Aaron Judge’s Epic 2022
by Mike Whiteman
November 8, 2022
*** With the 2022 season behind us, I thought this would be a good time to take a look at and appreciate Aaron Judge’s historic season. Aaron Judge came into 2022 off a solid six-WAR 2021 campaign, when he was an American League All-Star, Silver Slugger award winner, and fourth in MVP voting. Perhaps most importantly, he played in 148 games, the most since his 155 appearances in his rookie year of 2017. Judge had been dogged by injuries in each of his previous three seasons and had only played in 112 and 102 contests in his past two full years. That perception of fragility, and the fact that he was going to turn 30 shortly after the season started, no doubt played into the Yankee front office concerns when they offered what to Judge was an underwhelming seven-year, $213.5 million contract before the season started. There was great debate as to whether declining this was a wise decision on his part, but it was clear that he was confident in himself, and how he would perform once the season started. Judge homered for the first time in 2022 on April 13th against Toronto, the Yanks’ sixth game of the season. By the end of April, he looked to be off to a fine start - .293/.361/.600 with six home runs; the beginnings of what looked to be a nice season, but not necessarily a historic one. May was an even better month, when he ripped 12 homers and slashed at .311/.378/.699. Among the long balls was a May 10 walk-off against Toronto. For his efforts, Judge won his first of three AL Player of the Month awards. The hits kept coming in June, with 11 more homers. On June 26th, Judge cracked another walk-off, this time against Houston. It was the best of times for the Yankees, who were 53-20 with a player on pace for a special season. Going into the All-Star break, Judge took his place as the AL starting right-fielder, slashing .284/.364/.618 and leading all of MLB with 33 home runs. Many a player throughout the history of baseball had a great first half of the season, only to wilt in the summer heat. Judge not only didn’t wilt, he got better. He basically kept the team afloat during their July slowdown and August near-collapse with his 22 home runs and .312/.452/.721 over those two months, taking home the AL Player of the Month for July. Amazingly, despite the strain of carrying the team during the hot summer months, Judge saved his best for September, picking up another AL Player of the Month award with 10 homers and .417/.565/.869 slash while spearheading the team’s recovery and push to the AL East Championship. On October 4th, game 161 for the Yankees, Judge hit his 62nd home run off Texas’ Jesus Tinoco. Among the statistical accomplishments of the season Home runs: 62, American League record Runs Batted In: 131, American League leader Batting Average : .311, second in the American League Total Bases: 391, 45th best in MLB history WAR: 10.6 , 24th best in MLB history OPS+: 211, 54th best in MLB history (17 before him Negro League players with less than 350 Plate Appearances) AB/HR: 9.19 , 13th best in MLB history Here are a couple of interesting career marks for Judge: Career OPS+ - 163, 14th best MLB history Career AB/HR - 11.99, 3rd best in MLB history. Just behind Babe Ruth. The OPS+ number is particularly interesting. He is tied with Jimmie Foxx, and ahead of Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays. Lest you think comparing Judge in his prime numbers isn’t fair to comparing the others’ career numbers, think on this – Judge’s 163 OPS+ is more than Aaron, Mays, and DiMaggio through their age-30 seasons.
So, not only did Judge have a season for the ages, but he’s building an impressive career, one which could land him in Cooperstown if things go right. The question of the day of course, is where Judge will be spending the rest of this career that has so much promise.