Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees celebrates with...

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees celebrates with teammates after hitting a two-run home run against the Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium on June 11, 2024 in Kansas City, Missouri.  Credit: Getty Images

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It has long been a tenet of the analytics crowd — though there slowly have been signs across the sport of a slight change in this — that batting average has little relevance when it comes to evaluating a hitter.

Words such as “irrelevant,” “meaningless” and “insignificant” have dotted the landscape for years. It certainly has in the analytics wing of the Yankees’ organization, among other unflattering descriptions.

Just don’t bring that into any of the 30 big-league clubhouses.

And definitely don’t bring it to Aaron Judge.

The 2022 American League MVP proudly describes himself as “old school” in a variety of ways, and has long talked about his admiration for past sluggers such as Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Barry Bonds, the latter of whom Judge grew up near the Bay Area rooting for as a Giants fan.

“Those guys were complete hitters,” Judge has said more than a few times since his 52-homer Rookie of the Year season in 2017.

Meaning, not only could those players hit the ball out of the ballpark, they could also hit for average.

“As a kid, you look up and you see Albert Pujols hitting .330 every year and consistently put up the RBI numbers and stuff like that,” Judge said during his ’22 season.

“So, for me, grading the hitter has always been about average. I might be a little old-school, but can you hit or can you hit? It’s always been a goal of mine to try and get to that point and do that.”

While in college at Fresno State, Judge (baseball’s hottest hitter for well over a month) used to watch clips of at-bats by the hit-to-all-fields Cabrera, MLB’s last Triple Crown winner (2012). So when he looks up at the scoreboard and sees impressive numbers filling just about every category, the one Judge might just be most pleased with is this: the .309 batting average he brought into Wednesday night’s game against the Royals.

Not that Judge, who leads MLB with 25 homers, a .437 on-base percentage, .712 slugging percentage, 1.149 OPS and 55 walks, will cop to that.

“They were hitting .330, .340, which is pretty impressive,” Judge said of the Bonds-Pujols-Cabrera trio. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get there but working towards it for sure.”

Asking Judge, of course, to publicly engage in any kind of positive self-talk about his on-field accomplishments is akin to driving to John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens. No matter your approach, or time allotted, you will end up stuck at some point and ultimately frustrated by the journey.

The difference is you will eventually get to JFK; not so when it comes to Judge coming even close to anything that borders on patting himself on the back.

That is not, naturally, an issue for those around him. They marvel not only at his overall numbers, but, yes, Judge hoisting his batting average over .300.

“I think he takes a lot of pride in that,” Aaron Boone said. “Looking up at the leaderboard today, there’s probably, what, 15 people in Major League Baseball hitting over .300, if that [entering Wednesday it was 12, led by Luis Arraez’s .327]. And considering having the month of April where he was down around .200, to be up to where he is just another testament to the kind of run he’s been on.”

As of May 2, after a 1-for-13 series against the Orioles in Baltimore, Judge was hitting .197 with six homers, six doubles, 18 RBIs, 24 walks and a .725 OPS.

In 35 games after that Judge hit .422 with 19 homers, 15 doubles, 44 RBIs, 31 walks and a 1.572 OPS.

“It’s the hard way. He’s not getting infield singles, all of his doubles . . . he doesn’t have speed to hustle out a double at the wall, they’re just all true slug,” said Anthony Rizzo, Judge’s close friend. “Guys that have speed have slightly different ways, sneaking in infield hits and whatnot. It’s just true slug, at-bat after at-bat. It’s the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen in my career.”

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