Aaron Judge is tough to miss on a baseball field. The New York Yankees slugger is listed at virtually the same height (6’7”) and weight (282 pounds) as the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Zion Williamson. He is also by many accounts one of the friendliest players in the game today.
Judge’s personality was on display over the weekend in Los Angeles when he met up with John Brown, the father of Yankees’ bullpen catcher Jason Brown, before New York’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 27-year-old treated Brown with the utmost respect in their short encounter, and at the end of it he made a promise; “I’ll hit one for you tonight.”
Judge delivered on that promise in his second at bat
DJ LeMahieu hit a home run off of Clayton Kershaw in the very first at bat of the game to bring Aaron Judge to the plate. Judge got a nice swing on the first pitch that he saw, driving it into deep right-center field where it was caught at the warning track.
When Judge came back to the plate in the third inning, he waited on a 73 MPH curveball and hit it to the same spot in deep right-center, but this time with enough power to clear the fence. The home run gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the top of the third inning that they would never surrender, going on to win the game 5-1 in Los Angeles.
New York won the road series against the Dodgers two game to one. Aaron Judge played an important role in that as he hit a home run in all three games of the series.
The uptick in power is a good sign
The three-game home run streak was a positive sign for Judge and the Yankees. Aaron Judge won Rookie of the Year and finished runner-up in AL MVP voting in 2017 when he crushed 52 home runs and ended the season with 128 runs and 114 RBI.
But since then, his power numbers have been on the decline. Judge had 27 home runs in 112 games last season, and in 2019 he had only 13 home runs through his first 72 games before hitting these three bombs against the Dodgers. The Yankees right-fielder has seen his slugging percentage dip from .627 in 2017 down to .528 in 2018 and .486 in 2019.
With 16 home runs through 76 games, Aaron Judge still paces out to be a 30+ home run hitter over the course of a full 162-game season. But in a season where home runs are at an all-time high, Yankees fans would love to see Judge hitting home runs a lot more frequently than he has been so far this season.
New York is battling for the top record in baseball
Entering action on Tuesday, August 27, the New York Yankees have a record of 86-47. They are battling the Houston Astros (85-47) for the best record in the American League and the Los Angeles Dodgers (86-46) for the best record in the major leagues. How this three-team battle shakes out could have big implications with home-field advantage in the playoffs on the line.
Aaron Judge continuing to hit the ball well will only improve New York’s chances of beating out the Astros and the Dodgers for the MLB’s best record. Perhaps he should keep promising home runs to friends in the stands before big games.