Thursday, August 10, 2017

Judge and Ellsbury, a tale of two trajectories?

Lately, it's been a nightly root canal, watching Aaron Judge. Every time he steps to the plate, his average has dropped another point. (This morning, he's .294. Next stop: The .280s of Pat Tabler [.281, career], Kevin Youkils [.281] and - gulp - Jacoby Ellsbury [.284.]) Stop me if you've heard this, but Judge chases more curves than Leonardo DiCaprio, and then watches third strikes split the plate like a Lou Groza extra point. A month ago, Yank fans booed when a pitcher walked Judge. Now, it's a minor victory.

It's not Judge's fault. We can't blame a guy for vastly overachieving in the first half. We knew a 30-HR half couldn't last. Even the Trouts and Harpers must adjust. We saw it last year with Gary Sanchez. We would have seen it with Greg Bird, but for the Heel That Would Not Heal. The instant Babe Ruth - be it Ron Kittle, Walt Dropo, or Kevin Maas - comes and goes like White House spokesmen. (There you go commentors; start arguing politics!) And today, the question across the Yankiverse is one we always knew was coming:

What will be the career base line for Aaron Judge?

If his slump continues, by late September, we're looking at a .250 hitter with 40+ home runs - not bad, dammit! - who nevertheless bats seventh and maybe platoons in the Wild Card game. If that happens, the MLB Home Run Derby curse will gain national notoriety. For now, we can only hope the coaches who refined Judge's mechanics last winter can do it again, on the fly, during a pennant race. We've been waiting for Judge to "get hot," as if it's automatic that he'd suddenly go on a tear. We keep waiting. I dunno anymore. For me, the sign of hope comes in the form of the other Aaron. 

I say this because Aaron Hicks - perhaps the more ascendant of the two - should return tomorrow night, and just in time. He was going to create an outfield logjam, until Clint Frazier conveniently "slightly" strained an oblique - (there is no such thing as a slight oblique strain, but that's what they're calling it.) Which brings us back to Mr. Career .284 - Jacoby Hellsbury, the man without a plan.

The nutjob fan in all of us simply wants Ellsbury to vanish, like a foe of Vladimir Putin. But that won't happen. Nor should it, frankly. If the Yankees were to release him, they'd still pay his $21 million salary for three more years. Why watch him have a comeback in Seattle or - gulp - the Mets or - double gulp - Boston? The fact is, Ellsbury probably has a decent half-season left in him. We cannot just give it away and be virtually helping to pay Joggy Cano's tab. 

For now, all we can do is use Ellsbury as a pinch runner and/or LH outfielder, then trade him next winter for someone with an equally onerous contract. I'd dream of a Verlander or Zimmerman - Jordan, not Ryan - somebody so vastly overpaid that the front office considers him an eyesore. We have a gaggle of outfielders. We could stick a Verlander in the bullpen without drawing heckles from Joel Sherman. Such a deal would probably require Foodstamps Hal to eat more of his precious inheritance - one less beach house - and it won't necessarily work out, beyond the instant gratification of seeing Ellsbury vanish. (There's a reason why teams trade washed up pitchers; the Yankees are constantly re-learning this.) But it's how we will eventually solve the Ellsbury/Voldemort situation. And in the meantime, here is a grim reality: 

If Aaron Judge continues to flail, he might be platooning with Ellsbury in the one-game Bud Selig Memorial Wild Card this fall. It's a long, long season... to be decided in a short, short game. Unless Judge figures it out, that's where we're headed.


JM said...

For a long time now, I've wanted Ells gone, too. He's jamming up the outfield. He's washed up. He was the biggest waste of money since Carl Pavano.

But you know, he made some nice plays in center. Got some hits. Ran some bases.

What I'd really like to see is the comeback he seemed to be putting together before he was hurt this year. (Cripes, the guy gets hurt more than an emo singer/songwriter.) I'd like to see him pop a few dingers. Steal bases. Hit .300 for the rest of the year.

Also, a resurgence would be great timing as a tie-in to the release of "Rumble." And in the clips I've seen, it's good to see all of the Indians in the movie say "Indian" and not "Native American." Maybe I'm just a little annoyed with p.c. lingo, but it was a refreshing departure from guilt-laden white people trying to be oh-so-sensitive.

Besides, as the movie shows, Indians rock. Go Ells.

The Ghost of Yankees Past said...

Ellsbury is a solid baseball player. The problem is we paid for an all star and that he is not. At the time the Yankees gave him the contract you knew we overpaid. So, he was destined to disappoint. To his credit he has keep his head down and keeps working without causing clubhouse issues. Hopefully he can stay healthy and contribute in the second half.

Looking at a pitch chart to Judge since the all star break, pitchers have adjusted to him. They are pitching up and out of the strike zone and throwing more breaking balls down and away from him. He is swinging at balls high out of the strike zone and missing the breaking balls. The ball is in his court!

Anonymous said...

Wonder what impact the Home Run derby at the All-Star game contributed to Judge's slump?

Parson Tom said...

I'm eight years from retirement. I wish somebody would let me keep my head down and keep working. I definitely would not cause any problems. In fact, I'd probably buy lunch every day if they would pay me $23 million per.

joking aside, the Ghost is right. The best we can hope for from Jake is a hot Aug-Sept. He's been showing some signs of life. Is Girardi facile enough to sit Gardner more and let Ellsbury play? Play the hot hand, Joe!

It's just hard to fathom how they thought it'd be a good idea to get Ells when we already had the same guy in Gardner. well, at least we got two all star campaigns out of Gardner, or at least two all star 1st halves.

Anonymous said...

People like el duque Alphonso complain about the Yankees' failure to promote young talent but then glower and below just like the Ghost of the Fat Man when that talent wavers or stutters in their first year or two--in essence, no patience, just like the Fat Man. You can't have it both ways--if you're going to go with youth, you have to endure youth's growing pains and not pull the emergency brake every time one of them strikes out or suffers a downturn. Rebuilding with youth means waiting through a year or two of underperformance while the team and the young players grow into their roles--look at Boston, Houston, KC, etc., and other such recent success stories: they sucked for a year or two or more before they flourished with young players. You guys no doubt would have traded Bernie William sometime in his first two erratic seasons. You claim to abhor the heritage of the Boss, but in many ways you carry it on even as you claim to abhor it.

Anonymous said...

bellow, not below--typo, typing too fast.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Good point, anon low-cap. But I will say this: there's something wrong when your star rookie looks like Freddie Lynn in 1975, or A-Rod in 1996, then can't hit .200 and becomes the worst clutch hitter in baseball, almost overnight.

From all accounts, Judge is a menschy guy, willing to take instruction, not liable to get a swelled head.

Why, then, is he unable to break out of this deadly nosedive? Why is every single one of our young position players regressing?

I think it must speak to some terrible instruction, such as the prime directive to "hit over the shift." The head that needs to roll isn't Judge's.

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