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The Modern Day Bronx Bombers

Aaron Judge on the Yankees; CC by License 2.0

When the New York Yankees acquired Juan Soto in the offseason, the franchise was letting the baseball world know that they meant business. The Yankees sent five players to San Diego to make the move happen, while the Padres shipped off Soto and outfielder Trent Grisham to the Bronx. This move set the baseball scene on fire. This was one of the times when preseason predictions of two sluggers that would go nuclear in New York came true. The “short porch” with Soto, plus the alien-like, power-hitting talent of Judge, was a combination that shot the Yankees back into the limelight.

In another TDA article written by yours truly, the Spring Training performance by Juan Soto was analyzed as a great example of how having a great camp can help one predict the type of season a player would have. I wrote, “he has just nine at-bats, but has three home runs, a 2.616 OPS, and a .667 batting average.” Now, in his 279 at-bats in the pinstripes, Soto’s performance has been just as impressive as ever. 

Soto has always been extremely adept at drawing walks in his appearances as a hitter. In fact, he has led the league in this stat in three of the six full seasons he has played in the MLB. This season is no different, as he currently leads the league with 63 walks. Pairing nicely with his walks is his on-base percentage. With a .431 OBP, Soto has the best ability to reach base of any qualified hitter in baseball. In true Soto fashion, he has more walks (63) than strikeouts (57), a rarity in today’s game.

In his first taste of the American League, Soto is slashing .305/.431/.563, good for a .994 OPS and 179 OPS+. These numbers alone are extraordinary, but the deeper percentiles on his Baseball Savant page confirm his success is not due to any sort of luck. His expected stats in batting average, slugging, and weighted on-base average rank in the 98th, 99th, and 99th percentiles respectively. His hard-hit percentage and barrel percentage rank in the 99th and 98th. It would almost be easier to report the percentiles that weren’t higher than 98th. The “worst” offensive percentiles are 62nd in whiff percentage and 47th in LA Sweet-Spot, a very valid price to pay for the absurd ranks he lands in every other category. 

It’s safe to say that Juan Soto is firmly in the race for the AL MVP award. Unfortunately, his teammate may steal the award from him. Aaron Judge is having a season on par with his MVP campaign in 2022. The problem of having two legitimate MVP candidates on the same team is one that the Yankees will certainly tolerate. 

Aaron Judge is on an absolute tear this season. He leads the league in doubles (22), home runs (28), runs batted in (70), total bases (192), slugging percentage (.686), OPS (1.108), and OPS+ (207). He also leads the league in grounding into double plays, as he has done this 13 times. But who really cares about grounding into double plays when you lead the league in seven other offensive categories? The categories he leads in now are eerily similar to his 2022 MVP run, too. 

His slash line is enough to make Barry Bonds proud. Through 78 games, Judge is hitting .300/.423/.686. His deeper numbers on his Baseball Savant page are just as impressive as his teammate’s above. To start, Judge ranks in the 100th percentile in expected wOBA, xSLG, average exit velocity, barrel percentage, and hard-hit percentage. His walk percentage ranks in the 99th percentile, one tick below Soto’s rank. Again, the “worst” rank on his page is the 8th percentile in whiff percentage and 25th in strikeout percentage. Everything else is about as bright red as Citizens Bank Park in October. 

Selfishly, as a Giants fan, this type of production and star power would be extremely appreciated with the way things are going in the Bay currently. Instead, the Yankees have found an Aaron Judge replacement without even losing Aaron Judge. Even though Judge will always be a strikeout liability, his ability to draw walks and drive in runs will always offset that downside. Plus, Judge’s strikeout numbers are more than offset by Soto’s discipline at the plate.

It is hard to recall a pair of two teammates that have been swinging the bat the way these two Bronx Bombers have been in 2024. They have paved the way for the Yankees to lead the AL East with a 52-28 record, the most wins in baseball. It is a very safe call to say that the Yanks will make the playoffs this season. Their starting rotation just upgraded in a huge way with the return of Gerrit Cole. The bullpen is led by closer Clay Holmes. The offense is led by the two players above. They elevate everyone around them, and the Yankees are looking to be a powerhouse deep into October. If all goes according to plan, their winning ways will convince Soto to stay with them as he enters free agency next year. His performance will certainly land him one of the biggest sports contracts of all time. 


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