Aaron Judge is enjoying another spectacular season so far in 2018. After running away with the Rookie of the Year last season, Judge currently ranks in the top ten in baseball in offensive WAR, at-bats per home run, and runs created. He also sits in the top five in home runs and walks. Any concerns of a sophomore slump should be tossed out the window as the now two-time All-Star has asserted himself as one of the game’s prominent stars.
Part of what makes Judge so great is his ability to make adjustments. As a struggling youngster who struck out in half of his at-bats in 2016, Judge’s whiff issues were calmed by the reality that he always took time to get going following each promotion through the minor league ranks, and the majors would be no different. Turns out, that take was spot on. Judge successfully adjusted to the stampede of breaking balls that were thrown his way in 2017, and turned in a 52-home run season while working full counts more than any other player in the majors. Now in his second full season, Judge is still adjusting to make himself a better hitter, as illustrated in his transition from June to July.
Judge was still a solid hitter in June, but to his standards, it could have been considered a quiet month. His June wRC+ was 116, compared to 162 in May, and an absurd 182 in April. His slugging percentage dropped under .500, and his strikeout rate reached a season-high. Buried beneath the headlining stats was a ground ball rate of 50 percent. His percentage of batted balls hit to the opposite field was just 19 percent for the month, by far his lowest monthly mark of the season, and his lowest since April of 2017. Much like Giancarlo Stanton, Judge is feared for his ability to hit for power to all fields, but he seemed to wander from that approach last month. Now in July, Judge has made the proper adjustments like he always does, and it shows on the field and on the stat sheet.
Judge’s ground ball rate in June was the highest of his career, possibly due to pulling off on outside pitches and rolling weak grounders to the left side. Over the past few weeks, Judge has gone back to driving outside pitches the other way, and letting his incredible strength take care of the rest. Take a look at two of his most recent hits prior to the All-Star break, one of them being his 25th home run of the season.
You can see how opposing catchers are setting up on the outer half, but unlike in June, Judge is back to going with the pitch and doing damage. His opposite field percentage from the beginning of July to the All-Star break was 44.7 percent, an astronomical rise from his June numbers, and also the highest total of his career. Thanks to his new July approach, Judge’s ground ball percentage is down to 31.6 percent. When Judge is spraying hard hit balls all over the field, he is incredibly fun to watch, unless you’re watching from the pitcher’s mound.
The best players in baseball are the ones who can recognize and carry out a necessary adjustment in a small window of time. Judge was still efficient in June, but realized where he could improve and get back to his All-Star caliber level. This quick adjustment is another example of why he is one of the best hitters in the game.