The Yankees have navigated a litany of injuries this season, and a healthy Aaron Judge has found his power stroke just in time to be a big factor in October.
Among an ongoing run of injuries for the New York Yankees this season, Aaron Judge missed two months with an oblique strain. When he went on the IL, he was hitting .288 with a .925 OPS, five home runs and 11 RBI over 89 plate appearances.
Heading into the All-Star break, Judge had a .904 OPS with four home runs over his first 55 plate appearances after coming off the IL. In his first 36 games after the break (162 plate appearances), he posted a .775 OPS with three home runs with a .133 ISO. Over 28 games from July 20-August 18, Judge hit just one home run with a .222 average and a .672 OPS.
Judge homered for the fifth time in his last six games Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners, as he went 3-for-5 with two doubles as well. Over his last nine games, as the Yankees hit a West Coast road swing through Oakland, Los Angeles (Dodgers) and Seattle, he has a .359/.375/.897 slash-line with six home runs and nine RBI.
As Jay Jaffe noted in a piece for FanGraphs, Judge has never been a pull-happy power hitter, which plays well in Yankee Stadium with its short right field porch. But Jaffe’s deeper look shows all six of Judge’s home runs over his recent stretch have been to left or center field, and his distribution of doubles has shifted the same direction since early July.
Some hitters are noted tinkerers, and Judge belongs in that category. A comparison of his stances on Aug. 12 and Aug. 17 confirms a recent adjustment. In particular he has opened his stance and raised his hands, the latter of which has altered his bat angle.
Jaffe further cited how Judge appears to be doing things slightly differently mechanically based on the handedness of the pitcher. But the results have been the same, spurred by hitting the ball in the air more compared to his 28-game slump.
Judge has only taken one walk during his recent hot streak, and he’ll always strike out north of 30 percent of the time. But he’s come back as the prolific, to all-fields power hitter he is at just the right time, as the Yankees cement the AL East title and look to be a dangerous team in October.