By the time the Major League Baseball season entered its second month, the Yankee’s Aaron Judge had American League pitchers stumped. He was smacking high-velocity home runs at a record pace and seemed destined for an all time great rookie season.
In other words, no one had an answer for him. But then the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger came along and started a hitting exhibition of his own in Los Angeles. And if he can keep up the ridiculous pace he set in the first half of the season, Bellinger will clearly be that answer that AL pitchers just can’t seem to find.
Let’s have a look at these young players’ impressive parallel lines.
A Later Start Leads to Similar Results
The two young sluggers undoubtedly have many things in common. First, they’ve both exceeded expert projections and their teams’ expectations in very big ways over the first half of the season. On his part, Judge was largely unimpressive during a 27-game stint with the Yankees at the tail end of last season, batting an anemic .179 and striking out at a rate of almost twice a game.
But everything changed once the current season began. Judge started the season hitting the ball cleanly and had totaled 17 home runs and 37 RBIs by the end of May. Since then, he’s more or less clinched the AL Rookie of the Year honors and is now in the running for both the Triple Crown and the MVP award. 30 home runs and a .329 average at the All-Star break will tend to do that.
Bellinger’s brief major league experience is similar enough to link him to Judge for their entire careers if their torrid pace continues. After spending much of last year in Double A ball, Bellinger was called up on April 25 and some 20 games into the Dodgers’ season. But just as Aaron Judge did on the other side of the country, Bellinger hit his stride quickly in Los Angeles and is now eyeing a rookie of the year honor of his own.
Bellinger is currently hitting 60 points lower than Judge, but with a gorgeous swing and 25 home runs in only 50 games, there’s really no better way to describe him than as the Left Coast’s snappy response to a potential New York legend. We’ll see how things turn out the rest of the season, but we could be looking at a Big Market rivalry that transforms perceptions and an entire league.