Friday, April 19, 2019

Where did Aaron Judge's power go?

The question in the title of this post has been on the minds of Yankees fans recently. Sure, Aaron ranks second on the team in home runs (tied with Torres, Frazier, Gardner, and Voit... Sanchez leads the team with six), but his slugging percentage of .484 leaves a lot to be desired. I mean, Judge's slugging percentage was .528 last season, which was down considerably from the .627 he put up in 2017.

But I don't see any reason to worry.

Aaron is not striking out any more than he has his entire career, as you can see by his strikeout percentage of 31.2% this season, compared to his career mark of 31.6%. And he's not taking more walks as his walk percentage this season is 16.9% compared to 16.7% throughout his career. And he's hitting the ball harder than he ever has, evidenced by his line drive percentage of 36%, which is higher than his career mark of 26%.

Looking at the numbers we can see that Judge simply is not getting the ball up in the air as often. His fly ball percentage is just 29.3%, down significantly from his career percentage of 39.7%.

So why is that?

Well, looking at the statistics only one thing really stands out... he's not pulling the ball as often as he has in the past.

In his career, Aaron has pulled pitches 40.6% of the time, which is all the way down to 29.3% this season. While he's hitting more balls to center (36.6% as opposed to 31.4%) and to the opposite field (34.1% to 28.1%). And while his contact percentage is down a bit (63.8% now from 66.2% in his career), I don't think that's a big enough difference to say it's a problem.

To be honest, I think his lack of power so far this season is more of a choice rather than loss of ability. Judge is simply trying to be a more complete hitter instead of being all about the long ball.

Now, normally, that wouldn't be a problem. When you have a lineup chock full of guys that can hit the long ball (in case you forgot, the 2018 squad holds the record for most team home runs in a season) you can afford to lose a few dingers from Aaron Judge. But with Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks, and Didi Gregorius on the shelf it stands out that much more.

Yes, seeing Judge bash home run after home run is fun, but his overall production is the main thing. That production is down a bit this year, but it's not nearly down enough to be worried.

When this team gets healthy (I'm trying to stay positive here by saying "when" instead of "if") they will be very scary. You've seen the healthy lineup before, but here's a refresher...

1. Aaron Hicks CF
2. Aaron Judge RF
3. Giancarlo Stanton DH
4. Gary Sanchez C
5. Miguel Andujar 3B
6. Gleyber Torres SS
7. Clint Frazier LF
8. DJ LeMahieu 2B
9. Luke Voit 1B

That lineup is a very real possibility come June 1st.

Yes, I realize that Andujar may be better as the team's primary DH or first baseman, but I'll address that situation and the possible lineup implications then. I'm just trying to give you an idea as to why Aaron Judge's lack of power is not a real problem, it just stands out as one with this injury-riddled team.