Sunday afternoon, during his team's loss to the Red Sox (BOS 5, NYY 1), Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge went 0 for 4 with a strikeout to drop his overall season batting line down to .282/.413/.593, which is still excellent, obviously. Only six qualified hitters have a 1.000 OPS this season and Judge is one of them.
That said, the 0 for 4 on Sunday is part of a long second half slump that has seen Judge hit .169/.329/.355 in 35 games since the All-Star break. His strong overall season numbers are a testament to his dominant first half, which was one of the best first halves by any rookie in MLB history. Judge being unable to sustain that pace isn't too surprising. But to see him slump down this much is.
Following Sunday's game, Judge spoke to reporters, and he did so with his left shoulder wrapped in ice. That has been a regular part of his postgame routine for a little while now. You can see the shoulder wrapped here:
Judge was asked about the shoulder and completely dismissed it as an excuse for his poor second half. He's continually accepted the blame for his second half slump and assumed a "I'm not getting the job done" approach with the media
Judge had left shoulder iced. "It's not affecting me at all," he said.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) August 20, 2017
Someone asked how/when he did it. "It's not affecting me at all."
It's entirely possible the shoulder injury is nothing serious -- pretty much every player is banged up this late in the season -- though it also seems like it could offer a potential explanation for Judge's second half slide. He's a right-handed hitter, so his left shoulder is the front shoulder when he hits, and the front shoulder is the power shoulder.
Not coincidentally, Judge's hard contact rate has dropped considerably during his second half slump. From FanGraphs:
I should note that the MLB average hard contact rate is 32.1 percent, so while Judge's hard contact rate is down in the second half, it's come down from an insane baseline to basically league average. It's not like Judge has stopped hitting the ball hard all together. Just last Wednesday he did this:
A shoulder injury could certainly explain Judge's second half slump, at least to some degree. It's hard to swing properly when your front shoulder is achy. It's also possible this is nothing but the normal bumps and bruises associated with a long 162-game season.
The Yankees, truth be told, probably hope the shoulder injury is causing Judge's slump, because at least then they'd have an explanation. Don't get me wrong, they're not hoping for a serious injury. They're just looking for an explanation and an achy shoulder would be one. If Judge were perfectly healthy and struggling, the Yankees would be left looking for a reason.
For now, Judge and the Yankees continue to plug along, hoping the AL Rookie of the Year favorite snaps out of it soon and helps the Yankees lock down a postseason spot. If his shoulder is indeed causing him to slump, then perhaps a quick stint on the disabled list could help him turn things around.