The Aaron Judge intentional walk-fest has shed new light on this incredible Barry Bonds stat from 2004
Aaron Judge is on the verge of history. He has been for seven straight games. Last week, Judge hit his his 60th home run of the season, a historic mark that moved him into second place on the AL’s single-season dinger list, one knock behind the great Roger Maris. At that point, a record-breaking 62nd home run looked like a matter of if not when. Since then, however, teams have simply stopped pitching to Judge.
AL East rivals like the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays decided they wanted no part of helping Judge make history, so they started throwing him junk. They started intentionally walking him. The boos came raining down from both Yankees fans and neutrals, who had flocked to the ballpark to witness elusive number 61. But so far there has been no room for sentimentality. Opposing managers have continued to put up four fingers and Judge has continued to take his base, bringing his intentional walk total on the season to 18. Seems like a lot, right? Well consider this:
In 2004, Barry Bonds, then 40 years old, was intentionally walked 120 times.
120! It’s a record that will never be broken. Judge, in the middle of the greatest home-run hitting season we’ve seen since Bonds, has thus far been walked 102 times less than Bonds. And it gets crazier. According to reddit statisticians, 19 of those 120 intentional walks came with the bases empty. They were the only 19 bases-empty intentional walks issued in the MLB that season. That season Bonds was also the recipient of the infamous BASES LOADED walk, one of the most mind-boggling managerial decisions in MLB history.
This shouldn't take anything away from Judge, who has had a season for the record books. It’s partly a sign of the times. Steroids are being policed. The ball has been de-juiced. It’s a fairer fight for pitchers now. Still though, as Judge continues his chase and the boo birds bleat on, it’s worth thinking about how Giants fans, and Bonds himself, must have felt in 2004. Is Judge’s drought frustrating? Sure, but it’s barely the tip of the iceberg (or should we say pitch?) when compared to The Sultan of Swat.