Aaron Judge continued to build a season for the ages on Wednesday, in a 7-6 loss to the Blue Jays, slamming his 29th home run of the season to tie Joe DiMaggio's franchise record for rookies.With Judge finishing up a jaw-dropping first half ahead of Monday's T-Mobile Home Run Derby
Aaron Judge continued to build a season for the ages on Wednesday, in a 7-6 loss to the Blue Jays, slamming his 29th home run of the season to tie Joe DiMaggio's franchise record for rookies.
With Judge finishing up a jaw-dropping first half ahead of Monday's T-Mobile Home Run Derby and Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at Marlins Park, now seems like a good time to compare him to a few of the greatest rookie hitters in baseball history.
There's the Yankee Clipper himself, an All-Star in 1936 -- just as he was in each of his 13 Major League seasons. There's Fred Lynn, who with the '75 Red Sox became the first player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same year (a feat matched in 2001 by Ichiro Suzuki, a different type of rookie due to his extensive professional experience in Japan). And then there's another Rookie of the Year winner, Mark McGwire, who 11 years before he broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record in 1998 set rookie marks for homers in a season and before the All-Star break.
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While we can't match up Judge's awe-inspiring Statcast™ metrics against these other rookie sensations, here is a look at how they stack up in some other ways:
Each of these four has roots in California. DiMaggio was born there, grew up there and first signed with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, who in November 1934 sold him to the Yankees. McGwire, Lynn and Judge all went to high school and college in the state, with the first two playing at USC and the latter at Fresno State. Judge grew up in Linden, Calif., a little more than an hour's drive east of DiMaggio's birthplace in Martinez.
While the Draft didn't exist back in DiMaggio's day, each of the other three were high picks. The Red Sox took Lynn 41st overall in 1973, the A's plucked McGwire 10th in '84, and the Yankees nabbed Judge 32nd in 2013.
Age and experience
Judge does have a bit of an edge in this department, as he turned 25 on April 26. DiMaggio was a rookie in his age-21 season, while Lynn and McGwire both were 22.
Judge hit well in three Minor League seasons (.845 OPS, 56 homers), but his first taste of Major League pitching put a damper on his prospects for 2017, as he hit .179/.263/.345 with 42 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances late last year. That's a similar situation to McGwire, who in 1986 crushed Triple-A pitching but posted a .189./259/.377 line with 18 strikeouts in 58 plate appearances with Oakland.
Since DiMaggio didn't get a cup of coffee with the Yankees prior to 1936, Lynn is the only one of the four to taste some big league success before excelling in his rookie campaign. Over just 15 games in September 1974, Lynn went 18-for-43 (.419) with six extra-base hits and as many walks as strikeouts (six of each).
In terms of size, Judge is in a class of his own, as he stands 6-foot-7, 283 pounds, which is a listing you're more likely to find in the NBA or perhaps NFL. McGwire has comparable height (6-foot-5), and his listed weight of 215 pounds is probably reflective of where he was when he entered the league, though perhaps not when he retired.
DiMaggio (6-foot-2, 193 pounds) and Lynn (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) played at a size that was typical of outfielders of their eras, but would look small standing next to Judge.
Barring a barrage of big flies over the Yankees' final three first-half games, even Judge won't be able to match McGwire's rookie record. In 1987 -- like 2017, a season of surging home run numbers -- Big Mac crushed 33 homers before the All-Star break, including 15 in May alone.
Judge, meanwhile, has been a consistent power source, never going more than six straight games without a homer. If he maintains his pace, he would finish with 57 to overtake McGwire's single-season rookie record of 49 homers (Frank Robinson of the 1956 Reds and Wally Berger of the '30 Braves are tied for second at 38).
Meanwhile, Judge already has passed Lynn's total of 21 homers from 1975, as the sweet-swinging lefty was more of a doubles hitter (an AL-high 47) than a pure power threat. DiMaggio didn't debut until May 3 in '36 but made up for lost time by going deep 29 times in 138 games to set a Yankees record that has stood for more than 80 years.
If Judge were playing like a one-dimensional slugger, that would be one thing. But the 6-foot-7, 282-pound right fielder has been so much more, batting .331/.449/.697, stealing six bases and playing solid defense.
He already had reached 5.1 wins above replacement (WAR)* through Tuesday, passing the rookie total for DiMaggio (4.6) and tying McGwire, with Lynn (7.4) still a ways ahead. Here's how Judge stacks up against the other three in some other stats, looking only at what they did before the All-Star break:
BA: DiMaggio .354, Lynn .342, Judge .331, McGwire .294
OBP: Judge .449, Lynn .408, McGwire .383, DiMaggio .373
SLG: Judge .697, McGwire .692, DiMaggio .627, Lynn .620
sOPS+: Judge 200, Lynn 190, McGwire 180, DiMaggio 158
BB%: Judge 16.8%, McGwire 11.7%, Lynn 10.2%, DiMaggio 2.5%
SO%: Judge 29.5%, McGwire 20.4%, Lynn 13.8%, DiMaggio 5.0%
sOPS+, via Baseball-Reference.com, shows a player's OPS for a certain split relative to the league's, with 100 representing average.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.