It’s common for participants of the home run derby to go cold at the beginning of the second half. The New York Yankees out fielder known as “the Judge” took the league by storm going into the All-Star Break, leading the leage in home runs with 30 in the first half. Since the midsummer classic, Aaron Judge has fallen in to the all-too-common second half slump. The Yankees try to stay above water as their star rookie outfielder tries to find his judicious stroke again.
As Aaron Judge Cools Off, so do the Yankees
Judge is experiencing his first full year with his major league club, and was annointed with the nickname “The Judge” after lighting up the first half of the season. Judge went into the All-Star Break hitting a scary .329/.448/1.139, with 30 home runs, 66 RBI, and 61 walks. He then went on to win the Home Run Derby in Miami, which included a 23-homer surge to eliminate Justin Bour. Although Judge hit a monstrous upper-deck home run on Wednesday against the New York Mets, Judge has cooled off.
Judge’s numbers have dropped off in the second half, as the outfielder is only hitting .182/.333/.710, with seven homers and 12 RBI. He has 18 walks and 35 strikeouts.
What can we attribute Aaron Judge’s drop off in the second half to? Let’s look at his first- and second-half batted balls in play splits. In the first half, he was hitting .426 on balls in play, which is the highest average on balls in play since Babe Ruth posted a .423 average in 1923. Judge’s second half BABIP fell to a lowly .237, an almost 200-point drop from his first half.
Judge’s fly ball rate has jumped from 37.2% to an alarming 51.2%. His ground ball rate has dropped from 38% in the first half to 30.2% in the second half. His line drive rate has dropped from 24.5% to 18.5%.
The most alarming stat that is causing the 25-year-old’s slump is his home-run-per-fly-ball rate. When Judge went on his tear in the first half, he was hitting hitting balls over the fence 41.7% of the time he hit a fly ball. In the second half he only has had a 22.7% HR/FB rate. We could not have expected Judge to keep up an almost 42% HR/FB rate, but seeing that percentage drop nearly 20 points is alarming.
Another stat that has dropped for Judge is his hard hit ball rate. He was making hard contact 49% of the time during the first half, and is now only making hard contact 27.9% of the time. As Judge’s contact has declined, his strikeouts have risen. Judge struck out 29.8% during the first half, but that has risen to 36.5% in the second half.
So, why is Judge making softer contact at the plate? Pitchers are starting to make adjustments when “The Judge” is at the plate. In the first half, 46% of pitches that Judge saw were fastballs, and 30% of pitches were in the upper-half of the strikezone. Judge was hitting .348 with 22 extra-base hits, while only swinging and missing 17% of the time. The script has flipped for the rookie in the second half. Pitchers have started making pitches in the upper-half of the zone. Pitchers still like their fastball against Judge, but now pitchers are throwing to the top-half of the zone 52% of the time, which Judge is struggling with because he is swinging and missing 31% of the time he sees those pitches. He is now only hitting .196 with three extra-base hits against fastballs in the second half.
Judge is also seeing more breaking balls. Only 22% of pitches Judge saw were sliders during the first half. Now, pitchers are finding more success with their breaking balls and are throwing sliders 28% of the time. Judge has seen 119 sliders, and has swung and missed on 36 sliders. He’s collected no hits and 20 outs against slders.
Judge has never liked the slider, as his batting average against the slider is a lowly .158, and his average on fastballs is down to .281.
The Yankees are still in the hunt for both the AL East and an AL WIld Card, but New York has been relying on Judge’s production to this point in the season. Now that pitchers have figured out how to pitch to Judge, its up to Judge to make adjustments to opposing pitchers.
Embed from Getty Images