There is nothing wrong with Aaron Judge
There is no debate that over his past two series, and even in the All-Star Game, Aaron Judge has been scuffling at the plate. Not including the Midsummer Classic, Judge has only four hits in his last 29 at-bats, which is good for a minuscule .138 batting average. He is currently on a six-game homerless streak, which is his longest of the season, and has not driven in a run in the same time span. He has struck out 13 times and seen his average fall by .17 points. While there is no denying that his performance as of late has been subpar, it is undeniably foolish to refer to Judge’s first-half as a fluke or that the Home Run Derby ruined his approach and swing. Aaron Judge has been on a tear for all of 2017 and is now in the midst of his first true slump, since his dramatic hitting overhaul from the 2016-2017 offseason.
Let’s start with the Home Run Derby nonsense. Many players in baseball decline invites to the All-Star Game festivity, because they feel it’ll create a hole in their swing by making them homer happy at the plate or will cause them to become over anxious in the batter’s box. The new champion, Judge put on a show in the derby and hit home runs where home runs have never been hit in Miami by anyone other than Giancarlo Stanton. While Judge surely had to change his approach to succeed in the event, Judge has been known to put on a show in batting practice on a daily basis, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary for him to like he did in the derby. Aaron Judge’s struggles date back to before the break, and after only one series, it is foolish to prematurely blame the Home Run Derby on Judge’s decline. It is extremely more likely that Judge’s second-half could just be worse than his first-half, considering the historic run he went on.
Focusing more on Aaron Judge’s trends throughout the season and his slump tells you the real story behind his struggles. His strikeout rate is up eight percent, since the Brewers series, and his walk rate is down three percent. His slugging percentage has dropped .50, as well. While his walk and strikeout rates aren’t changing dramatically, his power numbers are extremely below his season rate. One of the anomalies of Judge’s season is how high his strikeout rate is along with hitting above .300. Judge has been among the leaders in BABIP all season, so odds are, he is still hitting the ball hard, but not finding as many holes as he did prior to his slump. For example, Judge hit two balls extremely well in Boston that were snagged by fantastic catches, including the possible catch of the year by Jackie Bradley Jr. 411 deep into center field. Judge’s plate discipline has also not dropped off dramatically, because he has seen, by far, the most pitches among all hitters, since his slide started. He has seen ten more pitches than the second-place Bryce Harper, who has been on a tear.
So, what is Aaron Judge’s problem? Aaron Judge now has over 400 at-bats under his belt at the MLB level and pitchers may have started to adjust. In Boston, the pitchers attacked Judge with off-speed down and away, which set-up an elevated fastball, or vice-versa that Judge would chase. He is seeing a lot of pitches, but is not winning the battles he is used to winning. He is also still hitting the ball hard, but is not hitting for as much power as he is used to. Another underlying issue is how drastic his splits are away from Yankee Stadium. Judge is hitting .377 with 21 of his 30 home runs and an astronomically high 1.324 OPS at home compared to a .256 average and .878 OPS away from the Bronx. A four-game series in Boston does not play to his advantage, when he is already a poor road hitter.
Aaron Judge is not going to put up historic numbers for ALL of 2017, and if you believed he would. you need a reality check. Just as when a new pitcher with unknown stuff comes into the league, eventually Judge’s adversaries were going to pick up on what his weaknesses are and ride with them until he makes an adjustment. Judge’s adjustments over the offseason were career changing and there is no denying that he is still one of the most dangerous hitters in the league. Despite his low average and lack of power, his peripherals and bad luck illustrate that he hasn’t exactly fell off a cliff in terms of hitting. The panic about Aaron Judge needs to stop, and Yankee fans need to be patient with a guy who barely made their team out of Spring Training having a minor slump. If Aaron Judge hits below .200 for the rest of the season, then there is certainly something worth panicking over, but until the calendar flips into the August and September, the idea remains that Aaron Judge is just enduring something that Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, and Bryce Harper all go through, a minor slump.
Article by: Ryan Thoms