Last year, New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge took MLB by storm. He wasn’t even a guarantee to make the starting lineup out of Spring Training, but by the end of the season, Judge was the AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in the MVP race. Mid-season, Judge also captured the home run derby championship.
He will not be repeating as derby champion in 2018, though. This week, Judge announced that he will not participate in the derby again if asked by MLB. He even went so far as to dismiss the idea that the league could pressure him into changing his mind. Judge is out.
And it makes quite a bit of sense. Even without believing in a sense that the home run derby exhausts players for the second half of the season, it did something to Aaron Judge’s swing after the break.
In the season’s first half, Judge hit .329 with 30 home runs and a 1.139 OPS. He was flat-out outstanding. In the second half, Judge hit just .228 overall thanks to an absolutely terrible month of August: the month immediately following the home run derby. In August, Judge had 92 at-bats, hitting .185 and slugging just .326. If not for a rebound September, he may have fallen outside the top two in the MVP voting.
There is no clear connection between a slow August and participating in the home run derby. Judge himself denies any tiring that may have occurred. Derby participants in past years run the gamut of subsequent success. Some seem to be incredibly impacted by the strain of the derby on their swing. Others show no such changes. No one knows if Judge altered something just a bit after the derby or if he just had a random bad month at an awkward time.
What we do know is that Judge isn’t interested in participating in the home run derby again. “One and done, Home Run Derby champion. It was a cool experience. I enjoyed it all, but I don’t think I really need to go out there and do it again.” The New York Yankees have a number of other players who may be inclined to take his place, though it isn’t up to the team. The league will decide who receives an invitation from here for the competition July 16 in Washington DC.