Could Aaron Judge win the American League Triple Crown?

Yankees rookie phenomenon Aaron Judge is off to an unreal start in 2017 and is taking the league by storm. This weekend alone he hit the hardest home run in Statcast history at 121.1 mph, hit the farthest home run of 2017 at 495 feet, had his third multi-homer game of the season, and was named AL Player of the Week. While all those feats are impressive, none of those three accomplishments do his season justice like his league leader position at the conclusion of the weekend. Aaron “The Animal” Judge is currently leading the American League in every single Triple Crown category.
Photo Credit:

The Triple Crown for offense is accomplished less often than a perfect game, which illustrates how elite the accomplishment is. The most recent winner of the award was Miguel Cabrera in 2012, but before him the last winner was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. 11 out of the 13 eligible players to have won the triple crown, have been elected into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. The Triple Crown, for those who are unaware, is when a hitter leads their respective league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.

As of the time this article is published Aaron Judge is batting .344 with 21 home runs and 47 RBIs. While he has been battling for the league lead in home runs with Mike Trout all season until his recent thumb injury, Judge has not been in the discussion for the lead in batting average and RBIs, until his most recent hot streak. In June, he is hitting .421 and has displayed unreal power to all fields. Judge has always had the potential and talent to be a monstrous hitter at the professional level, but this season has proved that he is for real. It is questionable, however, whether or not he can keep to this historic pace as the season hits the dog days of summer, but by the way he is playing, he has displayed no signs of decline.

With all this being said, could Judge actually hold the lead in these three categories for the remainder of the season and become the third Triple Crown winner in the past 50 years? Let’s dive into each category and see what the odds are for Judge to rise to the occasion.

Batting Average:
Judge currently sports a .344 batting average, and this is probably the most surprising stat of the three for him to be leading the league in, in June. Judge was a career .278 in the minor leagues, which is solid, but shows that his .344 batting average could be an anomaly. His .432 BABIP leads all of baseball and his 28.1 K% is fifteenth among the same crowd. These two stats illustrate that a large percentage of Judge’s batted balls fall in for hits and that there could be a little bit of luck in his high average. To the contrary, Judge is second to only Miguel Sano for average exit velocity, which shows that when Judge does make contact, it is solid and hit hard. Hard contact allows for more hits and prevents opposing fielders from getting to the ball once it is hit.

The four players that trail Judge in average are: Jean Segura, Mike Trout, Avisail Garcia, and Corey Dickerson. Segura will likely decline as he hit .319 in a very hitter friendly Chase Field, last season. Trout will no doubt be in the race all season, but his injury may derail his stats and prevent him from possibly qualifying. Garcia and Dickerson are in the midst of breakout seasons, and it is tough to tell whether or not their success will continue due to their career track records. Jose Altuve and Xander Bogaerts are other possible contenders for the title.

While Judge’s specialty is not hitting for a high average, his ability to make solid contact and hit to all parts of the field support the fact that he could end 2017 with a batting average above .300. Unfortunately, he will eventually go through some cold streaks, and his hard hits will find themselves in the gloves of fielders. Due to this and stiff competition, it will be tough for Judge to continue to lead the league in hitting over the course of a whole season.

Odds: Low to Medium

Home runs:

The statistic, that has made Judge into who he is, is the long ball. Judge’s monster frame is perfect for supplying power and his ability to utilize the short porch in right further enhance his home run hitting ability as a Yankee. Aaron Judge is currently sitting at 21 home runs and ESPN projects him to have 57 home runs, if he continues his current pace. That would be the most home runs in a season since Alex Rodriguez in 2002 and first time the 50-homer plateau has been reached since 2006.  While 57 bombs would be ideal for the Yankees’ slugger, it is highly unlikely that Judge is able to hit at a historical pace over the course of a whole season. This does not mean that Judge cannot lead the league in home runs, however.
Photo Credit: NY Times
Judge’s peripherals support that he will continue to hit home runs in mass quantities. His isolated power is second in the league behind Mike Trout and his ABs per home run is first in the league at ten at-bats. Judge is also slugging at a clip of .718. His high slugging and isolated power show that even when he isn’t hitting home runs that he is hitting for extra bases and displaying power. Another thing that can’t be kept track of by a statistic is the protection that Judge has in the lineup, but is nevertheless extremely vital to his home run success. Judge is currently occupying the third spot in a loaded Yankees lineup and is followed by Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro, and Gary Sanchez. All three of these guys are not pushovers by any means, and their offensive potential will force pitchers to give Judge pitches to hit.

