MLB recognizes Aaron Judge’s May Surge with AL Player of the Month honor

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge wipes his face in the dugout before taking the field for a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Saturday, June 1, 2024, in San Francisco.

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New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has been recognized as the American League Player of the Month for May, an honor presented by Chevrolet and revealed on Monday morning during an announcement on MLB Network. This marks Aaron Judge’s seventh time receiving the prestigious monthly award, solidifying his status as one of the most consistently dominant players in the game.

Aaron Judge’s previous monthly accolades include wins in May 2023; May, July, and September/October 2022 during his AL MVP-winning campaign; and June and September 2017. Notably, this is the third consecutive year in which Judge has been named AL Player of the Month for May, showcasing his ability to consistently perform at an elite level during this specific month. Furthermore, Aaron Judge has now claimed each of the Yankees’ last five monthly awards, a testament to his individual excellence and the significant impact he has on his team’s success.

The New York Yankees’ strong start to the 2024 season has drawn considerable strength from Aaron Judge’s scorching May.

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge reacts after hitting a home run against the San Francisco Giants during the sixth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Friday, May 31, 2024.
NYY

On April 20, after a four-strikeout game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, home fans booed the Yankees’ captain. His average was just .179, with only three homers in 21 games at that time. Aaron Judge expressed understanding of the fans’ frustration, acknowledging, “I’d probably be doing the same thing in their situation.”

Aaron Judge’s statistics in May 2024
Batting average0.376
On-base percentage0.495
Slugging percentage0.906
OPS1.401

Manager Aaron Boone had predicted Aaron Judge’s turnaround, stating after that game, “He’s going to come around. It’s just a matter of time.” Reports noted that he not only rebounded but also emerged as the top hitter in baseball. He began to recover in late April, hitting three home runs in the last seven games of the month.

Aaron Judge’s performance in May was described as extraordinary. His slugging percentage was reported to be 147 points higher than any other hitter with a minimum of 50 plate appearances, and his OPS was 117 points ahead of the next-best player. The last player to finish May with at least a .900 slugging and a 1.400 OPS was Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010. Since then, only Shohei Ohtani has achieved a similar feat, posting a .952 slugging and a 1.444 OPS in June 2023, according to reports.

Aaron Judge’s Ruthian transformation in May

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge hits a home run against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Minneapolis.
AP

Aaron Judge’s extraordinary May has been characterized by a significant improvement in making powerful, effective contact compared to April. Reports reveal that Judge had 37 ground balls and pop-ups from Opening Day on March 28 through the end of April, the second-highest in any monthly split. This month, however, that number has decreased to 17, the fewest he has recorded in any month with at least 50 batted balls.

The reports highlight that many of those earlier grounders and pop-ups have transformed into barrels — batted balls that combine optimal exit velocity and launch angle. Aaron Judge recorded 10 barrels out of 79 batted balls through April, but in May, he tripled that figure to a record-setting 30, the highest in a single month during the Statcast Era (since 2015). This total surpasses even the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals, who each have 27 barrels this month.

Most barrels in a single month
Player NameTeamBarrelsDate
Aaron JudgeYankees30May-24
Shohei OhtaniDodgers24March/April 2024
Matt ChapmanBlue Jays24March/April 2023
Aaron JudgeYankees22September/October 2017

Shohei Ohtani and Matt Chapman needed 32 and 27 games, respectively, to reach 24 barrels between March and April this season. Aaron Judge, however, surpassed them on May 24, his 22nd game of the month, by hitting a no-doubt home run off San Diego Padres right-hander Yu Darvish, as reported.

Barrels often lead to extra-base hits, and Aaron Judge’s 23 extra-base hits in May (12 doubles, 11 homers) are the most by a Yankee in a single month since Bobby Murcer had 23 in August 1972. The last Yankee to record more extra-base hits in a single month was Joe DiMaggio, who had 31 in July 1937, according to the reports.

Despite a challenging April, Aaron Judge’s barrel rate for the season stands at 28.4%, once again leading the league, as he did in 2022 and 2023. With 30 barrels out of 62 batted balls in May, his 48.4% barrel rate this month is the highest recorded during the Statcast Era, surpassing his own 40.4% barrel rate in May 2023 and his 36.1% rate in September/October 2017, the reports indicate.

