There’s an idea going around that Aaron Judge has been on a steady decline since his astounding 2017 season. To be fair, 8.3 WAR is hard to top. His .343 ISO (isolated power) was second in the league (to future teammate Giancarlo Stanton) and is also incredibly hard to top. A .422 OBP is an astronomically high number. A .627 SLG is a high watermark. His wOBA (weighted on-base average) of .430 was really good, too. His 174 wRC+ is cartoonishly high. His offense rating on Fangraphs that year was 61.8- league leader by a wide margin. Oh, and 52 home runs and 114 RBI are pretty great, too.
There’s a couple of things you should take away from that. One, he was second or third in the league on most of those numbers and Mike Trout was routinely the one ahead of him. Second, his rookie season was absurd and definitely deserving of an MVP award (*cough* buzzers *cough*).
The fact does remain, though, that his numbers have seen a decrease since that year. Each of those stats I listed, and some I didn’t, remain career highs for Judge. I’ll illustrate it below.
155 G, .284 BA, .422 OBP, .627 SLG, .430 wOBA, .343 ISO, 174 wRC+, 52 HR.
112 G, .278 BA, .392 OBP, .528 SLG, .391 wOBA, .249 ISO, 150 wRC+, 27 HR.
102 G, .272 BA, .381 OBP, .540 SLG, .382 wOBA, .267 ISO, 141 wRC+, 27 HR.
28 G, .257 BA, .336 OBP, .554 SLG, .375 wOBA, .297 ISO, 139 wRC+, 9 HR.
Clearly, each season has seen a drop from 2017. The other thing that’s been sliding has been games played. Judge hasn’t had a full season since then. Though, if he had his numbers would likely look more comparable. He would’ve hit upwards of 38 home runs in 2018 and over 41 in 2019 had he been healthy. If 2020 was normal and Judge hadn’t missed time, he would have hit 50.
Still, though, the numbers are what they are and the injuries have occurred and given Yankees fans pause. This may have led to the reports that the Angels called the Yankees about Judge in the offseason and why some fans are calling for trade and begging the Yankees not to sign him to a long extension, since he’s eligible pretty soon.
Is that the route the Yankees should go? Trade a high-profile player who’s declined every year and can’t seem to stay healthy? No. For a lot of reasons. First, and this is fairly trivial, but Judge is obviously the face of the Yankees. Judge always ranks at the top of the jerseys sold list and is easily the most recognizable face in the biggest baseball city in the world.
Second, he’s still really good. Yes, those numbers are lower each year. But, as we saw at the beginning, those numbers were absurd anyway. And, the numbers are still really, really good.
Excluding 2020, his career-low OBP is .381. Lots of hitters would love that number as a career-high. A 141 wRC+ is still way above average. .540 SLG is a good year. Yes, he hasn’t reached that MVP level again, but his numbers have still been incredibly good.
Even this year, he’s been really good. His .254 BA and .356 OBP and .500 SLG are decent enough but don’t strike fear into opponents. But, if you dig deeper, you see he’s been quite good this year, too. His average exit velocity of 97 mph is second in the league.
Judge’s hard-hit percentage of 59.2% ranks in the top 2% of the league. His xWOBACON (expected weighted on-base average on contact) of .559 is in the top 5% of the league. His xWOBA of .407 is also in the top 5% of the league. His 18.3% barrel percentage is in the top 4% of the league.
His .298 xBA (expected batting average) is in the top 10% of the league. A .561 xSLG puts him in the top 8% of the league. Tell me again why people want to trade this guy?
His 29.5 strikeout percentage is almost a career-low. His 142 wRC+ is stellar. .371 wOBA is strong. Oh, and the injury issues? He’s played in 32 of the 35 games this year. Yeah, he’s still good. And he just might be getting better, too. Look out, MLB.