The Yankees have had a rough start to the season, with endless injuries, bullpen meltdowns, and slow starts from key players. And yet, I think the balance of news is actually good because Aaron Judge is still awesome.
We all know the stats. Judge was a superstar in 2017: .284/.422/.627, .443 xwOBA, etc. Judge broke out after years of solid but unspectacular performance in the minor leagues. He showed no signs to reverting back to his previous form in 2017, but the risk was always there. Judge could have turned back into a pumpkin, become a player closer to Joey Gallo or Adam Dunn than peak Jose Bautista, or continued to be dominant.
Early returns suggest he’s going to continue to be dominant. Judge is hitting .333/.462/.595. with an even better .479 xwOBA and 25% strikeout rate. Judge not only looks dominant, but he looks like the dominant version of himself from 2017. His elite season-long performance included a prolonged slump in July and August. During that time, his strikeout rate rose way up to 35%, and Judge looked very Gallo-y. He recovered in September by hitting a disgusting number of home runs, but the strikeouts remained.
In fact, Judge’s 25% strikeout rate is a huge improvement on even his 2017 first half rate of 30%. He’s leading the league (again) in Statcast’s barrels per plate appearance. Instead of peak Jose Bautista, he’s performing like peak Mark McGwire. That’s pretty darn special.
Ultimately, all of the other bad news is small potatoes. Minor injuries heal, and the Yankees can find replacement relief pitchers. Aaron Judge is still a superstar, despite some real doubts that he’d continue to be a superstar.
Oh yeah, he also put Joe Kelly in a headlock. We’ll always have that.