swing more and take advantage of his near-unprecedented power. Instead, Judge has entered that zone where he has such a cerebral understanding of his swing that he doesn’t need to be antsy. He gets his pitch, and crushes it.
We talked about the risks in Judge’s future on Monday. We’ll talk about the risks in Judge’s future every day until he signs. For now, we can marvel at what he did in 2022, a season we’re not likely to see again, from anybody.
Why did Kunj only give him an A?