The immaculate power show

New York Yankees' star Aaron Judge ranks first in OPS in 2024
X-NYY

Aaron Judge’s phenomenal performance in May has been marked by his ability to excel against various pitch types. Reports indicate that Judge has hit home runs off five different pitch types, and among the nine-pitch types he has faced this month, he boasts a .500 or better slugging percentage on all but the sweeper, which has been thrown his way only 32 times.

Judge vs. fastballs, March/April 2024
Batting average0.219
On-base percentage0.338
Slugging percentage0.422
wOBA0.336
Barrel rate12.20%

The reports emphasize Aaron Judge’s notable resurgence against fastballs, including four-seamers, sinkers, and cutters. Renowned as one of baseball’s premier fastball hitters, Judge entered this season with a career slash line of .321/.424/.670 against fastballs. His slugging percentage and .453 wOBA are the highest recorded by any player in the Statcast Era (minimum 1,000 plate appearances ending on fastballs).

Earlier this season, Aaron Judge faced difficulties against fastballs, possibly due to mechanical adjustments, missed opportunities on hittable pitches, an abdominal injury during Spring Training, bad luck, or a combination of these factors. However, his performance against fastballs has dramatically improved this month.

Judge vs. fastballs, May 2024
Batting average0.439
On-base percentage0.54
Slugging percentage1.049
wOBA0.643
Barrel rate73.10%

Aaron Judge has put 26 fastballs into play in May, with 19 of them being classified as barrels. All but one of those 26 fastballs were hit at 95 mph or faster, resulting in an astonishing 96.1% hard-hit rate. This remarkable turnaround underscores his ability to dominate a pitch type he has historically excelled against.

A warning to opponent pitchers

Yankees' Aaron Judge reacts after hitting a homer against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium Thursday, May 23, 2024, in New York.

In the wake of being booed by Yankees fans on April 20 due to early-season struggles, Aaron Judge recognized the necessity of taking advantage of pitchers’ mistakes. He noted, “I’m just missing the pitch. When I get a pitch in the zone, I’ve got to capitalize on it. I don’t get too many. That’s what it comes down to: Don’t miss your pitch when you get it.”

Judge vs. pitches in “heart” of zone, March/April 2024
Batting average0.207
On-base percentage0.207
Slugging percentage0.448
wOBA0.279
Barrel rate15.20%

During April, Judge’s zone rate was a solid 46.5%, yet he managed only a .239 batting average and a .312 wOBA on those strikes, falling short of the .310 league average wOBA for in-zone pitches. It appeared he was letting opportunities slip away on pitches over the heart of the plate.

Judge vs. pitches in “heart” of zone, May 2024
Batting average0.429
On-base percentage0.42
Slugging percentage1.122
wOBA0.642
Barrel rate.56.1%

Typically, the league bats .300 with a .520 slugging percentage and a .350 wOBA when pitches are thrown more than a baseball’s width inside the strike zone. However, Aaron Judge’s torrid performance in May has demonstrated a dramatic turnaround, as he has begun to punish those mistakes.

Aaron Judge is now capitalizing on pitches over the heart of the plate, consistently turning hittable strikes into hard-hit balls. This shift marks a stark contrast to his early-season approach, where pitchers were initially able to evade his power on similar pitches.

The May king

Aaron Judge Crushes 460-Foot Moonshot, Now Tied for MLB HR Lead with Schwarber and Acuña
Thearon W. Henderson

While Aaron Judge’s stellar performance in May stands out, it’s not entirely unfamiliar territory for the Yankees slugger. According to wOBA metrics, he traditionally does his most significant damage in May, despite recording an OPS over .900 in every month from April through September.

Among the four best individual months of Aaron Judge’s career by wOBA, two have occurred in May (minimum 50 plate appearances). His statistics for the month are remarkable—only Babe Ruth (.702 slugging, 1.167 OPS) and Ted Williams have posted superior career numbers in May among players with at least 500 plate appearances.

Judge in May
Games152
Batting average0.325
On-base percentage0.427
Slugging percentage0.698
OPS1.125
Home runs56
RBIs124

Aaron Judge’s historical performance in May positions him among baseball’s elite for the month. Despite his excellence, the “Mr. May” label, often carrying a negative connotation in New York, is one Judge will likely avoid.

This particular May stands out due to the stark contrast with his slow start in April. Aaron Judge’s remarkable production has already given the Yankees high hopes for his impact in October, as he has largely carried the team’s offense in the early part of the season.

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