We’ve seen Aaron Judge crush five home runs in his last eight games, and that probably means he’s back. Only 14 of Judge’s 44 home runs have come in the second half, and seven of those were hit in the past three weeks. Not like you’ll be surprised to hear me say this, but look at the numbers:
That rolling wOBA crossed ~.400 on July 16th, and it rose above it once again on September 12th, so you could easily pinpoint that as the “slump” proper.
In August, he hit .185/.353/.326 with... three home runs. In September, which has yet to conclude, he is hitting .241/.408/.685 with seven home runs. The batting average is definitely still problematic, because that is some indicator of contact skills, but what really matters, frankly, is that when he does make contact, the ball goes far.
A good measure is actually by the eye test, just by what he looked like during and “after” the slump. Here he is on August 30th, the same day reports emerged that the Yankees were considering Judge take a cortisone shot for his left shoulder:
Cody Allen struck out Judge to end the game, and you can see that he just doesn’t look right. He has absolutely no extension, none of that quick whip in his swing, and clearly no pitch recognition. It’s pretty obvious he was just sitting on something off-speed.
Here he is just two nights ago, when he hit a home run against Ervin Santana:
Did someone say #AllRise?— MLB (@MLB) September 18, 2017
No. 44 for No. 99. pic.twitter.com/fYFVPXtflf
In this case he not only gets his hands quickly through the zone, he gets underneath it but still generates enough lift on the ball to carry it 395 feet. That was a pitch that he would have popped up to right field a month ago.
From July 16th to August 31st, Judge had an average exit velocity of 91.2 mph. From September 1st on, he has an average exit velocity of 93.7 mph, about the same as Robinson Cano and JD Martinez.
It may not feel like it because he isn’t hitting as many base hits as he was during the first half, but he has a 176 wRC+ in September. The strikeout issue hasn’t fully rebounded, though, which almost makes that number more impressive. He’s still striking out 31% of the time this month, compared to 36% in July. That’s not as good as 29.7% in May, but he’s definitely getting there.
For how good a first half Judge had, it was almost impossible for him not to rebound at one point. If it was because of fatigue or his shoulder, that has seemed to subside. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have adjustments to make, because he does: against right-handed pitchers, which are his primary prey, they have gone from merely tending towards the outside corner...
...to pitching there exclusively:
Nearly a third of his pitches from July on appear in those three squares on the bottom-right corner, which are hard to hit for even a hitter that is on fire. Pitchers just aren’t going to give him a lot to hit, and he’s going to have to learn to wait on pitches in the zone. It also means he’ll always walk, and that just speaks to the strength of his overall game (that’s why his second half is still a semi-respectable 110 wRC+).
What matters is that even knowing all of the holes in his game, we at least know that he can hit home runs again. He has a real chance at finishing at 50 home runs and 100 runs batted in, which is nearly unheard of as a rookie. Judge’s season is fascinating in not only the historic weight, but by the ebbs and flows that defined it.