Throughout the 2021 season, Aaron Judge has been the unquestioned MVP of the Yankees from the offensive side of things. However, June has not been kind to the resident right fielder. This month, he’s hitting .241/.333/.392. The gap in BA/OBP shows us he’s still taking his walks, but considering he hit .300/.407/.556 from April through May, that’s a big step back, especially in the power department.
His ISO works out to just .151, paltry for Judge even if we wish Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and DJ LeMahieu could rack up an ISO that high. But Judge isn’t those guys; he’s better and way more powerful. So what’s up?
To start, he’s just not hitting the ball as hard as often. While he’s actually increased his hard hit percentage against breaking balls–68.4% in June–from April (50) and May (52), it’s gone down on both fastballs and offspeed pitches:
The drops on hard hit percentage are fairly drastic, dropping about 14 points against fastballs and about 30% against offspeed pitches. Predictably, this has led to a drop in average exit velocity against both pitch types, though the drop against fastballs still leaves him at 96 MPH. Against offspeed pitches, though, the number is just below 85 MPH, which is weak for anyone, let alone Aaron Judge.
Then there’s the thing that seems to have plagued Yankee power hitters all year: too many ground balls:
He’s had big jumps in grounders against offspeed and breaking pitches, which, if you’re a pitcher, is the point of those pitches. But given that Judge is a hitter, that’s a problem. As I wrote this sentence, Randy fired off this tweet:
To drive this point home, let’s take a look at a heat map style spray chart for Judge’s June:
That’s a lot of red on the left side of the infield, even more so when you consider the following zone profile:
A lot of pitches down and away and a lot of grounders to the left side. That would seem to indicate, along with the decreased hard hit percentages and the increased grounder percentages, that Judge is pulling off balls down and away, as well as topping them/other pitches. All of that spells a lack of power.
There’s no way Aaron Judge is going to keep hitting to a .151 ISO, especially when his overall batted ball numbers are still very strong. His swing and whiff data, by the way, is fairly stable throughout the year, so that’s not at play here. This is a contact issue, a quality of contact issue to be more specific. It’s not going to be long, I imagine, before Judge corrects this and rounds back into his normal, powerful form.