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The two young sluggers put together historically great seasons en route to winning Rookie of the Year honors.

By Jon Tayler
November 13, 2017

To the surprise of no one, Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger have officially been named the American League and National League Rookies of the Year, respectively. This is by far the easiest choice that the Baseball Writers Association of America's voters get to make all week with regards to awards: The MVP races are incredibly tight, and the Cy Young picks are plenty tough, too, but Judge and Bellinger are the most obvious picks of the year. That should be expected, given that both shattered records en route to 52 and 39 home runs, respectively, while starring for playoff teams.

There was no realistic case to be made for any of the other finalists in either league. In the AL, Andrew Benintendi (2.6 Wins Above Replacement) and Trey Mancini (2.2) combine for just over half of Judge's 8.1 WAR. Paul DeJong and Josh Bell don't trail by quite so much in the NL, but it would take a truly deluded voting body to overlook what Bellinger did, even if his 4.2 WAR feels pedestrian compared to Judge's season.

Since there's no debate to be had as to whether or not the voters got this one right, let's focus instead on where these two players rank all-time in terms of rookie years. Each league has handed out a Rookie of the Year trophy since 1949, and some of the game's greatest stars have won the award en route to Hall of Fame-caliber careers, but not every season has produced a truly historic year. Just ask 2009's winning pair, Andrew Bailey for the AL and Chris Coghlan for the NL, to pick one recent example. But while there are still many years left to figure out just what Judge and Bellinger will be, what they accomplished in 2017 is historically great. Want proof? Check out this list of the top 10 combined Rookie of the Year-winning seasons by WAR (excluding 1976 and '79, which saw two players split top honors in the NL in the former year and in the AL in the latter).

year al winner nl winner total war
2012 Mike Trout (10.8) Bryce Harper (5.1) 15.9
1964 Tony Oliva (6.8) Dick Allen (8.8) 15.6
2001 Ichiro Suzuki (7.7) Albert Pujols (6.6) 14.3
1975 Fred Lynn (7.4) John Montefusco (6.8) 14.2
1972 Carlton Fisk (7.3) Jon Matlack (6.0) 13.3
2017 Aaron Judge (8.1) Cody Bellinger (4.2) 12.3
1993 Tim Salmon (5.2) Mike Piazza (7.0) 12.2
1968 Stan Bahnsen (6.4) Johnny Bench (5.0) 11.4
1997 Nomar Garciaparra (6.6) Scott Rolen (4.5) 11.1
2016 Michael Fulmer (4.9) Corey Seager (6.1) 11.0

In what I'm sure is shocking news, Mike Trout once again tops a "Greatest [X] seasons of all time" table, this time teaming up with Bryce Harper to lead all Rookie of the Year winners in total WAR. But right there at No. 6 is the duo of Judge and Bellinger, whose combined 12.3 is the most since last year's pair of Corey Seager and Michael Fulmer racked up 11 WAR between them. And for Judge, his 8.1 WAR represents the fourth-highest individual total for a rookie hitter ever, behind Trout, Shoeless Joe Jackson (9.2 in 1911) and Allen.

Not everyone on that list went on to greater things—where have you gone, Jon Matlack?—but even if Judge and Bellinger fall short of brilliant careers, they still gave us 2017 seasons that we'll never forget. Congratulations to them—and to us, for being lucky enough to witness them.

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