If you haven’t noticed, Aaron Judge is having himself another spectacular season. He’s currently hitting .278/.395/.559 with 21 homers, good for a 159 wRC+. However, fans would be missing out on a large portion of the Aaron Judge Experience if they focused only on his offensive prowess. Judge wields considerable skills on the other side of the ball.
First, consider what the numbers have to say. Now, I know defensive metrics are much maligned, partly due to the fact that they are relatively underdeveloped compared to their offensive counterparts. I will gladly concede that defensive indices aren’t perfect, but neither are your eyes, and they’re still plenty useful if used correctly. What do they have to say about Judge, though?
Nothing but good things seems to be the answer. Following Friday night’s game, he logged 594 innings in the field, 586 of which have come in right. Judge has recorded nine Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 6.0. By the former metric, he is the second best right fielder in all of MLB, behind only Mitch Haniger of the Seattle Mariners. By the latter, Judge is also second in the majors, this time behind Kole Calhoun of the Los Angeles Angels. The advanced metrics suggest that he has been better defensively in right field than almost anyone else in the majors. If only this guy could hit, huh?
Side note: because I am petty, I will note that in both metrics Judge is ranked better than Mookie Betts.
What do the metrics like about Judge’s defense? We can ascertain that by looking at metrics which measure more specific aspects of outfield defense, such as range, errors, and arm effectiveness.
By range runs (RngR), which assigns run values above or below average to fielders depending on how well they are able to get to balls in their vicinity, Judge ranks fourth in MLB with 1.1 runs above average. This should not come as a surprise for Yankees fans, who are surely familiar with his surprising speed (28.1 ft/sec average sprint speed in 2018, a full second above league average). Here’s video evidence of Judge’s considerable range, for those yet unconvinced.
By error runs (ErrR), Judge isn’t as proficient, although he is certainly holding his own (0.3 runs above average, 7th in MLB). The real show-stopper here is his arm, which Outfield Arm Runs (ARM) rates as being 4.6 runs above average, good for third best in the majors. Not only does Judge’s strength allow him to chuck baseballs at high speeds, it also enables him to make accurate throws. If you like visual evidence, here’s Judge nonchalantly throwing a two-hop strike to Didi Gregorius to nail Boston’s Christian Vazquez at second base.
In sum, it’s no wonder why advanced metrics like Judge’s defense; he doesn’t make errors a whole lot, has above-average range, and makes throwing out runners seem like playing catch in the backyard. Combine that with his bat, which isn’t too shabby itself, and you have the profile of a complete baseball player. Cherish Aaron Judge, folks. It doesn’t get much better than this.