Yankees’ abysmal offense creates a new narrative around Aaron Judge’s absence

The Yankees dugout looks heartbroken after their series loss to the Red Sox at at Fenway Park on June 18, 2023.

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The Yankees now have the best offensive aggregation only on paper after losing 6-0 to the Red Sox, the worst in the AL East. However, the continued focus on Aaron Judge’s absence as the cause of the Yankees’ slide has led to a new storyline emerging across the baseball community, fanbase, and the media.

Soon after the Red Sox swept them at Fenway Park, the Yankees manager agreed: “That’s the storyline, so we’re going to get beat over the head with that. The reality is that team we’re rolling out there is capable of doing damage offensively.”

Whenever Aaron Judge unleashes another powerful home run, the resounding chant of “All Rise” fills the air, as if it has become a trademarked phrase. However, does this imply that once he is not in the lineup, each of his crucial teammates must perform in a contrary and underwhelming manner? They all crumble and fail to win games without Aaron Judge.

“That, to me, is just an excuse right now. We’ve got plenty of guys capable of putting up runs,” Boone admitted. “I know it’s going to be the story every day until we start banging away. But we’ve got more than capable people to get it done. We just got to get a little more consistent right now.”

Yankees are in ruins without Aaron Judge

Since the injury to Aaron Judge on June 3 in Los Angeles, the Yankees have been consistently stumbling without Aaron Judge. Looking at the lineup of talented players, it’s difficult to comprehend or accept. However, the reality is undeniable.

In the absence of their captain, the Yankees appear lost like a ship adrift in the Hudson River. Over the past 17 days since Aaron Judge’s injury, which occurred during a remarkable catch to prevent a run, the Yankees have become the least productive team offensively in all of baseball. This is quite a statement considering the struggles of teams like the A’s and Royals.

Their underwhelming 4-8 record in games without Aaron Judge fails to capture the true extent of their offensive struggles. In those 12 games alone, they find themselves at the bottom of the league in various offensive categories. The Yankees hold the 30th and last position in batting average with a meager .195, their on-base percentage of .255 is also dead last, and they sit second to last in slugging percentage at .344, narrowly avoiding the lowest spot occupied by Kansas City.

With Aaron Judge sidelined, the significance of the reigning MVP, Shohei Ohtani, has become even more apparent. Judge was a strong contender for the title before his injury, and he would likely still hold that position today if it weren’t for Ohtani’s remarkable performance that has captured the attention of the entire sport.

Aaron Judge signing autographs for his fans in New York during a public event.
thejudge44/ insta

Yankees refuse to believe the new narrative

“I know the narrative is ‘without-Judge this-and-that,’ but I don’t think that’s fair to put on him or anyone on this team. “One guy doesn’t make the biggest difference in the world,” Anthony Rizzo said. “And for us as a unit, we have to come together and rally — for us, for him, for everyone.”

The Yankees may not embrace this particular narrative, but it’s a more favorable one compared to the ongoing concerns about injuries, such as the absence of Carlos Rodon and Harrison Bader or the challenges faced by their rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe.

However, it is the more urgent storyline that demands attention, particularly considering the uncertainty surrounding Aaron Judge’s return. While the pitching staff has managed to maintain a level of efficiency despite being understaffed, and there is the confidence that Anthony Volpe will find his rhythm eventually, the lingering question of Aaron Judge’s comeback overshadows these aspects.

The impact of Aaron Judge’s absence is so severe that it raises concerns about the need for him to exercise caution in his playing style. While the Yankees slugger exemplifies the ideal team player who selflessly puts his body on the line, it is increasingly evident that this team simply cannot thrive without him, whether or not they are willing to acknowledge this truth.

Anthony Rizzo, who shares a close bond with Aaron Judge on the team (unofficially), conveyed to Yankees writers in Boston that having Aaron Judge absent is not a unique situation for the team, as there are 30 other teams currently without him.

Rizzo further expressed that Aaron Judge holds a significant role as the captain and leader of the team, and while his absence is unfortunate, he believes that one individual does not have an overwhelmingly profound impact on the team’s performance. He may not be dedicating his time to scrutinizing team statistics on Monday, as he likely has more important matters to attend to.

However, it’s worth noting that the Yankees’ WRC-plus, a metric that gauges runs created relative to the league average of 100, stands at a lowly 64. This places them below not only the A’s and Royals but also all other teams in the league.

Credit must be given to Rizzo for his exceptional leadership qualities and his ability to articulate his thoughts effectively. But it is disheartening to acknowledge that the current state of affairs shouldn’t be the reality for the team.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

But the reality bites the Yankees

Even in the absence of Aaron Judge and Bader, the roster of players the Yankees have assembled is still reminiscent of their typical caliber. This implies that they possess a highly accomplished group of individuals. Although the outfield may currently lack stability without Aaron Judge and Bader, there are still numerous Yankees players with talent and a noteworthy background.

Despite being a former MVP, Giancarlo Stanton’s performance has been lackluster since his return from the injured list, with only five hits in 41 at-bats.

Josh Donaldson, another former MVP, is also struggling to find his rhythm. Despite his impressive track record and a solid performance in the previous season with a 127 OPS-plus for the Twins, Donaldson has only managed four hits in 33 at-bats since returning from the injured list. His overall batting average stands at .151, indicating his ongoing struggles at the plate.

DJ LeMahieu, a remarkable two-time batting champion and the sole player in the modern era to achieve this feat in both leagues, is currently enduring a challenging stretch at the plate. Despite his past success, it’s worth noting that Luis Arraez, among others, has emerged as a strong contender to replicate LeMahieu’s accomplishment this season. However, LeMahieu’s recent performance has been lackluster, as he has only managed 15 hits in 90 at-bats across 24 games.

Anthony Rizzo is confronting Kyle Higashioka following his mistake against the Rays on May 6, 2023, at Tropicana Field.

Despite Anthony Rizzo‘s impressive track record which includes receiving MVP votes on five occasions, his performance since returning from a neck injury has been underwhelming. He has recorded only four hits in 48 at-bats, although his OPS-plus remains respectable at 113. Notably, Rizzo ranks third in the league in “sweet spot percentage” with a remarkable 44.4.

Undoubtedly, Anthony Rizzo has been plagued by unfortunate circumstances, experiencing a string of bad luck in his hitting performance. However, the most significant stroke of misfortune for the Yankees is undeniably Aaron Judge’s collision with the concrete base beneath the Dodger Stadium fence. This incident has left the Yankees in a tie for the sixth playoff spot in the highly competitive American League, with a record of 39-33. Adding to the challenges, they are also contending with the Houston Astros, who have similarly been impacted by significant injuries, making them a formidable opponent and historical rivals of the Yankees.

Undoubtedly, the Yankees have the opportunity to alter the narrative that they find unfavorable. However, at this stage, they will need to substantiate their abilities and demonstrate their capabilities.

Rizzo emphasized the importance of unity and rallying together as a team. He expressed the belief that it is unfair to solely attribute the team’s performance to the absence of Aaron Judge or any individual player. Whether deemed fair or not, Rizzo is well aware that life in the big city comes with its challenges when the team is without its biggest and most talented player.

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