The Runner Sports

Moving Aaron Judge Down The Lineup Will Help The Yankees, But Not Judge

To call Aaron Judge’s second half a bit disappointing would be a massive understatement. The MVP contender that was playing before the All-Star break has turned into the rookie who made his debut last season. Before the All-Star break, Judge was batting .329 and struck out in 36% of his at-bats. Since the All-Star break, Judge is batting a measly .169 and striking in 47% of his at-bats. It sounds awfully familiar to his 2016 statistics where Judge struck out in half of his at-bats and batted .179 in his brief outing with the MLB team. There is talk about what is ailing Aaron Judge right now to cause this downward slide. However, there is a bigger cry for Judge to be moved from the third spot in the New York Yankees’ batting order.

Aaron Judge has spent the majority of 2017 in the third spot of the order for the Yankees. Until the All-Star break, that worked out perfectly for the Yankees. However, the recent struggles (and strikeouts) have hurt the offense. The Yankees are averaging a run less per game since the All-Star break. While that is not solely in the hands of Judge, the number three hitter in the order should be more productive than a .355 slugging percentage.

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Numbers Do Not Lie

Diving deeper into Aaron Judge’s statistics, it is shocking how bad Judge has been as the third hitter for the Yankees. In 59 games started in the third spot, Judge is batting .235 with 90 strikeouts. He has 15 of his home runs from that spot, but his recent struggles damper that (as well as his 32 RBIs). Is he producing power out of that spot? Yes, but it is all or nothing. Though there has been a shift in thought about production, having an all or nothing hitter at the third spot in the order is still not okay. His poor statistics from this spot in the order are a result of his recent struggles. But those numbers are hard to digest.

Walks Are A Saving Grace

Judge’s consecutive strikeout streak and .169 batting average since the All-Star break shadows almost everything else that he does. However, Judge has not been a complete lost cause. He leads the American League in walks this season, with 29 of his lead leaguing 90 coming in the second half. That gives him an OBP of .329, which is quite remarkable given what his batting average is at the moment. Aaron Judge demonstrates better patience than he did last season even during his strikeout parade he is currently holding.

The main issue that Judge is facing is simple to explain: he is fouling off pitches that he was hitting before the All-Star Game. While watching Judge on his current downward slope, it is obvious to see the bad mechanics in his swing right now. He is flying open more than he usually did in the first half of the season. While pitchers have caught onto pitching him in his weak spots (up and in with heat or down and away with break), they are still making the mistakes that were sent 450 feet in the first half. Rather than crushing the mistakes, Judge is fouling those pitches off. Over the weekend series with the Boston Red Sox, there were at least 15-20 pitches that were in Judge’s wheelhouse that were fouled off on the first base side. That is Judge beating himself.

Yankees Need to Change Order

I can understand why manager Joe Girardi does not want to touch Aaron Judge right now. Confidence is a key aspect to hitting, something that Judge seems to be lacking at the moment. However, the switch needs to be made. A player hitting .169 does not need to be the featured player in the lineup. Personally, I would move Gary Sanchez into the third spot in the order. Since having dinner with Alex Rodriguez (August 11), Sanchez has been on a tear (.306 with 5 home runs). While Didi Gregorius is hitting better for the season with an average over .300, Sanchez supplies more power, does not strike out as much Judge (27.5% of his at-bats), and allows Gregorius to stay in the four or five hole.

Even if Girardi decides to put Matt Holliday back there when he returns from the DL, something will be better than what Judge is providing. Even with the walks, Judge needs to be driving runs in rather than walking or leaving them out there with a strikeout. The power threat is nice in theory, but there is a better chance that Judge will be walking back to the dugout rather than jogging the bases.

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Aaron Judge Won’t Be Fixed By This Move

While I said that Judge has been missing balls in his wheelhouse, pitchers have caught onto his weak points. They are exploiting it more than even right now. Part of that is his lack of confidence at the plate, but it also includes pitchers avoiding his hot zones if they can. A move in the lineup is necessary for the Yankees as a team, but not for Judge as the player. I think moving him to fifth in the order is the best idea, but that does not mean pitchers will not pitch him the same way.

The MLB is not like high school baseball where the theory of guys batting lower in the order can be grooved fastballs all the time. Aaron Judge has a target on him no matter where he bats in the order. Simply putting him lower in the order is not going to magically fix this rookie. Even if the move eventually leads to him hitting better, it will not be immediately or directly caused by the move down the order. The pressure of hitting in the third spot might be taken away, but Judge already has the pressure of an entire New York fanbase who wants to see him be the next Derek Jeter. Unless he hits a point where there is no hope, Judge will have massive expectations no matter where he batting in the order.

Maybe Judge should call up A-Rod for a dinner date.

Griffin Fuller
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Griffin Fuller

Former Division 1 pitcher at Stetson University with an immense passion for the game of baseball. Grew up playing baseball from the age of 3. Student of the game of baseball in every aspect.Located out of Debary, Florida.
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Griffin Fuller
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  • Brad Kyle

    Hey, Griffin! Nice article, and it lucidly pinpoints Judge’s struggles (I was wondering why he was handing Altuve the MVP Award! JK!). What’s perplexing is Girardi’s apparent “blind eye” toward the problem. From one who is a witness to A.J. Hinch’s conducting the Astros’ “orchestra,” and moving pieces where he sees fit, a suggestion to Girardi: Forget about all this “move him down in the order” business. Move Judge to the leadoff spot (*GASP*!) Take the RBI pressure off him, and take advantage of his high walk percentage (a stat, I’m guessing, blew up when he was owning the league).

