When you ask anyone about how Aaron Judge is doing this year so far, they will all reply by saying he’s been anywhere between phenomenal, and the 2017 American League MVP. However, I believe that as much as he’s been great so far, he’s also been having a wild one across the board.
For starters, he’s leading all of baseball with 26 home runs to this point (and may hit another one or two by the time this gets published), and leads the majors in wRC+ by 30 points, while already having a WAR of almost 5! (for the saber metric crowd).
Not only does Aaron Judge lead the league in all of those categories by a good margin, but he also leads the league in BABIP by a lot. This suggests that Judge has seen a lot of hits fall his way, and could even be seen as perhaps one of the luckier hitters in the majors so far.
As much as his .420 BABIP coming down is inevitable, he also hits the crap out of the ball. His average exit velocity this year sits at an astounding 95.6 MPH, good for once again, first in the majors. He doesn’t have all that high of a launch angle at 13.1 degrees (which is 56th in the majors).
The combination of high exit velocity and decent launch angle suggest that Judge hits screaming line drives. This is evident in the fact that he has barreled the ball 3.17% (as of yesterday) of the time, which what a surprise, is first in the majors. By how much, well, I think this should put it into perspective:
I think you can take a guess as to which player the dot in the far top right corner represents. Seeing as how Judge hits such authoritative line drives indicate that a high BABIP in the years to come will be normal for him, just not as high as he has it now.
What will make Judge so interesting to follow in the next few months will be how he fares once his BABIP eventually normalizes. One of the main reasons behind that will be how much his current strikeout rate of 29.3% (which is also the eleventh worst in the majors) will affect him.
In theory, his batting average could crater as his BABIP regresses, and his high whiff rate persists. Even if this happens though, he should still remain a major power threat. That’s because as a hulking presence, that exit velocity Judge has posted isn’t going away anytime soon.
Besides his exit velocity, what also isn’t going away is Judge playing half his games in the launching pad known as Yankee stadium. He has and will continue to take advantage of that, as 18 of his 26 homers have come in the Bronx. On top of that, Judge also posts a .383 average there, more than .100 points higher than in road games.
What exactly should be made of all this? Well, Judge is either leading by a lot, or in the top ten in a crap ton of things. That much is clear, but what is not as clear though, will be how Judge fares for the rest of the season. Will he reach 60 homers, or will he end up falling off a cliff (sorta)?
Either way, I believe that Judge being incredible is for real. Even once the day comes that he faces regression/pitchers start pitching to him differently, he will make the necessary adjustments and keep showing the immense talent he has to continue playing like a star.