Yankees winning despite Aaron Judge fierce struggles; why it’s a good thing

The New York Yankees have won the first three games of the 2024 season for the first time in over two decades, and they’ve done it largely without the help of Aaron Judge at the plate.

The star outfielder—now the everyday centerfielder—has struggled immensely through the first weekend of the season. No one wants to see The Captain struggle. Judge performing at a high level is good for the Yankees. It’s good for baseball.

But even the larger-than-life 31-year-old slugger is human. The only difference now is he has a cast around him that can support these struggles.

Yankees winning despite Aaron Judge is good—for now

To say Judge has struggled to get things going at the plate may be putting it nicely. In 14 plate appearances through the first three games, Judge has just two hits (a double and a single) to go along with four strikeouts and two walks. He’s grounded into a double play twice.

He’s whiffed on 33.3% of his swings, according to Baseball Savant, and he’s swung at 50% of his pitches, which is a few percentage points higher than his average

Players are allowed to struggle. Even though it’s uncommon for a star like Judge, there can be several factors leading to a lack of production at the plate.

Maybe he’s pressing a bit. Maybe he’s still getting his timing down after missing a chunk of Spring Training due to an abdominal injury. Maybe the pitching staff for the Houston Astros is pretty good (it is). It can be one or all of these factors.

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 A difference in supporting cast

The difference with Judge’s struggles compared to seasons in the past comes down to the supporting cast around him. It’s fun watching Judge dominate opposing pitchers as a one-man wrecking crew. It’s equally as frustrating to watch the entire team struggle when Judge isn’t mashing baseballs.

The sample size is small, but this Yankees team seems different. They have shown early—against a formidable opponent on the road—that they can scratch wins despite their leader starting the season slowly.

The arrival of Juan Soto clearly has had a positive impact both on the field and in the locker room. The emergence of Oswaldo Cabrera, who has a fire lit under him, has pushed the Yankees toward a start they haven’t seen in over two decades. The improvements of Anthony Volpe in Year 2 give the Yankees another clear foundational piece.

Heck, even the starting pitching is stepping up enough in the absence of ace Gerrit Cole.

These are things that winning teams do. Other players step up when the leader struggles. These also are things the Yankees haven’t done in recent memory.

Long-term struggles would bring about concern, but Judge has been an MVP candidate in each of the last three seasons. He would have been right in the conversation had he not missed 56 games in 2023. It’s best to give him the benefit of the doubt that he will get going.

Learning to win without relying on Judge’s superstardom every single day will be vital if the Yankees want to meet expectations.

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Despite the small sample size to begin the season, this team is proving they know how to do that.


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