Three reasons the Yankees’ Aaron Judge has had a home run drought since reaching No. 60

New York Yankees slugger and AL MVP leader Aaron Judge will attempt to hit his 61st home run of 2022 Wednesday night in Toronto (He leads away even though the Yankees are resting many regulars after winning the AL East). His next home run will equal Roger Maris’ single-season home run record in the American League. Maris hit 61 home runs with the Yankees in 1961. With eight games remaining, Judge has a chance to overtake Maris and own the record outright.

Judge hit his 60th homer last Tuesday and is 5-19 (.263) with three doubles, 12 walks and eight strikeouts in the seven games since. The seven-game home run drought is the second-longest of the season — Judge went seven games without things from April 14-21 and a season-high nine games without homers from August 13-21.

“Not at all… That’s going to come,” Richter told reporters. including ESPNwhen asked if he’s concerned about his home run drought following Tuesday’s AL East win.

Given the year he’s had and the fact that his next home run will have historic significance, it’s fair to ask if Judge is eating. That may be so – we can’t get inside Judge’s head to know for sure – but the signs point to a thug keeping to himself. Here are three reasons why this is more of a home run drought than a hitter pressing.

1. The judge does not hunt

The telltale sign of a collapsing/pushing hitter is to dash out of the zone (and also take hittable pitches in the zone). They step out of their usual ways and start doing things they don’t normally do on the plate. Judge has been one of the most disciplined thugs in the league in recent years, and that trademark discipline remains intact. The payment:

  • Seven games before the 60th homer: 24.6% tracking rate
  • Seven games since 60th homer: 20.7% tracking rate
  • Season average: 23.1 percent hunting rate
  • MLB Average: 29.1 percent hunting rate

The judge actually hunts fewer since hitting his 60th home run, which is understandable given that teams don’t pitch him that much. The judge walked four times Tuesday, retiring all four walks after falling down the count, including once from a 2-0 deficit and once from a 2-1 deficit. Richter is still very difficult to put down. Hitters who press usually don’t.

2. Pitchers pass him on

As already mentioned, there are a lot of pitchers on the go these days. Part of that is strategic (the Blue Jays chose not to pitch to judge with a base open in the 10th inning Monday, because duh), and I guess part of that is pitchers not wanting to become trivia-answers . No one wants to give up #61, so they’re careful with Judge. Maybe too careful.

Jude has hit 12 homers since his 60th home run and 56 total in his last 52 games. And the thing is, it works. Only twice did Judge come by to score after those 12 walks (both Tuesday nights). The guys batting behind him (mainly Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres) haven’t paid the pitchers enough to reconsider their strategy.

And honestly, even if the judge came by to score after, say, 10 of those 12 walks, I don’t think the pitchers would correct the other way and stop walking him. A walk (a potential run) is still better than a homer (a guaranteed run) in their eyes, although Judge occasionally makes outs if you pitch him. Pitchers just don’t want to risk it.

The point is that Judge gets very little hitting at the moment, and he’s disciplined enough to make those walks. He’s still very tough, as evidenced by the four-walk tie after falling behind on Tuesday’s count. A pressing or struggling hitter this is not.

“I’m trading four walks for a win every day,” Judge told reports. including MLB.comafter Tuesday’s win.

3. He is only missing beatable pitches

This is the single main reason Judge is in a (gasp!) seven game home run drought. He is only misses the few pitches he was able to hit. He came under three balls during the recently completed homestand in New York…

…and look at the positions of the places he’s fouled since hitting 60th place. There are definitely some juicy bugs begging to be squashed here:

Aaron Judge has missed a few errors since hitting his 60th home run.

baseball scholar

The argument can be made that missing beatable pitches above the record is evidence that the judge is pressuring and trying to do too much. I think the fact that Judge isn’t chasing is stronger evidence that he isn’t pushing. Sometimes thugs overlook mistakes. Really often. That’s just baseball. If every mistake landed in the seats, this sport would be rated a lot better.

Bottom line, Judge has very little to hit at the moment and he’s not trying to do too much by expanding his zone. And when he got pitches to hit, he just missed the barrel and either got kicked out or fouled it away. When Judge starts changing his approach and showing outward frustration, we know he’s pushing. Right now, this is just a talented player who hasn’t hit a home run in a week, which happens all the time in this game. Three reasons the Yankees’ Aaron Judge has had a home run drought since reaching No. 60

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