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The Tuesday Discussion: Aaron Judge - Concerned?

April 23, 2024

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This week we asked our writers, Are you concerned about Aaron Judge?


Here are their replies:

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Tamar Chalker - If he still isn’t hitting come May, I’ll definitely start getting nervous.

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James Vlietstra - Over a 7 year stretch, Judge has been extremely productive and efficient. Even when playing injured,  from 2017-2023, he totaled 808 and amassed a WAR of 41.7, or one every 19.377 games played. While WAR isn’t the end all, be all, it is very useful. To this point, he’s played 22 games, so should have 1.14 WAR on the year. Instead he only has 0.4. 

Is that enough to raise the panic flag? I don’t believe so. He was still looking for his timing as spring training drew to a close. So it’ll definitely take a few games to make the numbers more acceptable. If by Memorial Day, his at bats are still brutal, start worrying. 

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Ed Botti - I don’t know that I am concerned, it has only been 22 games (not counting last night), and he did miss about 10 days of late spring training. He stated he likes to have 40 or so spring at bats, I believe he had 24 this spring. Because of that, I did expect him to start slow, and he obviously has.

 

But I am surprised that he hasn’t picked it up in the last 7 to 10 games or so, and if that continues I may graduate to “alarmed” or at the very least “anxious”. Keep in mind that other star players are also off to slow starts, hitting below .200 are names like Randy Arozarena, Paul Goldschmidt and Francisco Lindor, and just above the .200 line are players such George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Xander Bogaerts. I expect every one of them to rebound, and Judge is no different.

 

Judge hasn’t lost his talent in the last year and will only turn 32 this week. Although my eye test tells me that he seems to be not quite as fleet of foot as we got accustomed to in the past; I am concerned about that.

 

In the batter’s box he is a master at disguising whether or not his push off foot (right foot) is a problem for him. His swings appear somewhat normal, but it is impossible to tell from a TV screen if he is actually engaging all of the same muscle groups during his lower body weight shift. It is more noticeable tracking balls and running.

 

So I guess the question is ---am I concerned that his 2023 right big toe injury hasn’t healed properly, and is it still a problem 9 months later?

 

I suspect we will get that answer in the next 30 days or so. I am not ready to put him in the Dizzy Dean category just yet!

 

If he hits .300 in May, which is quite possible, everyone will forget April. However if he continues to struggle, we can all have the pros and cons of the big dollar, long term contract debate!

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Paul Semendinger - I am concerned. Aaron Judge was rushed back last year. He showed some power, but he did not hit anywhere near the way he had before getting hurt. His batting average in the second half of 2023 was only .245. As such, his slow start, following the toe injury and a core injury in Spring Training, isn't only encompassing his poor start to the 2024 season, it includes a lackluster second half of 2023. He has not been the same hitter since he sustained the toe injury. At the time of his injury last year, numerous reports said that the toe injury could negatively impact Judge for the rest of his career because it would never fully heal. I am concerned that we're seeing this play out in real time. (And even knowing this, the Yankees decided to make Judge a centerfielder...)


Yes, there is a lot to be concerned about.

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Tim Kabel - am not worried one bit about Aaron Judge. He has proven time and again that he is one of the best players in baseball. He will be fine.


I am worried about the judgment of fans who would boo him. I know they can, but why would they?  What do they hope to accomplish?


I am more worried about Anthony Rizzo, who seems to be off stride, both offensively and defensively, which is totally out of character. Last year‘s struggles seem to be carrying into this year. That could be a major concern for the rest of the season. 

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Mike Whiteman - When your best player is slashing .174/.308/.337 almost a month into the season. there's certainly some concern. One thing to note - even great players hit the skids once in a while:



Judge himself had a .192/.275/.402 stretch over 21 games in 2022, and that season turned out OK. 


The bigger question with Judge is about his overall health. Is the core injury he suffered in the spring still bothering him? They usually don't heal quickly. Is his toe OK? For his part, Judge insists that his health is good. 


When Judge's injury was revealed in spring, he said something to the effect that he had been swinging the bat "every day" since November and felt some "wear and tear". It struck me that we were talking "wear and tear" in March, not July or August. I'm no athletic trainer, but I wonder if some time of resting and healing would have been of benefit to the large, muscular slugger. Perhaps even now. 


I'm also not a manager, but I also wonder if a lineup tweak is in order. The move of slumping players ahead of hotter hitters in the batting order to get them going has been around a long time. The slumping hitter gets better pitches to hit as the pitcher doesn't want to walk the player to face the hot hitter. Maybe now Aaron Boone should bat Judge second, and Juan Soto third. 


