Each year, the All-Star break gives us a chance to look back at player and team performances through the designated first half of the season. We can solidify whether teams are ‘for real’ or not and determine if certain players have lived up to expectations.
Thus far, the Yankees are very much for real, though that wasn’t much in question coming into the season. Their star player, Aaron Judge, is also legitimate, proven by a starter’s spot for the American League All-Stars and a plethora of standard and advanced statistics.
While the majority of Yankees fans likely didn’t doubt Judge’s legitimacy coming into 2018, the question of whether Judge was really this good definitely came up. The question’s answer? So far, not so much.
I think an underrated storyline this season has been “Aaron Judge is actually this good”
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) July 3, 2018
I stumbled over this Cespedes Family BBQ tweet the other day and thought “huh, I really haven’t seen much chatter on this.” Well, here is some.
Entering Monday night, Judge has hit 25 homers (2nd in baseball), slugged .572 (8th), has a Statcast hard hit percentage of 48.3 percent (4th), a 4.39 BWARP (5th), 4.6 fWAR (5th) and 5.0 bWAR (9th). By all measures, he’s replicating his breakout 2017 season pretty well.
If we really want to be nit-picky, his counting numbers are a hint down from last year’s. And most projection systems believe his final statistics may be slightly less impressive than his numbers from 2017. But the decrease is like going from the average Barry Bonds season to that of Miguel Cabrera. Yes, there’s a decrease in output, but it’s minuscule enough that it doesn’t change who the player is. Judge unquestionably remains a top-10 hitter, if not player, in baseball.
And nearly every sign points for Judge to continue this type of performance. Like last season, Judge’s hits fall among the league’s top one percent in exit velocity, barrel percentage, and hard-hit rate. He’s actually hitting the ball harder in terms of exit velocity (96mph) than he did last year (94.9 mph). Judge hits the ball extremely hard and that hasn’t changed.
PECOTA projects Judge’s production to tail off a tad, but to still remain at an elite level. Combining his projections and his to-date stats, Judge would finish with a .268/.382/.546 slash line, 42 homers, 103 RBIs and a 6.5 WARP. For reference, his WARP from last year was 7.3.
Is it really surprising that a 6’7, 282-lb dude who hits the baseball harder than almost anyone ever can repeat a breakout season? No, not really. But to answer the questions posed last year and this offseason, yes, Judge really is this good.
Photo credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports