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Comparing Judge-Soto to some of the other great Yankee duos

Aaron Judge and Juan Soto have the potential to be historically great together.

New York Yankees at Texas Rangers Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Christmas is now in the rearview mirror, and it’s time to evaluate what will likely be the Yankees’ most important present: Juan Soto. The Yankees’ new toy has had a historically good start to his career, and his new teammate Aaron Judge can say much the same. Two of baseball’s absolute best hitters will be in the same lineup in the Bronx. It’s undeniably exciting, and fairly rare in the grand scheme. The Yankees, however, aren’t exactly strangers to this phenomenon.

Both Judge and Soto have a season on their resume with a 200 or better wRC+ (Soto’s was in the shortened 2020 season, to be fair). This mark has only been reached 12 other times post-integration, four of which were Barry Bonds and two of which were in the also-shortened 1994 season. There are plenty of qualifiers at play, but the heights Judge and Soto have reached, and could potentially reach together, are historically good. So, given the Yankees rich history, why not compare some projections for those two, with some other standout pinstriped duos?

First, here are the Steamer projections for the Yankees current iteration of their dynamic duo:

Judge: .270/.386/.563, 158 wRC+, 24 2B, 46 HR, 6.4 fWAR

Soto: .284/.425/.557, 170 wRC+, 26 2B, 38 HR, 6.6 fWAR

Now let’s do some comparing (and some wishful thinking).

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

New York Yankees Photo by MPI/Getty Images

There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said — it’s Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. They are likely the quintessential duo not just for the Yankees but in baseball history. These two are simply two of the best hitters and players in the history of the game, and they shared the same field for a dozen seasons. In 1927, the Murderers’ Row season, and likely Gehrig’s best, they set quite a high bar for future duos. The Babe swatted his historic 60 homers, slugging .772 and putting up a 208 wRC+, while Gehrig managed to put up a remarkably similar stat line, boasting a career-high 205 wRC+. The duo put up a now-unthinkable 25.3 fWAR combined. At least any future duos will have something to look up at.

Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio

Gehrig And DiMaggio Photo by New York Times Co./Getty Images

Despite the unfortunate premature ending to his career, Lou Gehrig was the Iron Horse for a reason, and was incredible for long enough to be featured here twice. Ten years after Murderers’ Row, Gehrig was a part of another absurd two-part performance, this time with 22-year-old Joe DiMaggio. This was the last of Gehrig’s truly dominant years, where he hit 37 homers and had an OPS easily over 1.100. This year also welcomed in the new wave, as the sophomore DiMaggio put up video game numbers with his 46 homers and 167 RBI. He surely seemed like a good candidate to hand the franchise keys to.

Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris

Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle

Another iconic duo in Yankees history, the M&M boys played seven seasons together, but one stands out. That, of course, being the 1961 campaign, where they both chased down Ruth’s 60 home run single season record: Maris beat that with his 61, while Mantle finished with 54. They combined for 17.4 fWAR, and finished first and second in MVP voting. This is a particularly relevant duo, as Judge broke Maris’ Yankee and American League home run record with his 62 bombs in 2022. He’s done his best Maris impression, but we’ll see if he and Soto can come close to matching M&M.

Don Mattingly and Rickey Henderson

1987 Don Mattingly Photo by Steve Crandall/Getty Images

Rickey Henderson only spent four-and-a-half seasons in pinstripes, but it coincided well not only with much of his prime, but also that of face-of-the-franchise Don Mattingly. In 1985, Mattingly hit a career-high 35 homers, maintained a 156 OPS+, and was voted as the league’s MVP. There was perhaps an argument that Rickey was even better. It was his first big power year, as he hit 24 home runs, while still stealing his typical 80 bags, and leading the league with 9.9 rWAR. Much like Henderson, Soto is an on-base machine — in fact, Soto’s career .421 OBP is 20 points higher than Rickey’s. Meanwhile Judge, much like Mattingly, has the honor of being the team’s captain, and has already surpassed the single-season heights of what Donnie Baseball was able to do.

Mark Teixeira and Álex Rodríguez

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Yankees, Game 6 Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

In the final and most recent duo, we find Big Tex and A-Rod. Teixeira arrived in the Bronx for the 2009 championship run, just in time for Rodríguez’s twilight as a huge producer. Coincidentally, Tex struggled out of the gate, but turned on the jets once A-Rod began his season a bit later due to injury. The duo combined for 69 homers and 9.3 fWAR for the World Series champs, locked in to the three-four spots of the lineup. Soto and Judge seem primed to make a run a numbers like this, and perhaps even better.

Of course, this is all speculative. We do know that both Aaron Judge and Juan Soto are top of the line players, and that we get to enjoy them together on the Yankees. They still have yet to play a game together, however, and things can always change. After 2017, with Judge coming off of his monster rookie year, and the acquisition of 59-homer-hitting Giancarlo Stanton, many of the same comparisons were made. And though they’ve had their moments together, it hasn’t fully panned out like we all hoped. But, here’s to better fortune between Aaron Judge and Juan Soto, as they try to make their mark among the Yankees’ best duos ever.