This, of course, is the debate that's captivated baseball for much of the last year. In 2022, Ohtani continued his otherworldly dominance on both sides of the ball while Judge was on his way to breaking the AL’s single-season home run record on the other side of the country. And while in many ways we’ve been comparing apples to oranges, one can still have a lot of fun marveling at these two generational talents together -- three if you include Mike Trout, who has already established himself as one of the best players in MLB history. Lucky for us, this week, the Angels and Yankees will square off at Yankee Stadium for the first time in 2023, giving us the perfect opportunity to do just that.
This high-profile series will take center stage throughout the week on MLB Network. Wednesday’s game will be broadcast via the Casamigos Tequila MLB Network Showcase.
Although we won’t see Ohtani directly face off against Judge (Ohtani is not lined up to pitch in this series after pitching two innings before a rain delay in Boston on Monday), here are some fun facts on how they stack up ahead of their matchup in the Bronx.
- Longest HR: Judge, 496 ft, Ohtani, 470 ft
- Hardest-hit HR: Judge, 121.1 mph, Ohtani, 118.0 mph
- Hardest-hit batted ball: Judge, 121.1 mph, Ohtani, 119.1 mph
- Avg. HR distance: Ohtani, 411 ft, Judge, 407 feet
- Judge won the 2022 AL MVP award over Ohtani on the strength of his offense, and historically, he has had the upper hand in that department. Judge’s career .284/.394/.583 line and 163 OPS+ trumps Ohtani’s .268/.355/.531 line and 139 OPS+ while Judge has out-homered Ohtani 225 to 130 (in 150 more games).
- This probably won’t be news to anyone, but both guys absolutely clobber the baseball. Since 2021, Judge ranks first in the Majors with 184 barrels and his average exit velocity of 95.8 mph is the highest among players with at least 500 batted balls over that period. Ohtani isn’t far behind, claiming the second-most barrels (156) and tied for the sixth-highest average exit velocity (92.8 mph) over the same period.
- As we so often do when Judge and Ohtani are involved, let’s talk home runs. The 440-ft threshold is often what separates a long ball from a monster shot, and Judge certainly has more 440+ blasts in his career (34 to Ohtani’s 18.) But adjusting for their disparity in playing time, 15.4% of Judge’s career homers have traveled at least 440 ft compared to 13.8% of Ohtani’s. For reference, in 2022, just 4.4% of home runs across MLB traveled a minimum of 440 ft.
- Judge has hit three home runs (496, 495 and 471 ft) farther than Ohtani's longest homer (470 ft), despite the latter claiming the higher average long-ball distance
- Especially relative to baseball’s big boppers, both run well, but Ohtani has the edge – he owns 66 career stolen bases compared to Judge’s 44, and he’s ranked as high as the 93rd percentile (28.8 ft/sec in 2021) in sprint speed. Judge topped out at 28.3 ft/sec in 2019, which ranked in the 80th percentile that year.
- Before going back-to-back as the 2021 (Ohtani) and '22 (Judge) AL MVPs, the two went back-to-back as AL Rookies of the Year when Judge took home the award in 2017 followed by Ohtani in '18. Just 30 players in AL/NL history have won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in their careers. That club includes some of the best players the game has ever seen – and you’ve got two right here.
- There’s a lot Ohtani has accomplished that Judge hasn’t, so here’s one only Judge can claim: he’s a two-time AL home run champ (2017, '22). Ohtani, for his part, was two home runs shy of tying for the league lead in his MVP season, when he hit 46.
- Judge also holds a 4-2 lead over Ohtani in All-Star selections and has won three Silver Slugger Awards to Ohtani’s one. Judge and Ohtani were named starters in each of their ASG appearances and have twice shared a lineup together (2021 and '22). In four career games, Judge has a home run ('18) and two walks in 11 trips to the plate. Ohtani, meanwhile, has singled and walked in four plate appearances while pitching one scoreless inning in '21.
- Ohtani does have the most recent hardware of the two players. His dominant two-way performance in the 2023 World Baseball Classic concluded with him winning tournament MVP and Japan defeating the United States in the championship game.
- Ohtani has a notoriously rough history pitching against the Yankees, although he’s only faced them twice in his career. In those two starts, both in the Bronx, he’s given up 11 runs on 10 hits across 3 2/3 innings, with more walks (5) than strikeouts (3). Judge himself has gone 2-for-2 with a solo home run against Ohtani.
- As opposing sluggers, they’ve been a bit more evenly matched. Against each other’s teams since 2018, each has seven home runs (Judge was responsible for robbing Ohtani of an eighth last season), with Judge’s RBI total (15) just outpacing Ohtani’s (12). Their respective lines are, admittedly, a little lopsided, with Judge hitting .343/.472/.671 against the Angels to Ohtani’s .200/.284/.583 against the Yankees.
- From 2018-22, the Angels and Yankees have matched up 16 times with both Ohtani and Judge in their respective starting lineups. Of those games, the Yankees have won 10.
It may not be fair to include a section on pitching, given Judge has nothing to put up against Ohtani in this area. But we’d be remiss not to mention Ohtani’s contributions as the Angels’ ace.
- Not just a power hitter, but also a power pitcher. He’s thrown 52 fastballs at 100+ mph since 2021. Only five starting pitchers have thrown more in that time.
- If you haven’t already heard, Ohtani’s sweeper is one of the best pitches in baseball. Since the beginning of last season, only Dylan Cease’s slider has been more valuable – Ohtani’s sweeper has saved the Angels 32 runs since 2022.
- But wait, there’s more: Ohtani’s splitter has produced strikeouts on 59.3% of plate appearances since 2021. No starter has a higher strikeout rate on an individual pitch in that time (min. 100 PA).
- Put it all together and Ohtani has been one of the best MLB starters since '21. Among the 110 pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched in that time, Ohtani ranks in the top 10 in ERA (2.58), strikeout rate (31.5%), and Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (9.2).