The Greatest Offensive Seasons In Baseball Over The Past 50 Years
With his 60th home run last night, Aaron Judge also increased his batting average. Because of that hit, he jumped ahead of Xander Bogaerts in the American League batting race. Judge is now leading the AL in almost everything: homers, RBI, batting average, runs, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and more. I can't think of many other seasons that I've seen that have been more dominant. The only way to compare Judge now is to see where he stands against the greatest seasons in recent history.
Here are the Top 11 seasons in offensive WAR over the past 50 years:
11. Mark McGwire, 1998 (St. Louis Cardinals)
.299/.470/.752, 70 HR, 147 RBI, 9.3 Offensive WAR (Runner-up to NL MVP)
If this season is 11th, you know this is a stacked list. I don't agree the home run chase this season "saved baseball" because people had already said the same thing about when Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak in 1995. But this did make baseball the national pastime one last time, if only for a summer. It's easy to forget that McGwire hit 65 home runs the following year. But by 1999, the wonder of the chase was long in the rear view.
10. Alex Rodriguez, 2007 (New York Yankees)
.314/.422/.645, 54 HR, 156 RBI, 9.4 Offensive WAR (AL MVP)
This was the last time A-Rod would even hit as many as 36 homers in a season. He was only 31 years old and people were saying with all seriousness at the time that 1000 career home runs was not completely out of the question. His body would start to break down the next year but that 2007 was something else. He even had 143 runs and 24 stolen bases (joining the rare 50-20 club).
9. Joe Morgan, 1976 (Cincinnati Reds)
.320/.444/.576, 27 HR, 111 RBI, 9.7 Offensive WAR (NL MVP)
The 1976 Cincinnati Reds were about as dominant as a team can get. They won over 100 games and went undefeated in the playoffs sweeping both the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees. They outscored those opponents 41-19. The best player on that team was Joe Morgan.
Morgan is remembered more recently as an awful ESPN broadcaster for years on Sunday Night Baseball but he was the best second baseman ever outside of Rogers Hornsby. Morgan had also won the NL MVP and World Series in 1975 and this year would be the last time he would achieve either again. This was the greatest single season by any hitter in the entire decade. He even played well defensively and won his fifth straight Gold Glove.
8. Aaron Judge, 2022 (New York Yankees)
.316/.419/.703, 60 HR, 128 RBI, 9.7 Offensive WAR (TBD on AL MVP. He SHOULD win)
I gave Judge the tie-breaker over Morgan because Judge still has 15 games left. That's nearly 10% of the season yet to play. Judge won't likely finish in the top three on this list but that's only because one guy stands in his way.
7. Sammy Sosa, 2001 (Chicago Cubs)
.328/.437/.737, 64 HR, 160 RBI, 9.8 Offensive WAR (Runner-up to NL MVP)
Sosa hit 63 or more home runs in a season three times and didn't lead the league in any of those seasons. He would lead the league in homers with "only" 49 in 2002.
What wound up becoming of Sammy Sosa would be pretty shocking to anyone in 2001. He finished his career with bad Orioles and Rangers teams. He's no longer on the Hall of Fame ballot after and never even received 20% of the vote in any year. He's not even recognizable as Sosa says his skin has been bleached by a facial cream.
Along with Cooperstown, the Cubs have also rejected him as well. He has not appeared at Wrigley Field in over a decade and is not enshrined in the Cubs Hall of Fame that was just unveiled. To make matters worse, that HOF contains over 50 former Cubs. Owner Tom Ricketts has said they will not welcome Sosa back until he comes clean on using steroids when he played with the Cubs.
6. Robin Yount, 1982 (Milwaukee Brewers)
.331/.379/.578, 29 HR, 114 RBI, 9.9 Offensive WAR (AL MVP)
Easily the most shocking name on this list. You could say this is an indictment on WAR as a stat if this season is ranked so highly. To defend WAR, the other seasons on this list all make perfect sense. I think this is more of a case of 1982 being a very down year offensively and Yount's season was that much better than the league average. He did lead the league in slugging and was a nearly unanimous pick for MVP (Yount got 27 of the 28 first place votes. Reggie Jackson got the other vote). People at the time considered this to be a very strong season.
5. Mike Trout, 2016 (Los Angeles Angels)
.315/.441/.550, 29 HR, 100 RBI, 9.9 Offensive WAR (AL MVP)
4. Mike Trout, 2013 (Los Angeles Angels)
.323/.432/.557, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 10.1 Offensive WAR (Runner-up to AL MVP)
I feel like you could pick any two Mike Trout seasons from 2012-19 and it would make sense to have them on this list. I also would have no idea which two to pick. He was so consistently great for that entire stretch. Ken Griffey, Jr. never playing in a World Series and Ernie Banks never getting to the playoffs are very unfair but Mike Trout never winning a playoff game in this era of multiple playoff rounds seems equally cruel.
3. Barry Bonds, 2004 (San Francisco Giants)
.362/.609/.812, 45 HR, 101 RBI, 11.4 Offensive WAR (NL MVP)
2. Barry Bonds, 2002 (San Francisco Giants)
.370/.582/.799, 46 HR, 110 RBI, 11.8 Offensive WAR (NL MVP)
1. Barry Bonds, 2001 (San Francisco Giants)
.328/.515/.863, 73 HR, 137 RBI, 12.4 Offensive WAR (NL MVP)
According to the book "Game Of Shadows", Bonds finally decided to use PED's after watching McGwire and Sosa battle for the home run chase in 1998 when he was sure they were not competing fairly. You can sort of understand why he did it. He was the best player in baseball and now he was being overshadowed by people who were cheating. Major League Baseball was sitting on their hands and letting these guys around him game the system.
I do wonder if Bonds wishes he could go back and change things though. He would have been a Hall of Famer. His stats through the 1998 season were still fantastic. He already had 411 home runs and he was only 33. Using PED's did get him more MVP awards but it's not like it got him a World Series ring.
It'll be tough for Judge to catch those Bonds years but everyone else above him is in play. You know you are having a great season when the only guy in a half century ahead of you had an on-base percentage of over .500 and a slugging percentage of .800 during the seasons that were better than yours.