Aaron Judge set to Return Ahead of Critical Stretch

Aaron Judge working out on the field
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Aaron Judge set to Return Ahead of Critical Stretch

The New York Yankees‘ biggest addition this week will not come via trade. On Wednesday Joel Sherman reported that Aaron Judge is set to return ahead of a critical stretch for the Yankees. Judge will be activated off the IL Friday night, ahead of a three-game set against the first-place Baltimore Orioles. After that, the Yankees will face the Tampa Bay Rays for three games before returning home for a four-game clash against the Houston Astros. These 10 games represent a make-or-break stretch for a Yankee team that is yet to commit to buying or selling at the deadline. The Orioles and Rays have been the class of the AL East all season, and the Astros currently hold one of the Wild Card spots the Yankees are chasing.

Judge has been on the IL since June 4, and the Yankees have struggled in his absence. When Judge went down, the Yankees were 36-25 — third place in the AL East. They also held a two-and-a-half-game lead on the final AL Wild Card spot. Since then they are 19-23 and have dropped out of the AL playoff picture completely. The offensive struggles have been the main reason for the Yankees’ regression over the past two months. As a team since Judge’s injury, they have a team OBP of .296 and an OPS of .670. They have scored fewer than four runs per game in the process.

The impact Aaron Judge has on the Yankees lineup is clear. Even with him missing half the games, he still leads the team in home runs, is third in RBI, and fourth in runs scored. He was putting up typical Aaron Judge numbers before his injury, slashing .291/.404/.674. Those numbers come out to a 1.078 OPS and a 193 OPS+, both of which would lead the league if Judge qualified.

In the 49 games Judge has played, the Yankees offense as a whole has been much better. They have averaged five runs per game with a team OPS of .744. Those numbers represent an improvement of over one run per game and a jump of almost 75 points in OPS.

Judge’s return could not come at a better time. With a strong showing this week, the Yankees will put themselves in position to be buyers ahead of the deadline. If Judge returns to form and they add another impact bat, this team will be much more formidable heading down the stretch.

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Evan Kelly

Senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying Finance. Covering the Yankees for SportRelay.com

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