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You boo Aaron Judge, you lose your parade invitation

This won’t be a deeply analytical piece. Some would say it’s talking from the heart. Others would say it’s talking out of my ass. Whatever it may be, I just think some guys are off limits when it comes to giving a player the Irabu treatment.

You just don’t boo or attack Aaron Judge.

You can critique his slump. OBVIOUSLY Aaron Judge isn’t performing to the best of his abilities. What he’s going through is a far cry from what we know he can be. To say anybody is off limits in that regard is as asinine as booing him. It also literally goes against what we do here.

With that said, if you do boo or slander Judge without saying anything constructive, you are banned from the parade. This isn’t gatekeeping as much as it’s house cleaning. Your invitation has been revoked and the second the ball pops in the glove for the final out of the World Series, you aren’t even allowed to have the TV on.

Some guys are just off limits to that kind of ruthlessness. (Imagine handing Judge the same vitriol given to  Carl Pavano? Like what?!) The idea of Judge being the captain – because that’s what he is – still hasn’t changed because he’s going through a bad stretch. A pre-Judge and post-Judge Yankees is just so anatomically different that to really attack him is to just attack the spirit of the Yankees itself. That is something that needs to be appreciated through the good times and the bad.

Now the counter argument to this is Aaron Judge hasn’t had as lengthy a career as a Derek Jeter or Don Mattingly. That is completely true. My counter to the counter is that time and age don’t matter when it comes to guys who are the epitome of what it means to be a Yankee. This is what David Cone said about Jeter in his book. You can absolutely apply it to Aaron Judge:

“I didn’t want to waste time testing some kid who was clearly an elite player and a major part of our pursuit of a championship. By the end of 1996, Jeter was our leader, a role he would possess for the Yankees for the next two decades.”

You can’t predict how long Judge’s career will be. That is just impossible. Here’s what we do know. This is Aaron Judge’s team, and the numbers may not be there (yet) but his captain status is still the same. (By the way I’m very excited for Judge to right this ship and make the dregs look really stupid for the rest of eternity because they freaked out about a slump on Twitter.)

Some very fair Aaron Judge arguments

Now look. I’d be the gif of the dog in the house while it’s burning if I said Aaron Judge was playing good baseball right now. He’s not and there are a few things to look into here. The first is that both Judge and the Paxton whisperer himself, Carlos Beltran, said Judge wouldn’t be right for some time once he came back. Up to this point those two have been spot on.

Joe Girardi was on with Mike Francesa the other day and he talked about how he saw the same thing with Bobby Abreu. Abreu came back from a core injury, and while he didn’t feel any discomfort, it took him a bit to build up his strength.

Another fair argument is the fact that Judge isn’t pulling the ball right now. (Well that’s not an argument as much as an undisputed truth for now.) I thought this was a really great (well not great but mostly sad) breakdown of his production as of late. It’s a line from an article by Andrew Simon of MLB.com:

“When Judge directs the ball toward center or right field this year, he’s still one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. When he pulls it, his slugging percentage sits in the bottom 8% of MLB — ranking below Dee Gordon.”

Here’s a spray chart that really gives you a breakdown of this:

Another thing

Freak injuries have slowed Aaron Judge at the last two halves. We didn’t find this out until after the 2017 season, but Judge seemed to have tweaked something during the Home Run Derby. As a result, for 52 games and 223 plate appearances in July and August that year he hit:

10 HR, 20 RBI, 5 XBH, .207 AVG, .761 OPS

Then there was his slow performance after returning from getting hit by Jakob Junis in 2018. For 13 games and 51 plate appearances he hit:

1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 XBH, .220 AVG, .675 OPS

Light at the end of the tunnel

Those were momentary lapses in Judgeyness, but what happened each time in the postseason? Aaron Judge had huge moments. Whether you believe in clutch or not, we want our Yankees to perform in the playoffs and Aaron Judge has done just that.

In 18 playoff games Aaron Judge has hit:

7 HR, 15 RBI, 4 XBH, .254 AVG, .994 OPS

It’s hard to look at it now because we are in the moment – especially if you are literally one of the dregs of society who are willing to dump on Judge – but what we’re seeing with Judge can be a combination of mechanics and also bad luck. How much does each factor into what’s going on, well, I’m not sure because I never picked up a damn bat and ball in my life.

What I do see though is how that ball flies off his bat. Here’s how statcast breaks down this data:

Barrel %: 19.5 (Top 1%)
AVG Exit Velocity: 96.8 MPH (Top 1%)
Hard Hit %: 57.1% (Top 1%)
BB%: 16.4 (Top 3%)

With all this, statcast calculates Judge has an expected batting average of .280 and an expected slugging of .537. Some guys over perform and fall down to the mean and others under perform and (All) rise up to it. If Judge wasn’t hitting the crap out of the ball as hard as he was, you’d have to think that the regression is real. The fact is, the peripherals all check out.

Another thing to look at is his launch angle. It’s lower than other years (2017: 15.8, 2018: 12.4) but it’s also rising – albeit a slow rise. A month ago it was at a 9.8 Right now it’s at a 10.3.

All that matters

At this point we can go on and on about why Judge isn’t performing. The only thing that matters is October, though. He can hit 15 home runs all year and it could be because of that oblique. If he shows up during the Fall Classic, well, who cares if he didn’t pull the ball in August.

That’s the thing about baseball. It’s such a long, grueling season you can’t just form an opinion about who is great and who is washed by living in the moment. The end result is all that matters.