    The Astros took off last year when Hinch moved Springer (a heretofore prototypical middle-of-the-lineup hitter) to the lead-off spot. With work, granted, his K-rate dropped, and he’s found a career in setting Houston’s table, a frequent 16-run banquet on many nights! And, who, in Altuve’s run-up to the bigs, could have seen him as anywhere but lead-off or batting 2nd? He’s batting third. If memory serves, when Alex Bregman, last year, was struggling mightily in the middle of the order, Hinch boldly moved him to 2nd in the lineup! The rest is (admittedly brief), but impressively productive history! Hinch’s confidence in simply re-assigning his role meant a lot to Alex, without a thought about “locking him in the basement” of dropping him in the order.

    But, that’s a culture Hinch has built with the team. Do you, for a minute, think that Jake Marisnick thinks he’s “less than” for batting 9th? “Big Fudge” knows he’s as much a part of the team/lineup/success as any…..ANY of the other better-known Astros. And, he’s more than proven that he deserves their belief.

    Judge can’t do any worse, and it may be that Girardi fears being a laughing-stock at putting the massive Judge in an historically base-stealing slap hitter slot in the lineup. If Judge fails there, how would you be able to tell, at this point? If he succeeds, Girardi looks like a genius. Ask Judge….I bet the farm he’d be more than game to give it a go (as compliant and eager to succeed as he is).

    What’s Girardi got to lose? Unless I’m wrong, he’ll probably have to endure a day or two of pejorative New York Post headlines. Heck, he gets those, anyway, doesn’t he?

    • Griffin Fuller

      Hey Brad, thanks for the comment! Moving Judge to the leadoff spot is an interesting idea. Much like the Astros with Springer, the Blue Jays are doing the same thing with Jose Bautista.

      While his walk rate does make it tempting to put him at leadoff, I think sending him to the fifth spot is more ideal. Sanchez is better suited for the third spot and Gregorius is too hot to move from the fourth spot.

      In regards to Girardi, he likes to talk about being new school with baseball, but some of his managerial choices say otherwise. For every game he removes a starter doing decently in the fourth inning, he is rigid about players’ spots on the team. It took Aroldis Chapman four straight horrible games for him to decide to remove the closer tag from him.

      Girardi does have a lot to lose. Looking at some problems with the team, it is easy for the organization and fans to point to Girardi as the head of some of the problems. Chapman and Judge struggles, a bullpen that might be worn down before September ends, and one of the worst defensive catchers in the league when Girardi is regarded as a former great defensive catcher. Girardi might be gun shy to pull the trigger on Judge at leadoff.

      With all that said, Judge is batting in the four hole tonight against the Tigers and they have scored 7 runs in the first three innings.

    • GoRav114

      Forget MVP, he might be coughing up rookie of year, an award they basically anointed to him in May

      • Brad Kyle

        Well, pardon my skepticism (not to mention cynicism!), but considering the deep and strong eastern seaboard baseball award voting bloc, past experience suggests that Judge could slip to .200, Altuve could end up batting .400, and the eastern writers would still be entering into more debate and discussion than you or I would think necessary considering the discrepancy.

        As I’ve said (and maybe even written) before, it seems like many eastern writers respond, “Jose Who?” and “Houston has a team?” when it comes to voting for anything regarding their NewYork/Boston/any team/player in the east baseball darlings.

        As for ROY, again, I can’t see the eastern bloc shoving aside any other team’s worthy candidate in place of the media darling, Judge. And, by now, doesn’t he already have a statue erected in his honor in that marble patch in Yankee Stadium’s center field? All may rise, but this curmudgeon happily sits!

        • Griffin Fuller

          For the AL MVP, I think it will boil down between Altuve and Chris Sale. Judge will finish in the top five of voting. Altuve does get hurt because of his location, but his season should push him there. However, both Sale and Altuve are not great in September time. If Judge can step it up in September (let’s say he brings his average up to .300 and finished with 45 HR) and the other slightly slag off, Judge could get back into it. Part of that is East Coast/big city bias, but its hard to deny a 40 HR/100 RBI on a playoff team.

          As for the AL ROY, Judge would have to fall off the planet to lose it at this point.

  • GoRav114

    I agree and though it might not immediately help him, overall it will help the team and take some pressure off. The Orioles moved Chris Davis down and it helped both. Judge should call Trey Mancini cause everytime pitchers figure him out and he slumps he adjust and gets right back on track. Good article

    • Griffin Fuller

      Thanks for the comment! It has been working for the team immediately, with Gary Sanchez on a roll. Unfortunately, the suspensions from the fight will hurt the lineup. I believe Judge could use advice from someone like Alex Rodriguez. Despite his flaws and steroid use, Rodriguez was a great hitter for most of his career. If it worked for Sanchez, it could work for Judge.

      • GoRav114

        As much as I want to dislike A Rod I can’t argue with his ability to hit. Manny Machado counts him as a mentor and has credited him in the past too so it seems like he can also relate to players still and get across good info.