By any measure, New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge enjoyed a historic 2022 regular season. Judge broke Roger Maris' 61-year-old single-season American League record with his 62nd home run on Tuesday. And thanks to a torrid September, Judge made himself a threat in the batting title race. The prodigious power and lofty average gave Judge a shot at the Triple Crown. Alas, he fell just short.
Judge led the American League in home runs and RBI in 2022, but his .311 batting average was five points shy of the .316 mark posted by Twins infielder Luis Arraez.
Neither Judge nor Paul Goldschmidt of the Cardinals could come up with a Triple Crown (leading the league in homers, RBI and average) in 2022, meaning Miguel Cabrera still has MLB's most recent (2012).
Judge was trying to become just the second AL Triple Crown winner since 1967.
Most recent AL Triple Crown winners
There has only been one Triple Crown winner in the last half-century, and each of the last six Triple Crown winners have come from the American League. You have to go all the way back to Joe Medwick with the 1937 Cardinals for the last NL Triple Crown. Here are those last six AL Triple Crowns:
Carl Yastrzemski, 1967 Red Sox (won MVP)
Frank Robinson, 1966 Orioles (won MVP)
Mickey Mantle, 1956 Yankees (won MVP)
Ted Williams, 1947 Red Sox (MVP runner-up)
Ted Williams, 1942 Red Sox (MVP runner-up)
As a massive human (listed at 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds) who hits a lot of home runs, Judge is often stereotyped as a lumbering all-or-nothing slugger. That is not the case. He is a gifted natural hitter who hit .287 last season and entered 2022 with a career .276 batting average in nearly 2,500 plate appearances. Despite his enormous strike zone, Judge hits for a solid average.
Players must have 3.1 plate appearances per team game to qualify for the batting title (that's 502 plate appearances for the full 162-game season). Here is the final AL batting average picture:
If that average looks low for a potential batting champ, it is. Last year, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel won the AL batting title with a .319 average. It was the lowest average for a batting champ in either league since Justin Morneau won the NL title with a .319 average for the Rockies in 2014. Batting average has gradually declined in recent years, .
Here's the final AL home run leaderboard. It was not a close race
Judge also won the home run title with 52 as a rookie in 2017. The only other active players with multiple home run titles are Cabrera (2008 AL and 2012 AL), Nolan Arenado (2015 NL, 2016 NL and 2018 NL), Albert Pujols (2009 NL and 2010 NL) and Giancarlo Stanton (2014 NL and 2017 NL).
Runs batted in
Judge is so much more than a home run hitter. He entered September with an incredible .363/.504/.780 batting line with runners in scoring position, so he can give you that single to the opposite field when that's all you need. Not everything goes over the wall. That said, homers drive up RBI totals. Here is the final AL RBI leaderboard:
Judge became the AL's first 130 RBI man since JD Martinez had 132 with the 2018 Red Sox.