Aaron Judge’s season could stack up with these New York legends

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Yes, this is another Aaron Judge column. Yes, this is another column about the daily wonder of watching a star become a superstar, observing in real time the deliberate construction of one of the best offensive seasons New York has ever seen. Forget what this season will mean to Aaron Judge’s bank account; Judge is playing for history now.

Judge is but 61 games into his season. We can have fun and project his stats over the full 162 — for the record, that would be 156 games played (sadly, maybe the most unpredictable number), 68 home runs, 132 RBIs. He’s slashing .313/.384/.683, and that’s good for an OPS-plus of 201 — so he is twice as productive as an average big-league hitter.

At some point, it is a worthy task to see just where Judge might compare with some of the greatest offensive seasons New York has seen, and within the roll call of sluggers in which he now calls home, at age 30. It is only a roster of some of the brilliant names in the history of the sport. We have reached that point, even if he left it to Anthony Rizzo to hit the inevitable walk-off homer that beat the Rays, 2-1, Thursday night. Let’s take a look.

Babe Ruth: The hard part is figuring out which of Ruth’s seasons should stand as his signature (his career OPS-plus, after all, is 206). Sure, it’s easy to point to 1927, when he hit 60 (“count ’em!”) home runs. But his best season as a Yankee may well have been his first one, 1920: 54 homers, 135 RBIs and an absurd slash line of .376/.532/.847. That’s a 255 OPS-plus. That’s just sick.

Babe Ruth, Aaron Judge and Lou Gehrig
Babe Ruth, Aaron Judge and Lou Gehrig
Getty Images (2); Robert Sabo

Lou Gehrig: There’s less need to wander beyond 1927 for the Iron Horse. Not only were his basic numbers off the hook — 47 homers, 173 RBIs, .373/.474/.765 — he accumulated 447 total bases, the third-highest single-season total ever. At his scorching pace, Judge projects to 423, which might be as impressive as anything.

Mel Ott: The Giants’ slugger was remarkably consistent across his 22-year career, but his best season was probably 1936 — when he led the Jints to the pennant with 33 homers, 135 RBIs and a .328/.448/.588 slash line, which computed to a 177 OPS-plus.

Joe DiMaggio: So much of DiMaggio’s legacy is attached to 1941 and his 56-game hitting streak, and it was in his second year, 1937, when he most dramatically defied Death Valley by slamming a career-high 46 home runs. But his best year, by most any measure, was 1939: 30 homers and 126 RBIs with a .381/.488/.671 slash. His batting average was at .401 on Sept. 10 before an eye infection sabotaged his pursuit of the magic number.

Johnny Mize: Such was the postwar boom that Mize’s 1947 for the Giants — 51 homers, 138 RBIs, 137 runs, .302/.384/.614 — was only good enough for third in the NL MVP vote.

Jackie Robinson: Robinson took a quantum leap from excellent to legendary with a 1949 season that emphasized everything he did so well. He hit just 16 homers but drove in 124 runs and scored 122 of them. He led the league with 37 steals — and also with 17 sacrifices. And his slash line of .342/.432/.528 was good for an OPS-plus of 152.

Aaron Judge, who hit a homer in the Yankees' win over the Rays on Wednesday, has 25 homers already this season.
Aaron Judge, who hit a homer in the Yankees’ win over the Rays on Wednesday, has 25 homers already this season.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Roy Campanella: Of Campy’s three MVP seasons, his very best was 1953 — 41 homers and 142 RBIs, while slashing .312/.395/.611.

Willie Mays: The Say Hey Kid’s very best year was probably 1965, but by then he was earning his paycheck in San Francisco. But it was in 1954 when he returned from military service and exploded into the imagination of New York, fueling the Giants’ last of five New York-based world championships with 87 extra-base hits (including 41 homers), and a slash line of .345/.411/.667. His OPS-plus was 175.

Mickey Mantle: If we keep Ruth’s and Gehrig’s cartoonish numbers in their own category — let’s just say pre-World War II — Mantle’s 1956 season is almost certainly the gold standard for all post-war New York hitters: a Triple Crown (.353/52/130) that added up to an OPS of 1.169 and an OPS-plus of 210.

Roger Maris: If Judge keeps this up it will rightly shine a spotlight again on Maris’ epic 1961 season, so it’s right that we take a look: 61 homers, 141 RBIs, 366 total bases, and a slash of .269/.372/.620.

Alex Rodriguez: Ignoring for a moment whatever help he might’ve had, his 2007 season would sit nicely alongside the best Ruth/Gehrig years: 54 homers, 156 RBIs, 376 total bases, .314/.422/.645.

Aaron Judge: Not a bad thing to remember his glorious rookie season: 52 homers, 114 RBIs, 128 runs scored, .284/.422/.627, 340 total bases and an OPS-plus of 171.



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