Triple Crown Chase: AL
It happened really appeared to be real, but with 3 weeks left in the season, we have an outside chance for 2 triple crowns this year.
Batting Average: .307 (5th in AL; Xander Bogaerts leads at .319)
If you're looking at the American League batting title race, especially seeing how there is just about 3 weeks left in the season, you might believe that it would be very hard for Aaron Judge to surpass Xander Bogaerts. A difference of .012 in batting average through more than 130 games is a lot to make up. However, I don't think Xander Bogaerts is going to be the problem preventing Judge from a batting crown.
The main problem comes with how Judge is 5th in the AL for the batting title. Behind Bogaerts there is Luis Arraez (.315), Jose Abreu (.310), and Nathaniel Lowe (.308) in the way. This is how each of them are hitting since the All-Star Break:
Xander Bogaerts - .325
Luis Arraez - .276
Jose Abreu - .319
Nathaniel Lowe - .369
Aaron Judge - .353
If things continue the way they have, it seems like Nathaniel Lowe is going to be the much bigger threat to Aaron Judge. Not only does he have the advantage (albeit very slight), but he's also been hitting much much better over the past near 2 months. Though, there is some hope here. Nathaniel Lowe has never hit above .265 in a season before. (At that same point, Judge has never hit above .285 in a full season.)
Ultimately, it would take continuing this amazing stretch for Judge and the slight falling off of all the above players in order to make this quest for the batting title reasonably possible. Don't totally discount the idea, but it is an uphill battle.
Home Runs: 55 (1st in AL; Mike Trout trails with 35)
The story around Aaron Judge and hitting home runs is much more concerned and focused on chasing the single-season American League record of 61. And, for good reason. Mike Trout is on an absolute tear recently, having hit a home run in each of his last 7 games. (He's one game away from tying the MLB record of 8 straight games.)
The only way Mike Trout passes Judge is if he continues to get a home run, in every single game, for the entire rest of the Angels season. The Angels will play 21 more games this season, which would put Trout at 56 home runs. This would also require Judge to not hit another home run through the Yankees final 21 games as well.
As cool as it would be to see- be honest, seeing a guy hit a home run in every game for a MONTH would be awesome- it's not going to happen. Judge has this part of the Triple Crown secured.
Runs Batted In: 121 (1st in AL; Jose Ramirez trails with 109)
As we discussed yesterday when looking at the chance of Paul Goldschmidt playing his way to the NL Triple Crown, the problem with the RBI is that it is dependent a lot on team instead of just player.
As a team, the New York Yankees have scored 697 runs while the Cleveland Guardians have scored just 580. As a team, the New York Yankees have a .323 OBP. The Cleveland Guardians have a team OBP of .313.
Aaron Judge currently has a 12 RBI lead over Jose Ramirez, however it isn't as safe as the above numbers would indicate. Aaron Judge plays (if the team is healthy) in a pretty powerful lineup where 4 other players have 50+ RBI's and 1 above 70. He's not the only one bringing home teammates (as much as it may seem differently). Aaron Judge also helps to really bring up the team OBP with his .410 OBP this season. The next highest player, DJ LeMahieu, is at just .358.
Meanwhile, Jose Ramirez plays on a team where just 3 other players have 50+ RBI's with nobody above 70. He's really the biggest run-scoring threat in their lineup. Jose Ramirez is also not singlehandedly bringing up his teams OBP as his mark (.354) is 3rd on his own team, behind Steven Kwan (.369) and Andres Gimenez (.368). Ramirez is going to have many players ahead of him on to get more RBI's during the homestretch. That 12 RBI lead isn't unbreakable.
I'm not going to go out on a limb here and say that Aaron Judge will finish out the season with an incredible 21-game stretch as he powers his and the Yankees way to a #1 playoff seeding in the AL, the new AL single-season Home Run record, and just the 2nd Triple-Crown in the past 55 years.
Though, it would be one heck of a story.
I'm not a Judge hater, even if people believe I am. I am in incredible awe of what he is able, and has, done on the baseball field. I'm also a realist and can clearly see that he will never replicate a season like this again and it isn't worth a blank check investment to keep him around. I still think he's going to leave the Yankees a la Robinson Cano and chase the money.
And imagine how winning the Triple Crown (and MVP) before going for your first major payday would affect that. Aaron Judge is going to make himself many many pretty pennies on the open market, if this happens.
Side-Note: Shohei Ohtani is not going to win the MVP. Regardless of what he does from here on out (outside of throwing 2 perfect games and setting a new straight-games records for home runs- much like Mike Trout may be doing). If Aaron Judge sets a new AL home run record, that will support his media-based case to win the AL MVP more than Shohei Ohtani doing what we expect of him. The MVP is said to be based in stats, but a good story matters just as much to the BBWAA (aka the media) that votes on the awards. Ohtani just won the MVP. Judge was robbed in 2017. If Judge hits another 6-7 home runs in the next 3 weeks, he'll have more than enough story behind him to win.
If we look at it, there is a case to be made for Judge to win the Triple Crown.
He has the ability to hit for average and very well could continue his great post-ASB pace to get the top spot in the American League. He already wrapped up the home run chase. If the Yankees are back on pace to win- as they showed last week- he'll have the runners on to get the RBI's.
It could happen.
And I hope it does.