In case you were not already aware, Aaron Judge is having a remarkable year so far. Forty percent of the 2017 MLB season has come and gone and Judge leads all position players with 4.5 WAR...nearly 1 win greater than the next closest position player (Paul Goldschmidt at 3.6). It's a remarkable turn of events for both Judge and the New York Yankees and many folks thought he would be a part time player battling for at bats in a crowded outfield that also includes Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Aaron Hicks. While there is some concern that his success is in part being driven by a almost certainly unsustainable BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .424, it's hard to dismiss some of the other metrics he has accumulated thus far.
He currently sports a staggering wRC+ of 199, meaning that he has been 99 percentage points better than league average offensively, and only trails the currently injured pair of Mike Trout and Freddie Freeman. He is also ranks 4th in Hard contact percentage at 50%, has the 12th lowest Soft contact percentage at 12.2%, is 5th in BB% at 15.3%, and 1st in HR/FB with an unfathomable 41.1% of his flies leaving the yard. He has also been able to do all of this while keeping his K% south of the 30% mark. Yes he strikes out quite a bit (probably too much for some fans comfort), but compared to other stereotypical power hitters a mark under 30% is more than acceptable. If you consider guys who have accumulated 100 or more PA so far this season, you won't find Judge even among the top 30 in highest K%.
In the 3rd inning, Manaea started Judge off with a changeup down and away that Judge reached and swung over as it tailed down out of the strike zone. Manaea tried to go back to that same spot again, possibly to start him off with two changes down and away before jamming him high and tight with the heater. But the pitch sailed a little on Manaea, and he did not get it down in the same spot as before. This time Judge did not swing over it.
Manaea was sitting on a 4-0 lead when he faced Aaron Judge in the 3rd inning, and had to settle with a 1-run advantage after serving a souvenir to right field. While Manaea's mistake left the pitch right in Judge's wheelhouse, it was only the third time this season that he turned around on a changeup and put it in the bleachers (as most of his damage has come against the heater). But what it also shows is how confident Judge is with his swing right now: how once he sees a pitch he can handle he has the patience to sit back and push it the other way. It's this kind of wherewithal that can turn good players into great players, and it's this ability that has helped transform Judge into the talk of Major League Baseball this season.
BY CHRIS KUBAK
Spanning an entire continent, lifelong fans Chris Kubak and Tom Baird take you on a magical, sabermetrically enhanced journey through Major League Baseball.