As the New York Yankees surge towards a playoff spot, their slugging outfielder Aaron Judge is looking for a solution to his offensive slump.
As loud as Aaron Judge’s monstrous home run at Citi Field was on Wednesday night, his 37th long ball of the season does not drown out his recurring offensive struggles. Judge ran into similar problems last season, but made the necessary adjustments that led to his phenomenal first half. Now it is time for the Yankees’ slugger to make another adjustment or watch the quality of his rookie season plummet.
Last season, Judge burst onto the season with power-hitting strength unmatched in the American League. Three of his four homers that season landed over 400 feet away from home plate.
Yet, his other offensive stats told a much different story. His lack of discipline at the plate caused his batting average to fall to .179 while his 42 strikeouts vastly outnumbered his nine walks.
With unquestionable potential, the question Judge left with following 2016 was, “can he make the necessary adjustments at the plate?” His answer came in the form of a historic start to his rookie year.
Judge cruised through the first half of the season, batting .329 with a major league leading 30 home runs. He passed Joe DiMaggio’s Yankee rookie home run record and looked to become the undisputed Rookie of the Year.
However, his drastic decline since the All-Star Game is almost as shocking as his success in the first half. By batting .175 in the second half, Judge’s season batting average has dropped to .290. Following a victorious Home Run Derby, Judge has hit only seven home runs in the second half with 49 strikeouts.
Time for an ad-Judge-ment
Although this is the same slugger whose power we awed at in 2016 and we saw come to fruition in the first half of this season, it is time for Judge to make another adjustment.
According to FanGraphs, Judge’s 9.1% swing-and-miss rate in the first half against four-seam fastballs has increased to 11.6% since the All-Star break. One possible correlation to this increase is that pitchers are starting to attack Judge in different parts of the strike zone.
Of the pitches he saw in the first half, 10.9% of them were fastballs in the upper part of the zone. That rate has increased to 14.5% as of Monday. Likewise, the percentage of fastballs away and off the plate has risen from 18.4% in the first half to 22.3% in the second.
These numbers clearly show an adjustment being made on the mound against Judge. The once untouchable Judge is struggling to work past his vulnerability. Yet, Judge is familiar with what it takes to make adjustments and since he did it once, whose to say he won’t do it again?