Photo: Associated Press
Through the first half, Aaron Judge was one of MLB’s most dominating hitters, so why have pitchers made him look silly in the second half?
A slump is a hitter’s worst nightmare, but it’s inevitable.
Judge hit .329 with 30 bombs before the All-Star break. His exit velocity was the highest in the majors at over 96 mph, and with Astros shortstop Carlos Correa going on the disabled list with a torn thumb ligament, Judge became the favorite to claim the AL MVP.
His stellar performance in the home run derby didn’t hurt either. The giant “baby bomber” simply waved at the ball, pounding 47 homers into the bleachers. But his 0-3 All Star game performance foreshadowed his second half.
Since the break, Judge has hit just .165 and struck out nearly 50 times.
Although Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes it is just a “mechanical issue”, it is obvious that pitchers have figured something out. Judge’s enormity has proven to be a great advantage, but it also means he has a larger strike zone to cover.
Opposing pitchers began throwing fastballs up and in and breaking balls down and away to Judge, and it’s working. Not only is Judge swinging and missing at these pitches, but umpires are calling these pitches (specifically the high ones) against him more often in the second half of the season than they were in the first half.
However, being 6’7’’ and 280 lbs. can’t hurt too much, as he is still producing the long ball when he gets the barrel on the ball. His 36 homers are currently leading the MLB.
For everyone, a slump seems like an eternity, and it’s incredibly hard for a young player like Judge to climb out of. Hitters slumping often club line drives right at fielders, and the baseball gods chuckle at their pain. It makes professional ballplayers consider why they even try playing the aggravating game.
But, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. It may be a 2-3 night with a texas leaguer and a weak ground ball through the hole that gets Judge over the hump, but when you’re that desperate, anything will do.
Sometime soon, Yankee fans will “all rise” to see their young superstar break out of his slump.