Aaron Judge had another dynamic season for the Yankees in 2019, but it was also a season that fell a bit short of his lofty expectations. Judge missed significant time with injury again, this time a pesky oblique strain that cost him two months, and he ended his season on a poor note with a disappointing playoff showing.
Even when not playing at his personal best, Judge is still an incredible player. He had a streaky season this year, but put together solid numbers altogether and should have the league quivering in fear over what he can do in a potential full season with juiced baseballs.
2019 Statistics: 102 games, 447 plate appearances, .272/.381/.540, 27 HR, 55 RBI, 75 runs, 141 wRC+, 4.6 fWAR
2020 Contract Status: Arbitration eligible
Judge’s season can be split into three parts: his solid start pre-injury in April, his power slump after coming back, and his tear that closed the season. Judge got off on the right foot, clubbing five home runs in his first 20 games before he missed the next two months with the aforementioned oblique injury.
After he came back, Judge wasn’t quite himself for a little bit at the plate. Although he hit for average and kept his on-base percentage high, there was a stretch of 45 games in the dog days where Judge hit just six home runs. It definitely seemed like Judge came back a bit too hasty from his injury, which sapped him of his power for some of the season.
Still, Judge finished strong. He hit 14 home runs in his final 35 games, and brought his season numbers back up to their norms. In fact, several of Judge’s stats look quite similar to his other injury-shortened season in 2018. If we take his performance from the last two years and extrapolate it over one full season, Judge would average about 41 home runs, 93 RBI, a .276 average and a .920 OPS. Those are All-Star numbers, but a touch below his incendiary 2017 season.
Through three (mostly) full seasons of Judge, we have figured out that he’s more of the .920 OPS guy than the 52 home run, 1.049 OPS guy he was in his rookie year. Since then, his walk rate has declined a bit and his strikeout rate has stayed the same. He’s pulling the ball a little less and hitting it more on the ground. Is this the dawn of a new Judge, or just one who has been watered down a bit by injury?
Most likely, the slight dip in stats is injury-related. Judge is still hitting the ball harder than anyone in the league, and is the most feared hitter in the lineup. We haven’t even mentioned his defense yet, which was rewarded with a Wilson Defensive Right Fielder of the Year award. Judge roams the outfield remarkably well at 6’7” and 282 pounds, and has a certified cannon for an arm. While it was an underrated secret to Judge’s game a few years ago, I think the rest of the MLB has finally caught on to Judge’s stellar defense.
The 2020 season will be a huge one for Judge. It’ll be his age-28 season, which should be square in his prime. It would also be nice to see him healthy, as Judge hasn’t played a full season since his explosive rookie year. While injuries have cut his numbers ever so slightly, Judge should be poised for a bounce-back season in 2020.