Once upon a time Aaron Judge was The Face of Baseball and led the American League in all Triple Crown categories. He was frontrunner for an MVP award and flirting with the notion of taking over Derek Jeter’s King of New York mantle.
A funny thing happened, though, on the way to Cooperstown and other places of great repute. All of those left turns around the bases during casual trots turned into right turns into the dugout following strikeouts.
Judge’s first-half numbers read like the stuff of legend: .329/.448/.691 with 30 homers and 66 RBI. His 109 strikeouts, though bad, were tempered with 60 walks, 13 doubles and three triples.
The post-All-Star splits are abominable: .179/.339/.360 with six homers and 13 RBI. He’s fanned in 48 of his 100 official at-bats while walking 26 times and managing one double.
Judge’s power outage and inability to make contact go hand in hand. But this trend portends trouble. Legendary trouble.
Among Major Leaguers, only Miguel Sano has struck out more often. It’s also entirely possible Judge will set the all-time record for single-season strikeouts, currently held by Mark Reynolds (223). The 25-year-old is averaging 1.389 Ks for every game he plays in. If he continues this pace and plays in the Yankees’ 45 remaining contests, he’ll come in at 221.
More immediate is the threat of him tying the all-time record for striking out consecutive games. Judge, currently at 31, can tie Adam Dunn’s infamous mark tonight.
This is not the history Judge wants to be chasing, nor the type those who readily jumped on his hype train expected to see him challenging. It’s been jarring to see him struggle so mightily after showing his might early on.
Yankees fans can take solace in the fact that, even amid the flood of strikeouts, Judge remains a power threat capable of striking at any time. He hit his 36th longball of the year in a victory over the New York Mets Monday night.
A single game, much like his season, can be a Jekyll and Hyde experience. He’ll be of great use should they Yankees continue to play playoff-caliber ball if he can harness the good and avoid breaking historically bad.