As we wondered whether he could stay healthy long enough to return to his Bunyan-esque best, Aaron Judge has slapped us awake. After belting his seventh homer in 11 team games, Judge had hit a home run every six at-bats – a ratio that, prorated over a season or career, would smash any record.
Those records now are Mark McGwire’s career number of a homer every 10.6 at-bats, and Barry Bonds’ single-season mark of one per 6.5 Abs in 2001. That research gave a thirst for more knowledge, so we thought we'd look at the Yankees who took their jobs as Bombers very seriously – the best HR/AB ratios of anyone who ever wore pinstripes. To qualify, the slugger need only spend five years as a Yankee (which makes this list much less predictable).
Here are the Top 8, in honor of Yogi Berra.
8. Reggie Jackson Mr. October spent exactly five turbulent, yet quite rewarding and unforgettable, seasons in the Bronx. He led the Yanks to three Fall Classics, but is best known for his three-homer epic at Yankee Stadium in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series – no one else has, nor will, drill three homers off three different pitchers on the first pitch from each. The man with the corkscrew swing who loved blondes and fancy cars and big moments, who had a month and candy bar bearing his name, slugged a homer every 17.52 at-bats, which ranks 68th in MLB history.
7. Steve Balboni Sure, this is a cute choice, as no one considers him a great Yankee. But you're a real Yankees fan if you remember Steve "Bye-Bye" Balboni, who had two stints in New York while spending most of his years - and his production - in Kansas City. Still, the slugger who had a dreadful .214 BA with the Bombers banged a bomb every 17.24 at-bats over his career, good for 56th all-time.
6. Mark Teixeira Not exactly known as a legendary slugger, at least not compared to others on this list, Mark Teixeira was just a wonderful all-around ballplayer. But beyond his four Gold Gloves at first base and his charming mix of hunger and humility, Tex could bash the baseball. His best season came during his first season in pinstripes, when he smoked 39 homers to go with 122 RBI, both of which led the American League and placed Teixeira second in the 2009 AL MVP vote. For his career, Mark Teixeira launched a home run every 16.96 at-bats, putting Tex 51st all-time.
5. Jason Giambi Did you see this one coming? We all fondly recall Giambi's time in pinstripes. Back when the Yanks could still just poach your best players by making it rain on them, they stole Giambi from the Oakland A's, and boy, did he bring some Moneyball his first few years. Giambi, who hit a home run every 16.52 at-bats, may have missed out on the World Series titles under Joe Torre, but he was first in line when it came to getting paid 21st-Century cash.
4. Lou Gehrig So many great players - including Gehrig's more famous teammate - are me-first divas who are dying for attention. Gehrig is certainly an exception. Between his incredible talent, low-key regularity, and his delivery of what some call the "Gettysburg Address of Baseball," it's hard to think of a more revered Yankee than the Iron Horse, who literally played his last season while he was dying. Gehrig still managed to punch the ball over the wall every 16.23 at-bats, which leaves the most respected and beloved Yankee 37th on the all-time list.
3. Alex Rodriguez We get it with all the distractions, and all the tangential stuff – like sunning shirtless in Central Park or opting out of his Yankees contract during the '07 World Series – and all the PED talk and opaque cousins. But with all that smoke, we forget how great a player A-Rod was, before and even after his suspension. Indeed, J-Lo's man swatted a home run every 15.18 at-bats, which is good for 19th all-time. You can decide how he got there.
2. Mickey Mantle The Mick may have injured his knee on the field, and bruised his soul off the field, but he still managed to crush a home run every 15.12 at-bats. He's tied for No. 16 all-time with a current star who may remind you of Mantle - Mike Trout – and Mantle's brilliant career keeps up with all the current sabermetrics. You'd think his Triple Crown year in 1956 would have been his most HR-proficient, but it was during the magical 1961 season, when he and Roger Maris were the M&M Boys, when Mantle hit a homer every 9.5 at-bats and may well have joined Maris in breaking the Bambino's mark if not for injuries.
1. Babe Ruth The Bambino is still quite prominent in the archives, and still ranks second all-time with a home run per 11.76 at-bats. Ruth homered the most frequently in 1920, his first season with the Yanks, when he smashed a home run every 8.5 at-bats. Only Bonds in 2001 hit homers at a faster pace, and only McGwire had a better career mark. This is hard to believe, even by Babe's standards, but he led the AL in plate appearances per home run in 13 of 14 seasons between 1918 and 1931, which includes his last two years with the Red Sox.