Aaron Judge has once again become the most dangerous hitter on the planet


Back in 2022, Aaron Judge brought the baseball world back to an era that hadn’t been seen since the late 90s and the early 00s. Those were the days when other shows on ESPN would get cut into whenever a prolific home run hitter was having an at-bat that was deemed to be culturally significant. While Tulane and Houston football fans probably weren’t enthused about having to share half of their screen with one at-bat of a regular season baseball game that they probably didn’t care about, it’s proof that there is nothing like hitting a bunch of dingers that can grab the imagination of fans all over the baseball landscape.

Judge finished 2022 with an astonishing tally of 62 home runs and a scarcely-believable wRC+ of 209 to go along with 11.2 fWAR for the season. His 2022 was so incredible that it was totally understandable when Judge, who was injured and missed time, “fell off” and had a “normal” season in 2023 where he “only” hit 37 home runs and finished with a wRC+ of 174 and 4.8 fWAR over 106 games. That’s still a very fine season for any player in particular but it’s not the type of season that gets ESPN to cut away from college football games in order to show off your live at-bat. With that being said, we might be seeing those days return in September because Aaron Judge is currently in the midst of another absolutely incredible season at the plate for the New York Yankees.

Heading into action on Wednesday, Judge is hitting .321/.440/.718 with a wOBA of .478, an Isolated Power number of .397, a wRC+ of 218 (!!!) with 32 homers and an fWAR of 6.1. There is so much here to talk about that it’s mind boggling. Sir, what are you doing with a .718 slugging percentage? Your wOBA is nearly .500, that is wild. Usually an Isolated Power number of .200 or above is considered to be “serious power hitting” so what are we supposed to make of a guy who nearly has an Isolated Power number of .400? He’s already cleared his 2023 fWAR production with 22 games left to spare, and the fact that he’s already five homers away from matching his 2023 number and the wRC+ being above 200 is all you need to know. Aaron Judge is currently the best hitter on Planet Earth and right now it’s not particularly close between him and the competition.

It is wildly impressive that Aaron Judge is currently on track for another season that could see him finish in double digits as far as fWAR is concerned. Although seasons like that are already rare to begin with, it’s always possible that some of the most talented players in baseball are capable of putting up at least a 10 fWAR season if they can fully lock in for an entire year of crazy production. Mike Trout and Mookie Betts immediately come to mind, and Shohei Ohtani could potentially do it as a two-way player at some time down the road. However, doing it twice would put Aaron Judge in some truly rarefied air as far as baseball greats are concerned. There are many Hall-of-Fame players who never cleared the single season 10 fWAR threshold at any point in their career, so to do it twice (in addition to having a stellar career outside of that) would be as close to punching a ticket to Cooperstown as you could get.

It sounds wild to talk about that while a guy is active but that’s where we’re at with Aaron Judge right now. He is simply hitting at a Hall-of-Fame level at the moment and we also know it’s not just some isolated breakout because he’s already had a season under his belt where he did this before. It also makes you wonder: “Well, if he’s this good and this dangerous at the plate, why is he even getting stuff to hit?” Indeed, Aaron Judge has gotten this hot once again because he’s been getting a level of protection that he’s never had — and as Mike Petriello of MLB.com noted, it’s coming from the front instead of from behind him in the lineup:

He’s seeing somewhat more in-zone fastballs when runners are on as compared to when they aren’t, and he’s seeing more first-pitch in-zone fastballs when runners are on as compared to not, and so on, a dozen other small things that add up to an advantage for him – which is part of why he’s slugging 203 points higher with a runner on base. Why, then, wouldn’t you work around him and risk putting him on? Because more often than ever before, someone is already on.

“What he and Juan are doing as a tandem is hard to wrap your brain around,” said manager Aaron Boone.

So instead of simply giving Aaron Judge first base and calling it a day, managers have decided that they’d be better off actually dealing with Judge and whatever damage he can do with (more than likely) Juan Soto already on the base paths instead of walking Judge and potentially exacerbating the problem if someone behind Judge happens to do the damage. Essentially, since Juan Soto has been so good in front of Judge (and he’s also on 10 fWAR watch for this season, as he’s produced 5.0 fWAR over 83 games so far), it’s been nearly impossible to get Judge in that situation where the bases are clear and you can basically just give Judge the free pass and be done with it. Instead, you get to see scenarios like this one where the Mets were dealing with the Yankees last month.

It’s the top of the eighth, the Yankees are down 9-3 and Judge is at the plate with the bases loaded and two outs on the board. Now, it’s a six-run lead so the Mets have a very solid cushion and can afford to even take a grand slam here and still have a two-run lead. Mets manager Juan Mendoza still admitted after the game to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated that he was thinking about walking Judge, conceding the run and then testing his luck with Gleyber Torres. Instead, Mendoza decided to simply play the matchup straight up. Aaron Judge responded thusly:

It doesn’t matter if it’s an 0-2 count. It doesn’t matter if the pitch that was thrown was 99 mph. If you throw a pitch to that part of the plate against Aaron Judge, you deserve whatever’s coming to you. Here’s what it looked like on MLB’s Gameday tracker:

Oof.
mlb.com

Now, here’s a collection of Aaron Judge’s zone charts for this season:

judge pitch position graphs

OOF!
baseballsavant.mlb.com

So yeah: Aaron Judge is currently on an incredible heater and he’s doing it in an environment that is conducive for him to keep on seeing pitches right where he wants them instead of being pitched around. The combination of Juan Soto and Aaron Judge has proven to be absolutely lethal for most teams and as a result, Aaron Judge himself is on track to have another otherworldly season at the plate.

I’m not going to guarantee anything but I suppose it really wouldn’t be shocking if some mid-tier college football fans are going to be annoyed with ESPN and Aaron Judge once again in September because it appears that Judge is once again on track for another historically great season. As long as opposing teams feel like they have no choice but to test him, Judge is going to continue dropping the gavel upside their heads.



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