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Is the Aaron Judge hype train going too fast?

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is the talk of the town after blasting a 495-foot home run on Sunday and taking over the American League lead in all three Triple Crown categories. He’s hitting a lusty .344/.450/.718 with an MLB-best 21 home runs and 47 RBI in 249 plate appearances.

It wasn’t like this was a surprise. Judge is listed at 6’7″ and 282 pounds, so he had power potential just from the size of his body alone. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, Judge hit a more realistic .270/.366/.489 with 19 home runs and 65 RBI in 410 trips to the plate. Still great, but not out-of-this-world good.

With Mike Trout on the disabled list and Bryce Harper having cooled off, Judge has created a sizable distance between himself and the field in FanGraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement. He’s at 3.9, Trout is closest at 3.3 followed by Paul Goldschmidt‘s 3.2. This, the Triple Crown stats, the jaw-dropping distances on his homers, and more has led to many crowning Judge already a star of Major League Baseball. In fact, FS1’s Rob Parker already lists Judge as one of the five greatest sluggers of all-time, which is laughable.

We need not run over a list of pan-flashes to rein in our excitement. Chris Shelton. Bryan LaHair. Kevin Maas.

There are also some telling stats. Some stats paint a great picture, like his hard-contact rate of 49.6 percent, which is second-best in baseball behind Miguel Sano. He’s drawn walks in 15.3 plate appearances, which is outstanding. But these show us Judge probably won’t keep this up over a full season, let alone his career:

  • He has a .432 BABIP: There have been 2,258 qualified player-seasons between 2000-16. Only one player, the Brewers’ Jose Hernandez in 2002, finished the season with a BABIP of .400 or higher (.404). Only 10 in total have been at .390 or above. David Wright and Josh Hamilton are the only ones on that list who are referred to as power hitters. The list is otherwise almost entirely made up of contact hitters like Ichiro Suzuki.
  • He has a 41.2 percent HR/FB rate: Since 2000, the best HR/FB rate ever posted was 39.5 percent by Ryan Howard in 2006, when he hit 58 homers and won the NL MVP Award. That was by far a career-high for Howard and he’d never come close to it again. His career average finished at 25.8 percent after injuries and adjustments from the opposition. The next-best HR/FB rate since 2000 was set by Jim Thome in 2002 at 34.7 percent. Even the best power hitters of this millennium struggled to reach 35 percent. To say that a 40-plus-percent HR/FB rate for Judge is normal is to say he’ll be the best power hitter of any recent generation and perhaps ever.
  • He strikes out at a 28.1 percent clip: Power hitters strike out a lot, it’s just the trade off between swinging for power and swinging for contact. 28 percent isn’t exactly abhorrent, as it’s about seven percent above the league average. But it’s still among the highest in baseball — 15th, to be exact — and paired with his walk rate means he’s not putting the ball in play nearly 45 percent of the time. The league likely hasn’t caught up to Judge yet, exploiting weaknesses in his swing and general approach, so the strikeout rate could actually climb in the coming months.

Judge will be an All-Star this season and, God-willing, a participant in the Home Run Derby. If he’s able to keep up the production, he’ll be in the conversation for the AL MVP Award at the very least. But when questions like this are being asked…

… we should probably hop off the hype train for just a little while and collect ourselves.

We now have photographic proof that Tom Ricketts and Ted Cruz are different people

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A lot of people think they have a double walking around someplace on Earth. They may actually be right. We have an example of this in baseball and politics.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts looks a lot like Texas senator Ted Cruz. Or, since Ricketts is older, I guess Cruz looks like Ricketts. Either way, they could play brothers if someone put on, like, the worst ever production of some play about brothers.

If you’re not familiar with one or both of those guys, take a gander at the photo that was taken of the two of them in Washington this morning as the Cubs made the rounds with their World Series trophy:

If they put those rings together, Tom can turn into any animal and Ted can turn into anything made out of water. True story.

 

Anthony Rizzo calls out Miguel Montero for calling out Jake Arreita

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The morning we posted about Miguel Montero calling out his pitcher, Jake Arrieta, for allowing the Nationals to steal seven bases last night. Our view, of course, was that (a) it wasn’t all Arrieta’s fault; and (b) even if it was, publicly calling out your teammates like that is probably not a great idea and certainly isn’t a good look.

When I saw Montero’s comments I assumed that they would not play well in the Cubs’ clubhouse. I was right about that. Anthony Rizzo appeared on ESPN 1000 in Chicago this morning and had this to say:

Referring to Willson Contreras, of course, who has allowed 31 stolen bases to opponents while behind the dish. Coincidentally, Montero has allowed 31 stolen bases when he has played as well. Contreras has played in 24 more games than Montero, by the way.

I predict that, by around 3pm when the clubhouses open, we’ll see a public apology by Montero.