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Buster Olney: Aaron Judge having better season than Barry Bonds

© Brad Penner | 2022 Sep 21

Aaron Judge’s pursuit of Roger Maris’ single-season American League home run record is coming to a summit, naturally leading to comparisons to the game’s all-time greats.

Before Thursday night’s Yankees-Red Sox game, Judge has 60 home runs on the season. He owns the AL Triple Crown and has the highest OPS — 1.126 — in baseball. Every at-bat is most-watch television.

But with historic success may come with a pinch of in-the-moment hyperbole.

“This is the greatest single-season performance by any hitter in the history of baseball,” ESPN reporter Buster Olney said on “Get Up.”

Olney, who’s covered baseball since 1989, reasoned that pitchers are better than ever, making Judge’s monster season more impressive.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” Olney added. “We’ve never seen anything like it.”

Except that excludes Barry Bonds’ 73-homer 2001 season. Judge won’t catch Bonds in homers. Or on-base percentage. Or slugging percentage.

OPS+, a statistic that measures how valuable hitter is compared to his peers, with 100 as league average, gives Judge a 215 rating. Bonds posted a 259 OPS+ in 2001.

And although pitchers are undoubtably nastier now than in 2001, Judge has likely gotten more pitches to hit than Bonds did; Bonds got intentionally walked twice as often as Judge has this year.

“The greatest hitter of all time, in my opinion,” Judge said of Bonds in a September interview with The San Francisco Chronicle. “After playing this game and realizing how hard it is, I look back to how he’d see one pitch a game, one pitch a series that was over the plate, and he didn’t miss it.

What Judge is doing is historic. Nobody in MLB has more homers, RBI, runs, or extra-base hits. Judge has 20 more blasts than Kyle Schwarber, who’s in second on the leaderboard. When Bonds broke the record, Sammy Sosa was right on his tail with 64 bombs. It was a different era.

Regardless of hypothetical debates, Giants fans will welcome the soon-to-be free agent Judge — a Fresno native — if he decides to leave the Bronx for the Bay this winter.

 

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