Yankees’ star slugger dodges surgery to fix toe injury

yankees, aaron judge
May 29, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners during the third inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst the New York Yankees‘ roster instability and performance concerns, even the return of the phenomenal slugger, Aaron Judge, hasn’t been able to lift the team. Inefficient roster management combined with investments in injury-prone players has led to a rapid downfall. Now, the Yankees are at a crucial crossroads, needing vital strategic shifts to bounce back.

The Comeback Journey of Aaron Judge

Making his return on July 28 against the Baltimore Orioles after a prolonged injury hiatus, Judge had been sidelined for nearly two months due to a torn ligament in his right big toe. His comeback, while anticipated with bated breath, hasn’t been as fruitful as expected.

Throughout August, Judge showcased a promising .400 on-base percentage. But the numbers that followed didn’t paint the same optimistic picture. With a batting average of .233, a slugging percentage of .395, and an OPS of .795, it’s evident that the toe injury still shadows his performance.

The towering player’s strategic play has seen him utilize his esteemed reputation to secure walks and base hits. However, the injury seems to have dampened his hallmark power-hitting, as evidenced by his two homers in his recent 43 at-bats, a significant drop from his 12 homers in May’s 76 at-bats.

Season Statistics in Perspective

For the 31-year-old, this season is significant; it marks the beginning of a whopping nine-year, $360 million extension. Despite the injuries and time away, he boasts a .284 batting average, a .416 OBP, and a commendable tally of 22 homers and 45 RBIs.

When you factor in his 27% strikeout rate, 18.9% walk rate, and 181 wRC+, the fact that he remains the Yankees’ leading home run hitter is a testament to his skills. But it also highlights the team’s overarching struggle, especially for a club historically known for its home runs.

Health and Rehabilitation Insights

Aaron Boone on the Talkin Yanks podcast stated that Judge is set to sidestep surgery this off-season. Favoring natural healing over surgical intervention can sometimes yield the best outcomes.

Drawing parallels, DJ LeMahieu, another pivotal player, opted against surgery last off-season. While the nature of their injuries differs, the mechanics of batting—particularly the reliance on the back foot—make Judge’s right-toe injury crucial. Emphasizing comprehensive rehabilitation is imperative to ensure he’s back in full form for the upcoming season.

Looking Ahead: The Yankees’ Strategy

With the 2023 season’s prospects looking bleak, it’s time for the Yankees to pivot. Bringing in new talents and evaluating prospects, especially in the face of challenges like the stellar performance from the Atlanta Braves, could offer insights into the team’s future dynamics.

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