The New York Yankees, at one point during the 2022 season the most dominant team in baseball, were swept out of the American League Championship Series in the latest postseason disappointment for the Bronx Bombers. None of that takes away from what Aaron Judge did on the diamond this year in a remarkable campaign that has made him an easy choice as the BetUS Male Athlete of the Year.
Move Over, Maris
There were a few shaky moments near the end when Judge went into a home run drought, but he was tracking all season long to become the new American League home run king. And that’s what he became with a blast at Texas in the 161st game of the year, smacking his 62nd almost exactly 61 years from the date when Roger Maris hit his 61st.
The homer prompted a sigh of relief from fans who watched Judge hit just one homer in his previous 13 games. In reality, he had it all along. The slugger had 42 home runs before July was complete and, ever cool, he was simply giving those betting online a reason to sweat it out.
The Maris family was forced to travel to a few cities (in two countries, no less) to wait for No. 62, but they were clear on their admiration for Judge, going so far as to take a shot at the steroid-induced records from the National League two decades ago.
Home Runs, and So Much More
The focus on the home run total was natural, but Judge did a little bit of everything else for the Yankees. His 62 home runs were 22 more than any other AL hitter, he tied for the MLB lead with 131 RBIs and he scored 30 more runs than anyone else in the junior circuit.
Add in the fact that Judge plays a stellar right field and even pushed his duties to center field for 78 games (five more than he played in right) due to the Yankees’ issues at that position. Only a handful of outfielders in the majors ranked better among advanced metrics, and Judge played error-free for 1,124 innings this season.
Judge also led MLB in OBP, slugging and, obviously, OPS. He had a career-high 16 stolen bases (caught just three times), batted .311 (fifth in the majors) and led the AL with 111 walks. In short, Judge was an absolute roadblock for anyone aiming to get through the top of a Yankees lineup that led the AL in scoring.
A Great Teammate
One of the great things about Judge, if you’re a Yankees fan, is that he goes about his business in an incredibly smooth manner. He has no perceived issues with the media, is beloved by fans and adores the crush of the New York market enough to spurn a return to his home state of California, despite many a sportsbook suggesting the San Francisco Giants or even Los Angeles Dodgers had favorable odds to grab him,
In short, Judge is the most perfect figure to carry the Yankees since Derek Jeter did for two decades. As nauseating as all that probably is for Yankees haters, it matters plenty in New York and in the eyes of some media members who place value on such things.
Early MVP odds have Judge sitting just behind Shohei Ohtani and ahead of Mike Trout. It stands to reason that the New York slugger could have a slight drop in several categories. But even a slight drop will make it hard for anyone to stake a greater claim to the top individual prize.
If you’re looking at the early MLB lines and hoping to bet on MLB action ahead of time, Judge is still a wonderful option. It’s hard to imagine him duplicating 2022, but it’s also not an easy task for Ohtani to keep doing what he’s doing or for Trout to get back to that MVP level after years of injuries.
In addition, the presence of Harrison Bader for a full season in the Bronx should do wonders for Judge. Not only will a healthy Bader make center field a more stable place, thereby anchoring Judge to his less taxing right field spot, but it’ll also prevent manager Aaron Boone from having to put his big man atop the order in an attempt to have someone in that spot who can get on base. The judge-led off 34 times last year. While a leadoff homer or walk is just fine, it always feels better to have your big boppers behind some table-setters.
If you’re eyeing some MLB picks for 2023, consider Judge, our Athlete of the Year, as a worthy option.