The Yankees kicked off their quest for a 28th World Series title Tuesday in the Bronx. They took Game 1 of the ALDS from the Cleveland Guardians in a mostly seamless fashion by a score of 4-1.
Gerrit Cole looked like the staff ace, and the bullpen held down a late lead that was built off homers from Harrison Bader and Anthony Rizzo. Do you know who didn’t have a good night at the plate? That’d be the likely 2022 AL MVP, Aaron Judge. He did walk and scored on Rizzo’s sixth-inning dinger, but the outfielder also struck out three times while hitting in the leadoff spot.
The Yankees can’t have that become a trend if they want to achieve postseason glory. However, it was a great sign to see New York get the job done without its MVP having a huge part in it. That’s mostly the case because if Judge wasn’t doing big-time damage during the regular season (and especially during the second half), the Yankees weren’t having a ton of success.
Judge appeared in 96 wins and 61 losses for the Yankees in 2022. Like many top-tier players, his production was quite lopsided in those situations. In 442 plate appearances during victories, the soon-to-be free agent slashed .340/.441/.797 with 49 homers, 104 RBI, and 104 runs scored. He accumulated 254 plate appearances when the Yankees lost, hitting .259/.397/.488 with 13 homers, 27 RBI, and 24 runs scored.
So, it’s pretty simple — when Judge hits, the Yankees win. When he’s not firing on all cylinders at the plate, it’s tough for New York to walk away victorious. I mean, we can point to New York’s 10-18 record in August as a perfect example. They struggled even with Judge finishing that month with a 203 wRC+, a 1.091 OPS, nine homers, and 22 RBI.
Once again, I’m not saying it’s a good thing that Judge had a tough night at the plate. If the Yankees want to make a deep run into the postseason and contend for a World Series, the new American League home run record holder needs to be a significant part of it. He’s quite clearly the engine that makes this offense go.
He’s not always going to be able to single-handedly carry this squad, though (just most of the time). On the occasions he can’t, other hitters need to step up. That’s what Bader, Rizzo, and Jose Trevino did on Tuesday night.