By MARK SIMON
“Oh what a sock it was!”
“It was one of the sockiest socks we ever saw.”
Those are the words from the person who wrote the game story in the New York Daily News for the Yankees’ 4-3 win over the Tigers on May 26, 1920 (there’s no byline, so they are forever anonymous to us). They were describing a mammoth home run hit by Babe Ruth (click here to see it in newsprint).
Ruth’s 60 home run season in 1927 is often acknowledged as one of the best seasons in baseball history. But Ruth’s 1920 actually surpasses it. He hit .376 with an .847 slugging percentage, the latter an MLB record that stood until Barry Bonds surpassed it in 2001 .
Within that season, Ruth had many incredible stretches. We want to focus on one that had a lot of socky socks. Over 21 games from May 11 to June 7, Ruth had 33 hits, 6 doubles, 3 triples, and 13 home runs. He slugged 1.183. It’s the best single-season slugging stretch in Yankees history.
“You never can tell when a man hits his batting stride,” Ruth wrote in a column alongside that game story.
It’s a stretch that is topped since 1901 only by ones from Bonds in 2004 (thanks, Baseball-Reference!).
We bring that up in light of Aaron Judge and the amazing season that he’s having. He hasn’t quite been Ruthian, but he has been ridiculous.
He has an MLB-leading 45 home runs, including 14 in his last 21 games, a run that started with two home runs in a 14-1 win over the Red Sox. His slugging percentage in those games is 1.052. The only Yankees with better 21-game stretches are Ruth (many instances) and Lou Gehrig (once).
Look at this statline!
Aaron Judge’s Last 21 Games
Let’s add in that Judge is playing a premium position in center field and doing it credibly in his final season before free agency. He’d be a candidate for his second straight Fielding Bible Award had circumstances not dictated his move off right field (he could move back to right field when new acquisition Harrison Bader comes off the injured list).
The long-ago developed stat Offensive Winning Percentage is one we like to dust off every now and then to celebrate a player’s excellence. It calculates how a team would fare if it had nine of that player in their lineup, with average defense and average pitching.
A team of Aaron Judge’s would win 82% of its games (we’d like to meet the team it would lose to!).
Judge and Paul Goldschmidt are dueling for the No. 1 spot in that stat this season. Judge currently leads by one-tenth of a percentage point (82.4 to 82.3). They’ve both been amazing, but this current run by Judge has been just otherworldly. By the way, he also easily leads MLB in another Bill James-crafted stat, Win Shares, with 30.
Admittedly Judge’s stats look a little meager compared to some of Ruth’s best seasons, and we say meager with a chuckle because Judge doesn’t look meager next to anybody. He’s a giant among men in MLB right now. Or as the Daily News could say, he’s the sockiest socker in the game.