Aaron Judge’s unnoticed ability to manage pain a blessing for Yankees

Yankees captain Aaron Judge celebrates after hitting a home run against the Astros in Houston on Sept 1, 2023.
Josh Barrett
Monday September 4, 2023

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HOUSTON — In July, Aaron Judge and the Yankees were advised that the slugger wasn’t in full health and that the team should consider not playing him every game. However, a month after the superstar’s return to the lineup from a torn ligament in his right big toe in late July, the injury-associated news has become less noticeable.

What Yankees fans instead see are Aaron Judge’s home runs, on-field exploits, and astute leadership.

Although Aaron Judge’s two-month injury absence contributed to the Yankees’ challenging season, they can find some consolation as they approach the offseason by observing his performance since his return.

Aaron Judge without any sign of injury since his return

The current American League Most Valuable Player (AL MVP) showcased his enhancements during Saturday’s victory against the Astros. Aaron Judge smashed a 428-foot home run to the right-center field, marking his ninth home run in the last 15 games.

But, on Saturday, he managed to dash from first base to third base when Jasson Dominguez hit a hard ground ball to right field. Later, Aaron Judge scored a run when a fly ball was caught for an out in shallow center field at Minute Maid Park.

Manager Aaron Boone noted on Sunday that it appeared to be a notable improvement, just before Aaron Judge’s performance in the Yankees’ 6-1 victory over the Astros, where he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge celebrates after hitting a home run in Detroit on August 28, 2023.

Even though it might sound a bit surprising, the Yankees were optimistic that Aaron Judge’s toe would get better as he played more over the last two months of the season.

Boone mentioned that things have gone as well as they could have hoped. He feels satisfied with the amount of playing time Aaron Judge has had, his performance, and the continued improvement in his movement abilities.

On Sunday, Aaron Judge was in the starting lineup for the 32nd time in the Yankees’ 35th game since he returned from the Injured List. In the initial 31 games, he had a batting average of .223 with a .928 OPS and hit 12 home runs.

Judge is on a hitting spree

His hitting power has been particularly noticeable, especially in recent times. Before Sunday, Aaron Judge had hit a total of 31 home runs, ranking him fourth in the American League in terms of home runs. He reached this milestone in just 82 games, while the top three home run leaders in the American League had each played 128 games or more.

Anthony Volpe referred to him as “the best player in the world.”

Aaron Judge, who usually doesn’t talk a lot about his own stats, was asked how he’d judge another player’s season if they hit 31 home runs in 82 games. With a grin, he stated that he would prefer those games to be spread throughout the middle of the year rather than near the end, but he acknowledged that the situation is what it is.

Aaron Judge hits a home run in the Yankees vs. Astros game in Houston on September 1, 2023.

It is difficult to determine how well the Yankees would have performed if Aaron Judge had been able to play the entire season. Their record of 14 wins and 21 losses since his return serves as a reminder that the issues the team is facing go beyond just the absence of Judge for those two months.

Still, it’s conceivable that if Aaron Judge hadn’t collided with the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium on June 3 while making a spectacular catch, the last month of this season might have been focused on a playoff race or perhaps a home run competition, rather than a transition towards a younger lineup.

Boone praised Aaron Judge as an outstanding player and emphasized his consistency in both his approach to the game and his overall performance. He noted the luxury of Judge’s ability to hit the ball well to all parts of the field, even when he doesn’t make perfect contact. Boone mentioned that Aaron Judge’s recent games, particularly on Friday and Saturday, showcased some exciting hits. He expressed admiration for his captain’s fantastic skills and how he’s been playing. 

The Yankees manager also commented positively on Aaron Judge’s agility and mobility, highlighting moments like his first-to-third base running and scoring on a sacrifice fly, which demonstrated his continued excellent performance on the bases.

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