Yankees: Aaron Judge’s defense should not be forgotten
By Matthew Orso
Since beginning his first full season with the Yankees in 2017 Aaron Judge has arguably been the best right fielder in baseball. His offensive prowess speaks for itself. If not for injuries, which have limited Judge to just 214 games since 2018, there would be no contest.
Since 2017, the Yankees right-fielder has averaged 35 home runs, 79 RBI, and 93 runs scored per season. If you made it an average of 162 games per year, then Judge would be averaging 47 homers, 104 RBI and 123 runs scored per year.
Let’s also not forget how hard he hits the baseball. He has an average exit velocity of 95.1 miles-per-hour since the start of 2017. That’s the best of any major leaguer during that span, with a minimum 750 baseballs hit. For context, Twins’ slugger Nelson Cruz is second in the majors with a 93.6 MPH exit velocity.
But, for just one moment—I want to focus on the most underrated part of Judge’s game. His defense.
Yordan Alvarez was up with Alex Bregman at first and no one out in the bottom of the fifth inning Saturday. He hit a screaming line drive towards right-center. Alvarez’s ball was hit at 110.1 MPH—the hardest-hit ball of any Astro in the game. Alvarez’s ball was hit at 110.1 MPH—the hardest-hit ball of any Astro in the game. It had an xBA of .740, meaning it was likely going to be a hit.
But, lest we forget, Judge patrols right field. He caught the ball and threw to first base to double up Bregman. It’s not the first time Judge’s defensive abilities have taken center stage this postseason. Remember, he also had a pair of dynamic catches in the Division Series against Minnesota.
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The 6’7’’ Yankee All-Star has been raking in the field all season. Judge (19) was tied with the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger for the most defensive runs saved among MLB right fielders this season. This is despite playing far fewer innings (775.1-to-911.1—a difference of 136 innings) than Bellinger. Remember that DRS (like WAR) is a cumulative statistic, so there’s no minimum number of innings needed to add to the number.
In fact, only two outfielders across the majors—Victor Robles (22) and Lorenzo Cain (20) had a higher DRS at any single outfield position than Judge last season. They each eclipsed 1,100 innings in center field. Imagine if Judge had a full season’s worth under his belt!
Watching Judge’s defensive exploits in Game One reminded me of how remarkable a player he is. Gleyber Torres got a lot of love from across the majors—and rightfully so—but Judge also continues to surprise and amaze every chance he gets.