Judge’s competition for the home run lead includes: Justin Smoak, Khris Davis, Joey Gallo, and Mike Moustakas. Smoak is having a career year of his own and has always had the power potential that he is currently showing. Davis is fresh off a 40-homer 2016 campaign and is one of the few power sources in the Athletics lineup, but guys like Yonder Alonso and Ryon Healey could give him the protection he needs to mash. Gallo is hitting an abysmal .201, but his 17 homers will keep him in the lineup for the time being. Moose is having a career year offensively for KC, but a lack of protection could be his downfall.

All in all, Judges ability to hit the ball extremely long distances, ability to put effective launch angles on his hits, potential to hit to all fields, and his strength of picking quality pitches to hit will make him a threat to win the home run crown all season. His competition his strong, but in an American League lacking true sluggers, Judge is a king among men.

Odds: High

Runs batted in:
When a player hits for a high average and hits a ton of home runs in the middle of a potent lineup, they also become strong run producers in the RBI department. Judge is currently sitting at 47 RBIs. While any team would love to have a player with 47 RBIs at this point in the season, it is actually a tad low for his home run total. This is not completely his fault, however. Judge is a part of baseball’s best scoring lineup and is actually held back by this in the RBI department. The Yankees are on a historic home run pace and have many run producers throughout their lineup, which means Judge does not have to be solely relied on to put runs on the board for his team. An example of how this could hurt Judge is that 11 of Judge’s 21 home runs have been solo shots meaning that either he is not a strong home run hitter with runners on or that the preceding hitters in the lineup have already scored before he gets an opportunity to bat. Either way it hurts Judge in the RBI column.
Photo Credit: SB Nation
Judge’s competition for the league lead at this point in the season include: Miguel Sano, Nelson Cruz, Albert Pujols, and his own teammate Matt Holliday. Sano, Cruz, and Pujols are al obvious candidates to occupy three of the top slots in the American league, because they are all on teams that are in the bottom half of baseball in run production, so their opportunities are greater than those of Judge. Holliday being in the top five also depicts how having run producing teammates could hurt a player in the statistic. Luckily, Holliday is now hitting behind Judge, so most opportunities presented to Holliday had been available to Judge the at-bat before.

Judge’s ability to hit for extra bases and hit home runs makes him a strong candidate to hold the lead in RBIs in the American League. However, being surrounded by viable run producers and the fact that Judge hits an earthlier .274 with RISP versus hitting .363 with no runners on could be his ultimate downfall.

Odds: Medium

The Triple Crown in baseball is an improbable achievement and has happened twice in the last 50 years. While some players have gotten close, actually owning the top spot on the leaderboard for each of the three major hitting stats is odds defying and could take a little bit of luck. Aaron Judge has been nothing short of odds defying this season and has a legitimate shot to make a run at the honor. He will need to continue his historic pace of hitting, which seems more and more likely by the day.

Anyone that has seen an interview with Aaron Judge knows that he is not about statistics and individual performance. His ultimate goal is to see the name in the front of his jersey win and succeed, and if putting up historic number is what it takes, expect it to continue. If history has any value, the last time the Yankees scored eight or more runs in five straight games, which they have done in their past five games, was when Mickey Mantle won the MVP and Triple Crown. 

Article by: Ryan Thoms


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