On Monday night, he hit his 47th home run of the year after going nine full games without one.
He has set the bar so high than nine homer-less games look like an eternity.
At the moment, Judge has 13 more home runs than the second-ranked player in baseball, Kyle Schwarber.
Over the years, there has been a strong debate about whether lineup protection matters or not.
In this specific case, the stats say that pitchers’ approaches towards Judge have changed since another Yankees slugger, Giancarlo Stanton, has been out with an Achilles injury.
“During Giancarlo Stanton’s absence from the lineup, Aaron Judge has seen the third-lowest % of pitches in the strike zone (42%) in MLB, and the highest percentage of breaking pitches (44%). Only 18% of pitches have been fastballs in the zone. Per @PaulHembo,” ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted.
During Giancarlo Stanton's absence from the lineup, Aaron Judge has seen the third-lowest % of pitches in the strike zone (42%) in MLB, and the highest percentage of breaking pitches (44%). Only 18% of pitches have been fastballs in the zone. Per @PaulHembo.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 23, 2022
Lineup Protection: Some Basics
The theory about lineup protection states that a pitcher’s way of approaching a specific hitter may change depending on who is behind him.
If there is a light-hitting player, then the pitcher won’t throw the slugger many strikes and he will also use a steady diet of breaking balls.
If the hitter behind our hypothetical slugger (in this case, Judge) is another fearsome batter, he will probably throw more strikes and fastballs, which are easier to control, in order to avoid facing the similarly dangerous hitter (in this case, Stanton) with a man on base.
It’s similar to what happened to Juan Soto in the 2022 Washington Nationals: pitchers refused to give him anything good to hit because they knew the rest of the lineup wasn’t as dangerous.
Some people believe in lineup protection, others don’t, but evidently, pitchers respect Stanton (who has 24 home runs this year) and his absence has affected the Yankees.