Yankees Statcast Studs: May 15th, 2023

aaron judge, yankees

The Yankees got a massive win over the Toronto Blue Jays, clobbering three home runs in the process while holding the Blue Jays to just four runs, with just one of them being charged toward Yankee pitching. It was an excellent game for the Bronx Bombers, who are now 9-4 in their last 13 games and now hold a playoff spot in spite of a brutal stretch where they struggled to do much of anything offensively. With Alek Manoah’s futility providing plenty to discuss offensively, let’s take a dive into some of the most interesting tidbits of data from yesterday’s contest.

Aaron Judge: A Tale of Two Home Runs

aaron judge, yankees

In his remarkable career, Aaron Judge has made a living off of hitting against the Toronto Blue Jays, and tonight was no different. In his 99th game against the in-division rival, Judge blasted his 9th and 10th home runs of the season, bringing his career total against the Jays to 30 and raising his OPS against them to .970. His first blast was an opposite-field barrel, which is atypical for most hitters who generate most of their power from their pullside. This 375-foot longball came off of the bat at 102 MPH, making it the softest-hit homer and shortest traveling longball of the season for the Yankee captain

This homer got the scoring started for the Yankees, who would tag Manoah for five runs on six hits and seven walks. We’ll discuss Manoah’s incompetence on the mound later on, but Judge wasn’t done from here. After working three walks in the game, including a walk with the bases loaded to bring in a run, Judge would face Jay Jackson, who would throw a hanging slider to the reigning AL MVP. As expected, this ball was then clobbered 462 feet at 114.9 MPH. This was the farthest-hit HR and hardest-hit HR of the season for #99, which gave Aaron Judge an odd achievement on the day.

Aaron Judge hitting both his hardest-hit, softest-hit, farthest-hit, and shortest-hit home runs in the same game is astonishing, but it’s also poetic in a sense. Judge’s opposite-field power and strong directional hit tool, coupled with his unbelievable raw power, allow him to let some balls travel deep and still go yard, or he can be extremely aggressive if he gets a pitch that’s poorly located, such as this hanging slider. In fact, the hanging slider was hit so hard that Jay Jackson thought Aaron Judge was looking toward the dugout to get some sort of unfair advantage over him, which is comical.

What Jay Jackson is seemingly unaware of is the fact that sliders thrown from right-handed pitchers in the part of the strike zone get absolutely hammered in comparison to league-average offense, so I figured I’d demonstrate just how abysmal of a pitch a hanging slider is.

By using Baseball Savant’s “search” feature, we can find the exact zone the slider was thrown and take sliders thrown in that zone from RHPs to find how the league hits against that pitch, and we see that the results are staggering. Furthermore, there have been 30 HRs hit in 578 PAs against that pitch, meaning sliders hung in that spot produce results that make the league as a whole hit at a 31 HR pace over 600 PAs, whereas the early-season HR pace as a league is just 18 per 600 PAs.

Jay Jackson threw a meatball to Aaron Judge, and Aaron Judge decided to clobber it a whopping 462 feet, that doesn’t seem too suspicious. That blast was the 11th farthest hit HR of the season and 12th hardest hit HR of the season thus far, so Giancarlo Stanton’s 485-foot blast is safe for the Yankees’ team-best distance (for now). Both HRs were barrels, giving Aaron Judge 21 total barrels on the season, the 4th most in baseball, and putting him back in position to lead the league in barrels once again. No one has a higher qualified barrel per batted ball rate, and Judge is starting to look like his MVP self.

