TIME TO BENCH AARON JUDGE?
Of course not!
Sure, the New York Yankees rookie slugger is in sort of a prolonged slump:
Before the All-Star Game break: .329 batting average (99-for-301), 29 HRs, 66 RBI, 61 walks, 119 strikeouts.
Since the All-Star Game break: .159 batting average (10-for-63), 4 HRs, 9 RBI, 15 walks, 27 strikeouts.
As I wrote in this space more than one month ago, Judge’s batting average was likely to take a significant drop because his average was unreasonably high for a hitter who strikes out as much as he does.
He was due for a slump and it is happening now.
Let’s compare Judge to two sluggers with the last name Thomas – Frank and Gorman.
Judge probably is not the second coming of Hall of Famer Frank “Big Hurt” Thomas, who also had enormous power but with a much better batting eye. His average season: 301 batting average, 36 HRs, 119 RBI, 116 walks, 97 strikeouts.
But Judge figures to be better than an all-or-nothing slugger such as Gorman “Big Whiff” Thomas. His average season: .225 batting average, 30 HRs, 88 RBI, 79 walks, 151 strikeouts.
Gorman Thomas seldom was benched. His power outweighed his deficiencies and he had a long career.
Judge has a significantly better batting eye than Gorman Thomas and is a better outfielder.
I expect Judge to break out of his slump soon. He might never again have a half-season better than 2017 – when he was the main reason the Yankees were winning games – but it would be crazy for the Yankees to bench him now, for even a few games.
Am I wrong?
BOB FIGURES THE CURRENT SIX DIVISION LEADERS WILL FINISH ON TOP
Since 1996, the first full season with at least one wild card, 91 of 126 division champions (72 percent) held at least a share of their division lead entering August.
I believe the six division leaders entering Tuesday all will finish on top: Yankees, Cleveland, Houston, Washington, Cubs and Dodgers.
They all look like cinches to me.
The AL East Yankees are ahead of the game with a seven-deep bullpen. It makes them a bona fide World Series contender. The Indians simply are better than Kansas City in the AL Central. Houston course is a lock in the NL West.
The NL East – except for Washington – is a collective disappointment this season. The Cubs played possum until the All-Star Game break and figure to expand their lead in the NL Central. The Dodgers are running away in the NL West – baseball’s best division.
The 2017 postseason should be fun. At the moment, my favorites to win the World Series (in order of preference): Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, Nationals, Cubs and Indians.
SPRAYING BASEBALL HITS TO ALL FIELDS
Jose Altuve (Houston) has opened up a daylight lead over slumping Aaron Judge (Yankees) for American League Most Valuable Player. Altuve has picked up the slack for injured teammate Carlos Correa. Altuve batted .485 in July, the highest batting average by a major-league player in any month (minimum 100 plate appearances) since Todd Helton hit .512 for Colorado in May 2000.
How impressed was ESPN’s Andrew Marchand with the trade deadline additions by the Yankees? He says it’s playoff or pink slip for (manager) Joe Girardi. I wouldn’t go that far – but I get his point.
The San Francisco Giants are a huge flop this season. Is manager Bruce Bochy a Hall of Fame candidate? I think so. Entering Tuesday night, his career managing record with San Diego (12 seasons) and San Francisco (11 seasons) was a mere 5 games above .500 (1,829-1,824). Winning three World Series in a five-year span with the Giants (2010-2012-2014) should be his ticket to Cooperstown. He’s 10th on MLB’s career managerial losses list. Eight of the nine managers with more losses are Hall of Famers. The only exception is Gene Mauch.
There hasn’t been a 20-20 Club member (at least 20 HRs and 20 stolen bases) in Major League Baseball since 2012 (Ryan Braun 41 HRs/30 stolen bases and Mike Trout 30 HRs and 49 SBs) – and there probably won’t be one this season. The only remote possibilities appear to be Jose Altuve (15 HRs/22 SBs) and Elvis Andrus (14 HRs/20 SBs). Trout has 19 HRs and is 12-for-13 in stolen bases in only 61 games.
BIG PROPS TO ANDREW McCUTCHEN
When Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen got off a slow start this -- .244 in April and .206 in May, with a total of 8 HRs and 24 RBI, some observers wondered what had happened to his game and the Pirates reportedly were fielding trade inquiries.
McCutchen turns 31 on Oct. 10, and his production the past two months suggests that rumors of his demise were premature:
June -- .411 batting average (37-for-90), 6 HRs, 23 RBI
July -- .322 batting average (28-for-87), 8 HRs, 19 RBI.
In a big National Lacrosse League trade Tuesda involving two of the league’s most accomplished vereran scorers, the Buffalo Bandits sent veteran forward Ryan Benesch to the Colorado Mammoth for forward Callum Crawford and goaltender Alex Buque, who could start for the Bandits this season. Crawford had 98 points (36 goals + 62 assists) for Colorado last season. In 2015, he had 115 points (32G + 83A. Benesch had 68 points (33G +35A) in 14 games for Buffalo last season. His best NLL season was 2015 (112 points; 55G + 58A). Benesch and Crawford both are 32 years old.
Where some of last season’s Rochester Americans have landed for this season: Forwards Cole Schneider (two-way, New York Rangers...Jean Dupuy (Toronto Marlies AHL)...Derek Grant (one-way, Anaheim AHL)...Justin Kea (one-way Florida Everblades ECHL)...Defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer (two-way, Ottawa NHL/Bellesville AHL)...Mat Bodie (two-way; Tampa Bay NHL)..Patrick Mullin (SHL, Linkiping)...Goalie John Muse (Lehigh Valley AHL).
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...
Wednesday, August 2 – Simone Manuel (21)...Kristaps Porzingis (22)...Laremy Tunsil (23)...Paul DeJong (24)...Evander Kane (26)...Skylar Diggins (27)...Golden Tate (29)...Meghan Klingenberg (29)...Luke Hughes (33)...Nick Diaz (34)...Grady Sizemore (35)...Tony Amonte (47)...Tim Wakefield (51)...Perry Tuttle (55)...Linda Frontianne (57)...Tim Rafferty (63)...Bob Netolicky (75)...Billy Cannon (80).
Thursday, August 3 – Todd Gurley (23)...Tyrod Taylor (28)...Ryan Lochte (33)...Matt Joyce (33)...Mark Reynolds (34)...Kris Jenkins (38)...Tom Brady (40)...Troy Glaus (41)...Trevor Pryce (42)...Rod Beck (49)...Eric Esch (51)...Todd Christensen (61)...Marcel Dionne (66)...Valeri Vasiliev (68)...Brian McCutcheon (68)...Lance Alworth (77). Martha Stewart (76), Martin Sheen (77) and Tony Bennett (91) are invited to the birthday party.