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Aaron Judge’s 2022 could land him in stratosphere of Yankee greats

The Yankees outfielder is on pace to have one of the best seasons in franchise history.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

As most Yankees fans probably know by now, outfielder Aaron Judge is having an incredible season. What you probably didn’t know is that he is performing at such a high level that, if he keeps this up, he may be the owner of one of the most impressive campaigns by a Yankees hitter in history not named Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, or Lou Gehrig.

Yes, his 2022 has been that good — so great that it has been better than some seasons by Ruth, Gehrig, and Mantle, and it would top the offensive output of Joe DiMaggio’s best season. It would be incredibly difficult to keep up a 198 wRC+ over the course of a 162-game campaign, but if he does, Judge would have the single best hitting season by a Yankees’ batter since Mantle’s 1957 (217 wRC+).

Before Tuesday’s game, Judge is hitting .318/.391/.686 with 24 home runs, 52 runs and 48 RBI in 58 games. With a .446 wOBA, a 198 wRC+, and 3.7 fWAR, Judge is the top candidate to win the AL MVP if the season ended today.

The 198 wRC+ that Judge entered play on Tuesday with would rank him 13th among Yankees hitters in history. Three Ruth seasons occupy the top three (1920 being the best, with a 239 wRC+), then Mantle’s 1957 campaign is fourth. After that, there are three more Ruth years, one from Gehrig (1927), then a combination of Ruth and Mantle years from Nos. 9-12.

Just having his name mentioned in the same sentence as Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and other Yankees greats is an incredible accomplishment by Judge. As Joshua Diemert remarked a couple months back, those guys (especially Ruth) put up some ridiculous numbers back in the day and it’s impossible for a modern-day player to live up to those standards. It was an entirely different ballgame.

Sam Chapman even compared Judge’s performance to more recent MLB stars, and No. 99 obviously fared very well. It’s important to point out that his wRC+ in late May, when that article was published, was still 198; Judge isn’t showing many signs of slowing down.

Judge has been white-hot from the get-go, and hasn’t really had any prolonged cold spells yet. It’s crazy to think about the kind of numbers Judge can post this year. He has a shot at breaking American League’s single-season home run record (61), set by fellow Yankees right-field great Roger Maris in 1961, and has a realistic chance to finish with the best full offensive season in franchise history since the turn of the millennium: Jason Giambi’s 2002 and Alex Rodríguez’s 2007 are well within reach.

Will Judge ever slow down in 2022? How many homers will he hit? Can his wRC+ somehow top 200? How much money will he earn when he signs that free agent contract? Those are fascinating questions that Yankees fans will follow for the next few months.

One thing is true: Judge is smashing even his own lofty standards. In 2017, when he won the Rookie of the Year award and finished second in the AL MVP voting, he had 52 home runs and a 174 wRC+. He is looking even better than that incredible season, and that’s saying a lot.

Judge is a true game-changer, an elite performer, and will be a very, very rich man in a few months. The fact that he is on his way to post better numbers than some of the finest hitters this game has known is just icing on the cake.

Note: All statistics are active as of the beginning of play on Tuesday, June 14th.