Yankees’ Aaron Judge reminded everyone that he’s the best hitter in baseball

MLB: New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

While the Yankees surged, Aaron Judge had an uncharacteristically bad month of April, hitting just .207 with six home runs in 141 plate appearances, as some wondered if this was the beginning of a decline for the former MVP. You would be foolish to take one month that seriously, but it didn’t stop fans from rattling off takes about his health or future in this league, and he’s quickly put all of those concerns to bed. May wasn’t just one of those stretches that Aaron Judge is known for, this was a historic stretch that dwarfs even the best months in MLB history.

Setting franchise records left and right, we got a stern reminder from the Yankee captain that the title of the best hitter in baseball belongs to just one man; his name is Aaron Judge.

The Video Game Numbers Behind Aaron Judge’s Month of May

MLB: New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

No matter how hard some teams tried, you just couldn’t stop Aaron Judge in the month of May. His final numbers in that stretch are already ridiculous, as he posted a 1.416 OPS with a .928 SLG% through 28 games as he set the Yankees’ new record for extra-base hits in a month (26). Entering the month of May, 21 players had more home runs than Aaron Judge, as Gunnar Henderson held a four-homer lead (10) over the 6’7 slugger.

Fast-forward to right now, and not only is Aaron Judge the home run leader, but he also was the first hitter to reach 20 home runs this season. There’s no stopping him right now, and the underlying data over this stretch gets increasingly harder to believe as you rattle each detail off.

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Aaron Judge set the record for the most barrels in a single month (33) with the second-most coming at 24, and he was blizting the baseball with ease. When over 70% of the batted balls you record in a month come in at or above 95 MPH, you’re talking about a ridiculous ability to do damage on contact. There are few hitters with the raw power tool that the 32-year-old outfielder has, and we’re seeing him do things that surpass his remarkable 2022 campaign where he took home the American League MVP award.

Compared to his 2022 season, Aaron Judge is running higher walk, barrel, and hard-hit rates in 2024 while also maintaining lower chase and groundball rates. He’s having historic levels of success this season, and the Yankees are looking at the very best hitter in baseball. Judge hit 14 home runs in May, meaning if you took away everything he did in the first five weeks of the season, he’d be tied with Shohei Ohtani for the eighth-most home runs in baseball.

Things seemed to change after he tweaked his batting stance, as in May he’s more closed off and it’s seemed to give him better plate coverage as a result.

There’s a staggering difference in his production, and while there are likely other things that played into this stretch such as positive regression and perhaps some mental cues, this is the most notable one we can see publicly. It’s also a stance that more closely resembles the one we saw when he hit 62 home runs, so it makes sense that he went right back to it in an attempt to recapture that magic, as he’s been destroying baseballs in ways you just don’t see from anybody else.

Aaron Judge has set a brand-new standard for everyone else in the game after the decline of Mike Trout, who was considered the best hitter (and player) in baseball by a wide margin for a decade. Few hitters in the history of the game could dream of putting up these kinds of numbers, and yet here’s Aaron Judge having a stretch that will go down in the history books as one of the best stretches we have ever seen.

What 2024 means for Aaron Judge goes beyond just this month however, as he’s firmly established himself as the best hitter in the game, and it’s not close either.

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Aaron Judge Isn’t Only the Yankees’ Best Hitter; He’s Baseball’s Best Hitter

Apr 27, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (99) rounds the bases after hitting home run against Milwaukee Brewers in the sixth inning at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 27, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (99) rounds the bases after hitting home run against Milwaukee Brewers in the sixth inning at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Dating back to the 2022 season, nobody has come close to matching Aaron Judge’s historic levels of production, and that includes hitters like Yordan Alvarez or Shohei Ohtani. Among qualified hitters over this window, the Yankees’ captain leads all of baseball in a laundry list of some extremely important metrics.

  • wRC+
  • OPS
  • OBP
  • SLG%
  • HR
  • xwOBA
  • Barrel Rate
  • Exit Velocity

The gaps between the likes of Aaron Judge and other hitters are massive as well, as he has an OPS over 100 points higher than Shohei Ohtani who is in second place over that stretch. If we want to look more under the hood, a metric like Expected Weighted On-Base Average (xwOBACON) is excellent at measuring your quality of contact, and Judge absolutely dominates in that metric.

At .622, he has a 101-point lead over Shohei Ohtani (who is again second), which is larger than the gap between Shohei Ohtani and Dansby Swanson, who is 34th in the metric among 160 qualified hitters. You just cannot do damage the way Aaron Judge does, and that kind of power coupled with a more modest strikeout rate and elite plate discipline makes him an absolute monster at the plate.

He’s in the 98th Percentile in SEAGER, which measures your plate discipline and swing decisions, giving Judge an incredible approach to go alongside his freakish physical skills. Looking at his wRC+ over those three seasons (195), there is not a single three-year stretch of Mike Trout’s entire career that matches that metric or even comes close. We have quite literally never seen a hitter put up numbers like this over three years since Barry Bonds when he had the greatest four-year stretch in MLB history.

Aaron Judge will win Player of the Month in May, and while it’s a stretch that won’t sustain, it’s one we can look back on to remind us that the best hitter in the game is #99 on the Yankees, and it’s not even close.

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