The situation is not one that warrants panic, but getting Judge going again should be of high priority as the calendar moves to May. 

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Cary Greene - It's easy to imagine that now that Aaron Judge is a fat cat financially, that his newfound wealth will change his life for the worse, with the brightness of his star power attracting itself to other mega wealthy sports stars and entertainers. Could he easily go off track? Absolutely. Is he presently distracted, now that he has a very fat contract paying him $40 million a year until the year 2031? While it's very possible that Judge has taken his eye a bit off the ball due to his new found status in life, his problems at the plate this season are probably due more to injury related issues, mechanical problems or possibly even a byproduct of Judge pressing and trying to do too much. 


If injuries are behind his poor performance this season, then he's probably in need of some rest. After all, Judge tore a toe ligament last season, crashing into an outfield wall at Dodger Stadium and it's very possible that his ability to plant and drive with his legs has been compromised by ongoing issues related to this. He also missed nine days of Spring Training back in March with abdominal discomfort, which could still be lingering or worse, yet, it may be turning into something more serious like an oblique strain or a cartilage tear or who knows what else? I'm concerned that the Yankees may be playing him at less than 100 percent as they've done this countless times before with other players. Are injuries behind his issues this season, or is something else going on - is he pressing?


Could Judge's problems merely be mechanical? This is a possibility as well. When a player isn't right, their xwOBA is a clear indicator of decline and actually, so too is a simple glance at the player's batting average or OPS. xwOBA looks at what the expected results of a players contact are. This season, Judge's xwOBA against fastballs is down .168 points from last season (.521 to .353). This mean's either Judge' timing is off or something is wrong with him physically. In any case, he's getting overpowered routinely. 


His xwOBA against breaking balls is also down .120 points (from .400 to .120) as well. Opposing pitchers are throwing 32 percent of their pitches to Judge low and outside and 16 percent low and inside. Judge is hitting pitches up in the zone very well still, but he's doing poorly with pitch recognition. The overwhelming majority of his strikeouts are on pitches low and away, down and in, up and in and up and away - so he's obviously flailing at pitches with a high degree of consistency and this indicates he's pressing way too hard. Opposing pitchers are getting the message and are routinely exploiting him. 


My points above are further solidified by the massive drop off Judge has seen happen this season with his on base percentage. Last season, Judge's OBP was .406 and this season it has plummeted 86 points here in the early going, down to .320 and that's absolutely a red flag that indicates what I'm pointing out about Judge flailing at the plate is true. He's not taking his walks and he's clearly trying to do too much. Therefore, I'm inclined to think that Judge's problems are quite possibly due to him putting too much pressure on himself to pulverize the baseball with every swing. He needs to get back to hunting fastballs and he needs to try laying off the breaking balls. It all starts with pitch recognition for a big player like Judge. Right now, he's lost. He's not seeing the ball well enough and he's all over the place at the plate. 


Judge would benefit from some quality hitting instruction presently, whatever the Yankees are doing with him this season needs to change. 

6 Comments


Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Apr 23

Am I concerned? It depends. The first thing is, the Yankees must have Aaron Judge do a complete physical examination to determine if there is an injury he may not be telling them about. (To not single him out specifically, they can ask the whole team to do complete physical examinations, once every 2 weeks or so, with a special emphasis on where they have been injured in the past).


If this slump is due to an injury, specifically his big toe where he tore the ligament, yes, I will certainly be concerned. At the time of the injury, sports doctors who specialize in toe ligament injuries pointed out that sluggers like Judge, when they swing, they dig that ver…


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Len
Len
Apr 23

I don't believe he is sitting on his pile of money. That's insulting to him. He will either break out of the slump, or we'll find that he has one of the famous mishandled injury issues, that are a Yankee specialty.


I fear there will be a Boone report on a hidden injury, and he will miss several weeks.

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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Apr 23
Replying to

Even when players get paid well, I agree with you that they don't sit on their pile of money. Players have too much pride, don't want to embarrass themselves, and don't want to let their teammates down, who they have become best buddies with for the most part. Players have that competitive spirit, and even if they have a giant salary, they are extremely motivated to play well because they have a burning desire to make it to, and to win the World Series.

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fuster
Apr 23

this is extraordinarily disappointing. Aaron Judge in a slump and playing at or slightly below MLB-average is a betrayal of everything that is good and right with the universe.


when the truth about it finally comes to light, it is almost certain to be discovered that Scott Boras has secreted both green AND red kryptonite somewhere in the stadium

and we can imagine which Natasha is behind Boras' skullduggery.


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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Apr 23
Replying to

Ever the conspiracy theorist...



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