Aaron Judge and the Curious Case of No Pulled Home Runs

Understated as it and he may be, Aaron Judge is having a fantastic year again. Even after an 0-5 performance against Boston on Sunday, he’s hitting .292/.412/.512 with a .390 wOBA and 145 wRC+. That slugging may seem a tad low and his HR/PA% has dropped about one percent, but his ISO still sits at an impressive .225. Oh, and, somehow, he hasn’t pulled any of his home runs.

All 11 of Judge’s homers have gone to centerfield or rightward, with the majority heading towards almost straight away right field. This is just another demonstration of Judge’s extreme power and skills. Nonetheless, it’s curious. 2017 and 2018 saw much less extreme distributions of home run locations. Let’s work things out and see if we can figure out why he hasn’t pulled any home runs this year.

Below is a table listing the results portion of Judge’s batted balls by location from 2017-2019:

Year/Location (ISO/wOBA/wRC+)PullCenterOpposite
2017.571/.622/304.480/.558/266.620/.604/.291
2018.264/.541/251.333/.484/212.507/.556/261
2019.026/.321/99.333/.553/255.781/.742/383

The table reveals a steady drop in power and overall production to the pull side, with general increases from 2018-19 in center/opposite.

Here’s a look at the ‘process’ he’s taken in hitting the ball all over the field:

Year/Location (Soft/Med/Hard)PullCenterOpposite
20179.3/40.7/50.08.7/39.4/51.917.0/52.1/30.9
201810.3/36.5/53.315.7/33.7/50.615.8/46.1/38.2
2019 2.6/46.2/51.39.5/28.6/61.99.4/31.3/59.4

What sticks out most is the shift that’s occurred over the last three seasons in the opposite field category.Each year, the soft and medium contact rates have fallen while the hard contact rates have risen. Perhaps Judge is making an effort to go the other way. He knows that pitchers are going to try to jam him inside so he can’t extend his arms to do damage. The solution, then, is to go up the middle or the other way, and that’s what he’s been doing.

Here’s how he was pitched in 2017 and 2018:

And here’s how he’s been pitched so far in 2019:

Generally speaking, there isn’t a huge difference in how he’s been pitched. However, there is a slight uptick in pitches thrown away to Judge, specifically low and away. While we’ve all bemoaned the awful low strike treatment he’s gotten this year (and his whole career), he’s clearly making the best of it. When it comes to those pitches, the only way you’re going to be productive is going the other way or getting the bat out in front and driving them up the middle. That’s what Judge is doing.

Aaron Judge is one of the very best players in the league. Part of what makes him so good is that he has incredible power to all fields. So far in 2019, he’s taking advantage of his middle/opposite field power in a big, big way. It seems that pitchers made some sort of adjustment to him and he’s adjusted right back, punishing pitches to center and right. I doubt he’ll go all year without hitting a pull side home run, but he’s shown he can be productive without doing something easy and logical for him. To the rest of the league, that should be down right scary. All rise.

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4 Comments

  1. Coach GG

    He basically missed a spring training, he retooled his swing, umps have miscalled too many pitches in him cause he’s too tall that he had to raise his socks up! He also had a lot of trouble low & outside or up & in! But, I will keep him he’s great & he will get greater!

  2. dasit

    just speculating (it’s the internet) but a sore oblique could make it difficult to turn on a pitch and pull it

  3. CountryClub

    I made a similar comment that has vanished, so I’ll keep this short in case it pops back up. But, he has acknowledged that he retooled his swing in the winter to go oppo. I don’t love it, but you can’t really argue with the results so far.

  4. CountryClub

    This was a conscious decision by him. He retooled his swing in the off-season to be opposite field centric. As you said, you really can’t argue with the numbers he’s putting up. But, I personally don’t like it. I think he’s limiting his overall effectiveness. It’s also why we don’t see those monster HRs from him anymore. He’s basically turning himself into a 6’7” Jeter (of course, Jeter didn’t have his raw power).

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