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.
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.
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 😱
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
This is the Giancarlo Stanton that New York Yankees fans were expecting when he was traded to the Bronx from the Miami Marlins prior to the 2018 season.
Giancarlo Stanton has homered in three straight games, 8 times in his last 17 games and 15 times in his last 34 games dating back to last postseason. That’s a 71-homer pace over 162 games. pic.twitter.com/gJDwOHQyTL
After winning the 2017 National League MVP award with 59 home runs and 132 runs batted in, Stanton was supposed to join Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge in creating a Murderer’s Row for the 21st century.
Instead, from 2018 to 2020, the trio played in fewer than 200 regular-season games with a combined 45 home runs.
Giancarlo has been big in the postseason, hitting eight home runs in 17 games. He mashed his way through the Tampa Rays with four knocks in five games in last year’s ALDS.
But without a championship, Stanton can’t become a made man in pinstripes. Suddenly, he’s playing up to that immense potential and carrying the Yankees’ offense.
“The Kraken” hasn’t been cracking in a while, as Sanchez is batting .155 over his last 69 games. Judge has run hot and cold all season but has homered in only five games this season, including just three of his last 17.
Add in the struggles of Aaron Hicks and DJ LeMahieu and you get a New York offense that ranks second in home runs in the American League, but tied for 11th in runs scored, and a 16-15 record for a franchise confident about finally capturing its 28th title.
Stanton was ice cold as the Yankees got off to a 5-10 start, but he has turned it around in a major way to help New York take 11 of its last 15.
Thursday afternoon, Stanton extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a solo home run into the bullpen in a 7-4 loss to the Houston Astros.
That blast left his bat moving faster than a Category 3 hurricane and doing about as much damage.
During this run, Stanton has sent missiles all over the field. He’s hitting .480, with 25 hits in his last 52 at-bats. Six of his nine home runs and 11 of his 23 RBI this season have come over that span as well.
This surge has Stanton now carrying a career-high .314 batting average. His current.953 OPS is his best since that MVP campaign and almost 60 points higher than any of his previous three seasons.
He’s in a groove.
And he’s not just ripping through the ball, he’s seeing it clearly. Stanton hasn’t struck out more than once in his last 13 games after racking up seven games with multiple Ks in his first 15 appearances.
He’s playing the best baseball of his career when his team has needed it the most, keeping New York within 2.5 games of the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox.
If it can stay healthy, the Yankees’ offense is one of the most explosive in all of baseball with power and skill in each third of the lineup.
Stanton was brought to New York to join the legendary sluggers that have called Yankee Stadium home (mostly the old one, of course). Let him lead the way through the playoffs and into another parade through the Canyon of Heroes and he will be a legend.
Meanwhile, there’s no missile defense system that can protect pitchers from the projectiles coming from the player in pinstripes.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge continued his torrid hitting with three more hits and three RBI in the Yankees 6-4 win over Detroit on Saturday. Judge is known for hitting moon shots, but lately, he’s cut down his swing and is hitting missiles all over the field, finding that he can accumulate just as many RBI’s by not being a boom or bust hitter, but a well-rounded one
He’s also got the talent to hit for high average so he might as well use it because that’s what the Yankees are lacking. In addition to an infield single, he smacked two doubles in the gap.
On Friday, Judge made a couple of huge statements with his booming bat at Yankees Stadium. Starting for the first time in three days, the 2018 Rookie of the Year and HR Derby champ made us All Rise by homering in two of his first three at-bats.
A 436-foot blast in the third off the batter’s eye, and then a second-deck grand slam to the right in the fourth. Judge’s second career grand slam gave starter Gerrit Cole an 8-0 lead.
AJ’s two deep shots raised his season total to seven, which is one more than slugging partner Giancarlo Stanton for the team lead. The Yankees’ 10-0 and 6-4 shellackings of Detroit shows what the Pinstripes are capable of when they have all three Black Knights in the lineup at one time
Friday night, Stanton extended his hitting streak to seven games, his longest since 9/23-9/29 of 2018. He’s currently hitting .419 (13-31) with a double, three HRs, three RBIs, and one BB (walk) over that span. The “artist formerly known as Mike” had three hits in three straight games for the first time in his career since moving into the two-hole.
Also, center fielder Aaron Hicks went (2-4) with two RBIs and added another hit and a run on Saturday.
The Yankees 2021 Soul Patrol is coming alive and Yankees fans can only hope that this is the beginning of that run they’ve been waiting for.