Aaron Judge (NYY): 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB.
Taking the mind-melting seasons of Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. out of the equation, there may be no more valuable player in Major League Baseball than Aaron Judge. He is quietly putting together his best season since he set the record for home runs by a rookie with 52 in 2017. But what is impressive about this season for Judge is not what he is doing, but how he is doing it. Judge is whiffing on just 30% of his swings, the lowest mark of his career. His strikeout rate of 25.4% is also a career-best. Judge is one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters even when he is swinging and missing at a high rate. And when he is not, he is nearly impossible to deal with. Take it from Judge’s teammate and potential Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole, who said “I think when Aaron’s going really good he’s got coverage of all four quadrants of the zone… I think that timing to where if he can time up the fastball to the big part of the field, it allows him to cover other speeds and other looks down toward the bottom of the zone. That’s what makes him really tough to whiff” (NJ.com).
This chart is a breakdown of Judge’s average in each part of the strike zone. As you can see, there is simply no part of the zone where pitchers can attack. Judge no longer gets beat by the fastball up and in, and he is laying off the breaking pitches down and away. Another sign of how Judge is playing is not how hard he is hitting the ball, but where he is hitting the ball. He is hitting the ball to the opposite field 25.7% of the time, improving upon last year’s percentage by nearly 8 full points. Hitting the ball the other way is a strong indicator of how well he is seeing the ball travel through the zone. Of his 30 home runs, 10 have gone to the opposite field. After going 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB last night, Judge has now recorded multiple hits in eight of his last nine games and is hitting .500 with three home runs in that span.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Wednesday
Josh Harrison (OAK): 3-5, 2B, 2 R.
Harrison is proving to be a worthwhile deadline acquisition for Oakland; he is batting over .300 since his debut in an Athletics unif0rm. The strong play continued last night, as he picked up his second consecutive three-hit game. Over his last seven games, Harrison is batting .400.
Harold Castro (DET): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The 27-year-old outfielder had one of his best games of the season last night. It was Castro’s first three-hit game since June 30, and his first game with multiple extra base hits. Castro hit for a home run, a double, and a single, finishing just a triple shy of the cycle.
Christian Vázquez (BOS): 3-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Vázquez has had a disappointing season at the plate for the Red Sox, posting his lowest numbers since 2018. However, he is hitting better of late. Vázquez has 11 hits in his last 36 at-bats, including three last night. He opened the scoring with an RBI single in the second, and tied the game with a solo shot in the eighth. The Red Sox would go on to beat the Rays 3-2.
Akil Baddoo (DET): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
Baddoo was a key contributor for Detroit in its 8-6 win over Oakland. He had two hits on the night, including a home run, his eleventh of the year. While Baddoo needs to improve against left-handed pitching to become an everyday player, he is a promising young talent. All eleven of his home runs have come off of right-handed pitchers, and he is hitting just .211 when facing lefties.
Lorenzo Cain (MIL): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB, 2 SB.
Lorenzo Cain did a little bit of everything last night. His two-run single in the first gave the Brewers a 2-0 lead over the Giants. He also came around to score and give the Brewers a 3-2 lead after reaching base on a walk in the seventh. The big blow came in the ninth with Cain blasting a solo home run to put Milwaukee on top of San Francisco, 4-2.
Gavin Sheets (CWS): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
Sheets was called up from Triple-A yesterday and made an immediate impact. His three-run bomb in the fourth kicked things off for the White Sox and gave them a 3-0 lead. Sheets would add another with a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth to stretch the White Sox lead to 6-3. He has eight home runs in 30 MLB games this season.
Pavin Smith (ARI): 3-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI.
Last night was one of the best games of Pavin Smith’s young career. The rookie first-baseman picked up three hits and reached base in four of his five plate appearances. It was his first multi-hit game since August 20. Smith does not hit the ball overwhelmingly hard, ranking in just the 13th percentile of average exit velocity. However, he does not miss the ball often. Smith’s whiff rate is just 16.7%, better than 92% of players in the league.
Paul Goldschmidt (STL): 2-2, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB
Last week’s featured player had another strong performance yesterday. Goldschmidt led his team to a win in the first leg of a doubleheader, with two home runs and two walks in the Cardinals’ 5-4 win. The veteran first baseman is staying hot, now slashing .391/.481/.957 in the last seven days.
Brendan Rodgers (COL): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
Rodgers’ home run last night was his eleventh of the season, but just his second since July 31. He is hoping that yesterday’s effort will help him break out of a slump in which he was 2-17 in his last four appearances leading into last night. While he did go yard, the big blow from Rodgers was a two-run double in the ninth inning that gave the Rockies a 6-5 lead over the Rangers.