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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.

Red Sox survive back-and-forth affair with Astros, win 8-6 to take 3-1 lead in ALCS

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Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday night between the Red Sox and Astros was a thrilling back-and-forth affair with seven lead changes. Ultimately, the Red Sox emerged victorious with a hard-fought 7-5 victory.

The Red Sox wasted no time getting on the board, plating two runs in the top of the first inning against Charlie Morton thanks to a walk, hit-by-pitch, wild pitch, and a Rafael Devers single. In the bottom half, José Altuve hit what appeared to be a game-tying two-run home run to right field off of Rick Porcello. Mookie Betts leaped and was interfered with by fans in the stands, so Altuve was called out instead. The ruling was upheld after review.

In the bottom of the second, the Astros officially scored their first run when Carlos Correa knocked home a run with a single. The Red Sox immediately got it back when Xander Bogaerts doubled in a run in the top of the third, running the score to 3-1. In what would become a trend, the Astros also responded as George Springer drilled a solo homer and Josh Reddick hit an RBI single of his own to tie the game at 3-3. Tony Kemp added a solo homer down the right field line in the fourth to put the Astros on top for the first time. Bogaerts hit another RBI single in the top of the fifth to re-tie the game at 4-4. Correa followed suit in the bottom half, hitting his second RBI single of the game to give the Astros back the lead.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., who hit a soul-crushing grand slam off of Roberto Osuna in Game 3, hit another homer in Game 4, a two-run shot in the sixth off of Josh James. In the seventh, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs and Lance McCullers, Jr. entered to try to put out the fire. He did not, briefly, walking Brock Holt to force in a run and make the score 7-5. McCullers did end up getting out of the inning without any further damage. Just for good measure, though, J.D. Martinez tacked on a run in the eighth with an RBI single to make it 8-5.

Ryan Brasier got five outs and Matt Barnes one in the sixth and seventh. Manager Alex Cora decided to call on Craig Kimbrel for a six-out save when the bottom of the eighth rolled around. The 2018 postseason hasn’t been kind to Kimbrel as he had given up runs in all three of his appearances. Kimbrel gave up hits to the first three batters he faced. Kemp led off with a single but he tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second base by Betts. Kimbrel then hit Alex Bregman with a pitch and surrendered a double to George Springer, putting runners at second and third with one out. Altuve knocked in a run with a ground out to make it 8-6, but Kimbrel saw his way out of the inning by striking out Marwin González.

In the ninth, Cora decided to keep Kimbrel in the ballgame despite his continued struggles. Kimbrel got Yuli Gurriel to pop up to start the inning, but then issued back-to-back walks to Reddick and Correa. Kimbrel got out number two by getting Brian McCann to fly out to right field, then walked Tony Kemp to load the bases. Cora decided to stay with Kimbrel as Bregman came to the plate. Kimbrel threw a first-pitch, 97 MPH fastball that Bregman laced into shallow left field. Andrew Benintendi charged in and dived, catching the ball just in time to save the game, ending it for an 8-6 victory. Of the 18 half-innings, the two sides failed to score in only seven of them.

The Red Sox, now up three games to one in the ALCS, will try to close it out on Thursday night in Houston. If the Red Sox win, they will return to the World Series for the first time since 2013.