Aaron Judge could be doing this for your team. And by this, I mean this:
— Cut4 (@Cut4) June 11, 2017
It's not just that the rookie slugger is mashing these monster, jaw-dropping home runs -- the ESPN Home Run Tracker measured Sunday's blast at 496 feet, the longest since ESPN began tracking distance in 2009. After going 4-for-4 with two home runs in the New York Yankees' 14-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles (and 10-for-16 over his past four games), Judge is now hitting .344 with 21 home runs and 47 RBIs. He leads the American League in all three categories, and while the Triple Crown stats are decidedly old-school accounting figures, Judge's numbers are also decidedly awe-inspiring.
Judge is also old-school in his approach to the game.
"If I know it's going over the fence, I am going to start jogging and just get around the bases and get back in the dugout," he said after the game.
He's not going to flip his bat and he's not going to admire his moon shots, although I would suggest he has earned the right to admire ones like these that land on Staten Island.
This doesn't mean he isn't without personality. He discussed his monster home run while wearing this shirt, honoring The Great Hambino, from the cult-classic movie "The Sandlot":
"Heroes get remembered, but legends never die." pic.twitter.com/DhtyiEfI1J
— ESPN (@espn) June 11, 2017
I keep waiting for Judge to land in a big slump, but he shows no signs of that happening. Check out his rates, from his call-up last season to this year's month-by-month totals:
The only potential red flag is that slight increase in swing-and-miss rate in June. That hasn't affected his stats, however: Judge is hitting .421/.542/.842 this month. The learning curve from last September to now is so impressive, especially his ability to lay off pitches he hacked away at last year. His chase rate is below the MLB average and his strikeout rate, while high, is manageable given his power production.
Look, he will slow down at some point. I think. His .432 BABIP leads the majors and would be the highest mark since World War II. Only four players who qualified for a batting title have a managed a .400 BABIP in a season, led by Rod Carew's .408 mark in 1977. Then again, we've never seen somebody quite like Judge (or Miguel Sano, who owns a .431 BABIP), this big and strong who hits the ball so hard. Remember, BABIP includes only balls in play and not home runs, so Judge's non-homer hit rate is what is insane at the moment.
And, yes, Judge could be on your team. The MLB draft is Monday, a reminder that Judge was a 31st-round pick by the A's out of Linden (California) High School, a small town about 50 miles southeast of Sacramento. That means every team passed on him ... about 30 times. Judge was a three-sport star at Linden, but he played weak competition and wasn't polished at the plate.
"Big kid with a body to dream on. Untapped monster," read Jermaine Clark's scouting report for the A's. "The frame was so long that things didn't look so fluid," Clark recently told CSNBayArea.com.
Baseball America didn't list Judge among its top 200 draft prospects in 2010, but did list him at No. 77 in the state of California under "Other prospects of note" ... as a pitcher.
"One look at Judge and his delivery is enough to hook most scouts, with the feeling they're looking at a future big leaguer," read the BA report. "Judge is also a physical right-handed hitter with power and good speed, going down the line in times as low as 4.20 seconds. More scouts like him on the mound. He has committed to Fresno State."
Judge instead stuck with hitting at Fresno State. He hit two home runs as a freshman and four as sophomore, before breaking out in his draft year with 12 home runs. The Yankees snagged him with the 32nd pick in 2013 -- even then, it should be noted that they drafted Eric Jagielo at 26. It pays to be smart and a little lucky.
Now Judge is playing like an MVP. If the vote were held today, I think he'd win. Only seven rookie position players have finished in the top three of the MVP voting (thanks to Sarah Langs for research):
2016: Corey Seager (third)
2012: Mike Trout (second)
2001: Ichiro Suzuki (first)
1975: Fred Lynn (first)
1975: Jim Rice (third)
1948: Alvin Dark (third)
1942: Johnny Pesky (third)
Yes, it's only 58 games and 209 at-bats. Fine. But I think the next 350 at-bats will prove this isn't a fluke. Judge is going to be in the MVP debate all season.
Super sophomore: Speaking of Seager, nice two days for the Dodgers shortstop. He had a walk-off double on Saturday -- he insisted it was the first walk-off hit of his life -- and then slugged a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning on Sunday off Raisel Iglesias as the Dodgers beat the Reds 9-7 to complete a series sweep. Iglesias had entered with a 0.57 ERA but didn't have his control on this day, walking the three batters ahead of Seager, who hit a first-pitch changeup. Who sits changeup after the pitcher just walked three batters in a row?
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 11, 2017
Seager has been overshadowed a bit by the emergence of Cody Bellinger -- who hit his 14th and 15th home runs on Sunday, including a two-run blast in the eighth before Seager's slam -- but he's quietly hitting .279/.388/.473. Maybe Seager's 31 RBIs don't impress, but that's merely a function of the lack of runners on base for him, as he's hitting .341/.481/.610 with RISP. Like Judge, don't be surprised if he's in the MVP debate come September.
PS: Kenley Jansen with a one-strikeout scoreless ninth for the save. He's up to 43 strikeouts and no walks. Have we mentioned that baseball in 2017 is crazy and weird?
Robbie Ray is must-watch TV: This is becoming a thing. The Arizona Diamondbacks lefty fanned 12 in 6.2 scoreless innings in a 11-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, improving to 7-3 with a 2.62 ERA. He has allowed just one run over his past five starts with 48 strikeouts in 37 innings and a .115 average allowed. Some season rankings for MLB starters:
Batting average allowed
1. Ervin Santana, .154
2. Max Scherzer, .175
3. Dallas Keuchel, .183
4. Robbie Ray, .184
1. Chris Sale, 35.3%
2. Max Scherzer, 35.1%
3. Robbie Ray, 32.4%
1. Robbie Ray, 34.1%
2. Chris Sale, 33.8%
3. Jacob deGrom, 33.2%
Andrew Miller update Miller threw 1.2 innings as the Cleveland Indians beat the Chicago White Sox 4-2. (Jose Quintana had another mediocre outing, going just five innings with three runs.) Miller entered in the sixth after Todd Frazier doubled in two runs with one out. He came in to face the No. 6 hitter, but it was a 3-2 lead at the time and Terry Francona wanted to protect the one-run lead.
This is how Francona used Miller last postseason, at any time between the fifth and ninth innings. How has he been used in 2017? That was just his third appearance entering in the sixth, but he has entered nine times in the seventh inning and in eight of those seventh-inning appearances, he has gotten more than three outs. So Francona has utilized a similar strategy as last October, if not quite as extreme, which makes sense given the lack of off days compared to the playoffs. Oh, Miller has also been even better than last season: 47 K's, five walks and 14 hits in 31.1 innings with no home runs (after giving up eight in 2016).