Is Jake Bauers’ Power Surge Legit?

jake bauers, yankees

After a game where Jake Bauers went 0-4 with just a walk, this feels like an odd question to ask, but it’s about the process of his at-bats coupled with his season totals that raise this question. Bauers just narrowly missed his third HR of the season with a deep flyout to centerfield off of Alek Manoah, registering as a barrel. That was his 5th barrel of the season, and for context, here’s how long it took in each season for Bauers to reach that total:

This seems rather significant to note, and this was a trend that was identified in Triple-A when I discussed his surge in raw power that came from a new swing. There are some key issues to discuss, most notably a K% over 36%, but in terms of quality of contact, he’s been excellent. He’s barreling the baseball 23.5% of the time, has an average exit velocity of 91.5 MPH, a hard hit rate of 58.8%, and his xwOBA on the season is a whopping .417. His 119 wRC+ on the season is pretty solid, and if he can maintain that wRC+, he’ll find himself becoming a regular in the outfield.

Bauers quickly registered a new career-best for Max Exit Velocity at the Major League level at 113.5 MPH, placing him in the 91st Percentile for Max EV. The Yankees could have a gem on their hands, as Bauers’ biggest issue in the big leagues was generating consistent game power, and if he can continue to hammer the baseball, good results are almost guaranteed. He’ll need to make more consistent contact (35.2% Whiff%) and generate more pulled-batted balls, but that’s something that can come with in-season adjustments.

It’s too soon to do any victory laps or make any sweeping conclusions, but I do believe that these are overall positive changes, and I’d buy low on Bauers before he becomes more mainstream as a Yankee. It’s a bold prediction, but I think Bauers will end up as the Yankees’ everyday left fielder through at least the trade deadline, where his performance could determine whether the Yankees make a meaningful outfield addition or potentially focus on other position groups instead.

Bauers is a massive wild card for the Yankees, and if this is a Luke Voit/Gio Urshela situation, it could yield a low-cost outfield option for the near future as Jasson Dominguez and Spencer Jones continue to progress through Minor League Baseball.

Alek Manoah Talks the Talk and Walks the Ballpark

alek manoah, blue jays, yankees

The Yankees showed Alek Manoah that while he may believe that Gerrit Cole is the biggest cheater in the history of baseball, he’s also statistically one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball. Alek Manoah set a career-high in walks with seven against the Yankees, allowing six hits as well, with two of those hits being home runs. Historically speaking, Manoah’s pitched extremely well against the Yankees, but he’s been so terrible this year that it didn’t matter. Willie Calhoun clobbered a 102.5 MPH bomb that went 404 feet into right-center field, and just when he thinks he was safe, the 4th and 5th innings were disastrous.

Five of his seven walks came in those two innings, including a walk to Aaron Judge with bases loaded, and the Yankees did this without DJ LeMahieu and Harrison Bader in the lineup. That’s right, in a game where the Yankees started Jimmy Cordero, in a game where two of their five best available hitters not being in the lineup, in a game where the Yankees had Aaron Hicks and Willie Calhoun in the same lineup, they tagged Alek Manoah for five runs.

The Blue Jays are 0-5 in Alek Manoah’s last five starts against the Bronx Bombers, making it 400 days since he last won against the Yankees. To be fair, wins and losses aren’t directly on the pitcher, as a poor bullpen performance or a miserable offensive showing can result in a loss even when Manoah pitches well. That being said, the recent trends would suggest that Manoah hasn’t necessarily looked his best against the Yankees, with a 4.03 ERA and 11 walks in 22.1 innings in his last four starts against the Yankees. In fact, Manoah’s struggled to even outpitch Jhony Brito this season.

Brito, the 25-year-old rookie without a solid breaking pitch, has a better ERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA, WAR, and K-BB% than Manoah, who was touted as an ace. Many people had him ranked as a better pitcher than Gerrit Cole, despite the fact that Manoah has a career xFIP of 4.31 and SIERA of 4.14. He’s simply not the elite pitcher he was labeled as, he’s not the Yankee-killer he once was, and he’s got no business talking trash to future Hall of Famer like Gerrit Cole.

He either threw it off of the plate or in the heart of the zone, and Manoah’s starting to unravel entirely on the season. Perhaps if he focused more on pitching against the Yankees instead of talking about them, he wouldn’t have the highest walk rate in all of baseball.

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