There are lots of talented hitters on the Yankees, even if some of them aren’t quite showing it in games yet. The best of them all, however, is Aaron Judge. By a comfortable margin, too; he just might be the best hitter in the game. Of course, you didn’t need us to tell you that because it’s obvious, but what’s really impressive is the way Judge has taken over games offensively and his presence has made the Yanks a much, much better team.
The news here is not just that Judge won the AL Player of the Week award. It’s not that he is carrying the Yankees, either. The most noteworthy development of the last week is that he has officially returned to 2022 form, and that’s bad news for the rest of the league.
Judge hit .311 with 62 home runs last year. For as good as he was, it’s fair to say that the Yankees universe didn’t know whether he had it in him to reach those heights ever again. He is showing that he is more than capable of doing that, though.
In six games last week, Judge hit .500 with a 1.893 OPS, five home runs and 11 RBI. Nobody else could compete with those numbers in the American League or in MLB as a whole, if you will.
Judge has been on fire for a bit longer than a week, though. In his last eight games, he has homered seven times with a .452 average, a 354 wRC+, a .742 ISO (!) and 16 RBI.
Having Judge back and in the form of his life has propelled the Yankees’ most recent stretch of great play, too. The team is streaking, with four wins in a row and seven of their last 10, and that’s in large part thanks to the reigning MVP.
When he got hurt and was placed on the 10-day injured list with his hip issue, the Yankees offense looked anemic. The numbers show it: the team scored 35 runs in 10 games while he was gone.
Since his return on May 9, the Yankees have crossed home plate 75 times in 12 games with him in the lineup (he didn’t play on Sunday). They went from averaging 3.5 runs per game to 6.3. Talk about a big change.
For the season as a whole, Judge is hitting .299/.400/.642 with 13 home runs in just 38 games. His 178 wRC+ would be the second-highest of his career after the 207 he had in 2022. Statistically, that’s creeping awfully close to the .311/.425/.686 he hit last year. His strikeout rate, in the mid-30s several days ago, is now at 30.3 percent. Moreover, the underlying numbers suggest the Judge might even be playing better than meets the eye. His xwOBA, per Statcast, is .472, 43 points higher than his actual figure. The pieces, you might say, are falling into place. A healthy, locked-in Judge has no peers in MLB.
Judge might be primed for another MVP-caliber season, and every time he goes to the plate, he is a threat to hit an extra-base hit or at least get on base. He is absolutely locked in, and as long as that’s the case, the Yankees’ offense will look dangerous.
Nobody knows how his nine-year deal will age, but so far, he has been extremely productive and there should be no regrets from anyone. Judge is looking like the pillar he was meant to be.