Court is in session.
There is no question that Aaron Judge is the heart and soul of the New York Yankees’ offense.
He leads the Yankees in batting average (.293), hits (61), extra base hits (23), home runs (15), runs scored (34), and runs batted in (35).
Judge is one of only four players currently doing so in the majors; along with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Avisail Garcia, Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez, and Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins.
He’s putting up numbers that should keep him in the conversation for Most Valuable Player in the American League.
That is if the Yankees can start playing up to their own expectations.
After snapping a four-game losing streak with consecutive wins over the Minnesota Twins, New York has a tenuous hold on third place in the AL East. The Yankees are closer to the fourth-place Toronto Blue Jays than they are to the number two Boston Red Sox, and they trail the Tampa Bay Rays by 5.5 games.
Aaron Judge solo home run puts the Yankees on the board in the top of the first! pic.twitter.com/NmzQHzXKFv
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) June 10, 2021
Their offense has been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. Only the Detroit Tigers have scored fewer runs in the American League than New York’s 240. The Yankees are almost completely dependent on the long ball to generate runs, and no player illustrates that dependency more than Judge.
This season, New York is 9-3 when Judge’s gavel sends one into the seats. In the other 44 games, he’s played without hitting a Bronx Bomb, the Yankees are 21-23.
Across those games the pitching has been relatively steady. The Pinstripes are allowing 3.25 runs per game when Judge homers and 3.96 when he doesn’t.
However, when court is in recess, the Yankees’ offense is too.
In the 12 games in which Aaron Judge has hit home runs (he has three multi-homer games this season), New York has outscored its opponents 70-39; averaging better than 5.8 runs per contest.
Aaron Judge with another casual home run with 115+ MPH exit velo 🔥pic.twitter.com/tw4reVGDkm
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 28, 2021
That output drops to just 3.4 runs per in every other game; a decrease of nearly 42 percent.
“The Judge Effect” isn’t new. It’s been consistent over his career. Since the 2017 season, when Judge hit a career-high 52 home runs, the Yankees have a .735 (86-31) winning percentage when he goes yard. In all other games he’s played, it’s a respectable .538 (181-155).
FIVE straight games with a home run for Aaron Judge 😱
— ESPN (@espn) August 3, 2020
Still winning, but not the type of record that holds up when the rest of the lineup has to carry the load.
This year, the discrepancy is more pronounced than ever with the Yankees winning percentage showing a difference of .273 between home run and non-home run games.
Not counting last season’s pandemic-shortened schedule, it is by far the largest gap in his career. The next widest was during that 2017 campaign (.179).
That 2017 team finished 91-71 before losing the AL Championship Series in seven games.
The Yankees haven’t gotten that close to the World Series since.
They won’t get there again this season, it seems, unless Judge can start to replicate his breakout, rookie year stats. That’s how badly the Yankees need him right now.
That means Judge has to stay healthy, and he has to get some protection and production from his teammates. At least Giancarlo Stanton has gotten hot of late, slamming three homers in two games including this blast on Thursday night. But the bullpen couldn’t hold
Straight mashing! Stanton goes yard for the Yankees. https://t.co/SWXI8tY5iR
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) June 11, 2021
If not, Judge and the Yankees will be heading back to their chambers without championship number 28 once again.