Red Sox vs. Yankees: Aaron Judge’s power is returning following his wrist injury just in time for MLB playoffs

For the fourth time in the last 20 years, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will meet in a postseason series. The Yankees punched their ticket to the ALDS with a Wild Card Game win over the Athletics on Wednesday night (NYY 7, OAK 2). Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming Yankees vs. Red Sox series.

Yankees-Red Sox ALDS games can be streamed on fuboTV (Try for free). For a look at the complete schedule, click here  

The Yankees jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in Wednesday night’s Wild Card Game on Aaron Judge’s first inning two-run home run. He took A’s opener Liam Hendriks deep out to left field. Here’s the video:

That home run is notable for a few reasons. For starters, it gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead in a winner-take-all game, and that’s pretty important. Secondly, Judge became the first player ever to go deep in multiple Wild Card Games. He hit a home run in last year’s Wild Card Game against the Twins as well.

Third, that is not an easy pitch to drive out of the park. It’s a 96.4 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate. Judge was able to get his hands in, get the bat around quick, and yank that ball to left field. Tougher than it looks. And fourth, the ball left Judge’s bat at 116.1 mph. It was the hardest hit baseball in the postseason since Statcast launched in 2015. (Giancarlo Stanton hit a 117.4 mph homer later in the game to set a new record.)

MLB: AL Wild Card-Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees

Aaron Judge is starting to regain some of his trademark power.

Judge hitting a ball extremely hard is nothing new. He leads all hitters in average exit velocity since the start of last season and it’s not particularly close (min. 500 plate appearances):

  1. Aaron Judge, Yankees: 94.8 mph
  2. Nelson Cruz, Mariners: 93.6 mph
  3. Joey Gallo, Rangers: 93.5 mph
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins / Yankees: 92.8 mph
  5. Matt Olson, Athletics: 92.5 mph

For the Yankees and Judge though, Wednesday night’s home run was a very welcome sight. Judge was hit by a pitch on July 26 and suffered a chip fracture in his right wrist. He missed roughly seven weeks, and, when he returned to the lineup in the middle of September, he was not making the same loud contact. The before and after numbers:

Judge hit .285/.398/.548 in 447 plate appearances before the wrist injury. He hit .220/.333/.341 in 51 plate appearances after the wrist injury. On one hand, Judge did not have a proper rehab assignment because the minor league season had ended by time he was ready to starting swinging a bat. His timing was not where it needed to be. On the other hand, wrist injuries are known to sap power, even after the player is declared healthy enough to return.

Twenty-eight batted balls is a very small sample size, but that’s all we have for post wrist-injury Aaron Judge during the regular season, and clearly his exit velocity was down. Way down. Only eight of those 28 balls in play had an exit velocity north of 100 mph. The good news? The power is starting to come back. Judge swatted a long sacrifice fly to the warning track last Thursday that left his bat at 101.5 mph. The next night he hit his first home run following the wrist injury.

That home run left Judge’s bat at 105.2 mph. The pitch was an absolutely cookie, a 91 mph fastball out over the plate from a lefty, so it was the kind of pitch Judge should crush. And he did. In his first few games back from the disabled list, he wasn’t crushing that pitch. He was missing it or just not hitting it as well as he normally would.

After returning from the wrist injury, eight of the 28 balls Judge put in play had an exit velocity of 100 mph or better. Three of them came within his final six batted balls of the regular season and five of them came within his final 13 batted balls of the regular season. Then, in his first at-bat of the postseason, Judge hit a 116.1 mph home run. It was not only his hardest hit ball since the wrist injury, it was his hardest hit ball since June 4, nearly two months before the injury.

Between the two home runs and the recent uptick in hard-hit batted balls, it sure looks like Judge is starting to regain the strength in his wrist following the injury, and thus his trademark power is returning. His plate discipline never suffered. Judge came back from the injury swinging at the right pitches. He just didn’t do much with them. Now Judge is starting to drive the ball again as he gets further away from the injury, and the power is coming back just in time for the ALDS matchup with the Red Sox.

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