The parallels between the sluggers are obvious. Both are right-handed batters who look like defensive ends — Stanton listed at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, and Judge at 6-foot-7, 282. Both can swing and miss with the best of them, but when they make contact, they frequently light up Statcast™.
For Stanton, the 2016 Home Run Derby champion, it’s nothing new. Judge has all of 148 big league plate appearances, but since his debut last August, the 24-year-old has offered a tantalizing glimpse of his ability.
Stanton set a high bar yet again on Wednesday. In the third inning, with the Marlins trailing the Mariners, 3-2, Felix Hernandez left a 3-1 changeup up in the zone to Stanton, who pounced on it. The ball exploded off his bat with a 114.1-mph exit velocity and soared a projected 445 feet to the back of “The Pen” viewing section beyond the left-center-field wall at Safeco Field — a place home runs rarely go.
“That was pretty deep, huh?” said Hernandez, who later in the game carefully issued his first walk of the season to put Stanton aboard on four pitches. “He put a good swing on that changeup. He was locked in. He was on all my pitches today.”
For Stanton, this was his 18th homer of at least 440 feet in the Statcast™ Era, tying him for first with Carlos Gonzalez, who plays his home games in the thin air of Coors Field rather than at cavernous Marlins Park.
Stanton’s average homer distance of 423 feet leads the Majors during that time, and he has accounted for five of the 10 hardest-hit homers, including a record 119.2 mph on June 23, 2015. His 114.1-mph shot on Wednesday counts as just his 15th best, yet only 23 other hitters have managed even one homer at that exit velocity.
One of them is Judge, who last Sept. 12 crushed a 115.2-mph homer in the Bronx against the Dodgers. He topped himself on Wednesday night. Following a three-run shot by Starlin Castro, Judge got all of a hanging curve from the White Sox’s Dylan Covey and sent a towering drive way up into the left-field bleachers at Yankee Stadium.
“Ones like those, you don’t even feel it touch the bat, to be honest,” Judge said. “If you get it on the sweet spot, you don’t even feel it.”
The 448-foot blast was the third-longest at the ballpark in the Statcast™ Era. With a 115.5-mph exit velocity, it was not only the hardest-struck homer of Judge’s young career and the second-hardest by any Yankees player, but also the hardest by anyone at the Stadium.
Whom did Judge pass to claim that record? That, of course, would be Stanton, who smacked a 115.3-mph drive off CC Sabathia on June 18, 2015.
Judge has a long ways to go to match Stanton’s impressive Statcast™ portfolio, but if Wednesday’s performance is any indication, it will be a quest worth watching.