In baseball, as in life, the single is totally lame. Few people are thrilled to click "single" on their social media profile, and only the very elderly go to Wendy's to order a single cheeseburger. We are a nation of gluttons, and our national pastime has reflected as much ever since Babe Ruth opened our eyes to the majesty of the home run in the early 1920s. Singles are some old Ty Cobb bullshit, a remnant of a bygone age so boring they labeled it the Deadball Era. Hey kids, wanna go outside and play some deadball? Let's go practice bunting and hitting Baltimore chops. Huzzah!
However, one player is threatening to change our entire perspective on the lowly single. I'm not referring to some wack-ass slap hitter, but rather the most massive human ever to pick up a bat. Yankees rookie Aaron Judge is certainly not known for hitting singles; the outfielder became New York's large adult prince based primarily on his ability to hit home runs more often and more spectacularly than anyone else. It seems almost criminal to mention Judge in the same sentence as the weakest of all hits.
But the 6'7" pinstriped beast has the power to make us re-evaluate just about everything we thought we knew about baseball and physics. (For example, how would a ballpark's ground rules be applied if Judge hits a ball so hard it travels backwards through time to a point before the ballpark was constructed?) Big Law rewrote the record books again Thursday night with a simple line drive back through middle in the sixth inning New York's 9-1 win over the Red Sox. MLB Statcast measured it as the hardest-hit ball of 2017...that's right, folks, a single!
Yankees broadcaster and former pitcher David Cone quickly informed viewers of the exit velocity, a clear indication of how much has changed about the way we watch baseball since Statcast information first became available in 2015. The combination of Judge and Statcast turned a simple one-bagger into an event.
If Judge is the new champion of Statcast, then the single is an underrated weapon in his arsenal. Judge appears a whopping six times in the first 11 spots on the 2017 exit velocity list, and three of those hits are singles.
Poor No. 9 on the list, a 117.3 MPH base knock off Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman on May 31, doesn't even have its own video highlight. That may be due to the fact that it wasn't even the hardest ball he hit off Gausman this year—he also touched up Gausman for a 119.4 MPH dinger. See? Sometimes even the most spectacular singles get no respect.
In terms of shock value, it's hard to top No. 11, a single off Tampa reliever Jumbo Diaz that is more terrifying to watch than any horror film. Look at how close the ball comes to hitting the pitcher on the head!
A generation of young boys just gave up their dreams of becoming a Major League pitcher. We cringe as we watch, yet we cannot look away. Such is the monstrous, life-and-death power of the Aaron Judge back-through-the-box single.
Would fans rather watch this massive phenom mash a moonshot off the restaurant beyond Monument Park? Of course they would. Taters are the best, and will remain the best. But the next time you check the game update on your phone and see "Judge: single" do not feel so blue. There is a decent chance you could end up seeing a piece of exit velocity history later in the Statcast highlights.