So, I’m not here to tell everybody it’s panic time. It’s probably a bit too early in the season for that. However, the injuries are overwhelming right now. First there was the pitching staff, and in the last few weeks one hitter goes down, then the next, and then the next. Unfortunately, it has hit where it hurts the most. Aaron Judge is being sent for an MRI on his right hip due to an awkward slide on Thursday night.
Typically, you would just say okay, all he needs is his few weeks to recover from this and he will be okay. And that may very well be the case, but if this particular injury lingers, the Yankees might have to be very concerned. This is probably the only injury that really concerns me as a hitting analyst of Judge’s swing. Everything about his swing and mechanics is dependent on his rear hip. Yes, I suppose you could say that about a lot of hitters, but Judge’s breakout last year happened because he perfected how to stay loaded in his rear hip and attack fastballs and sliders over the plate.
Last year, I dove deep into this topic amidst the historic run. Basically, Judge learned how to use the hip cork to his best ability. This style of hitting doesn’t work for every hitter, but Judge’s size, strength, and arm length make him unique relative to his peers, as we already knew. Judge’s issue as a hitter in the past that held him back was he couldn’t get his barrel on an upward plane as it traveled further and further in front of the plate. It led to streaks of time where he literally would not elevate the ball to the pull side. Imagine that. A hitter the size of an NFL linemen should be making the most of their body and hitting the ball in the air as much as possible. Lucky for all of us, that’s exactly what happened and this is what it looked like:
You may think I’m crazy for saying this, but this was a mishit! That’s the room for error that Judge gave himself last year when he perfected the hip cork. As he loads in and his numbers begin to face the pitcher, all of his energy gets stored in his hip. If you want to do this as you read to understand what I’m talking about, stand up and put your feet right outside your shoulders. From there, rotate into your back hip as if you were getting ready to punch somebody. As a hitter, this move needs to happen quickly. Depending on who you are, it may be difficult to execute this move because of limiting factors such as hip stability and mobility, but that’s not an issue for Judge.
This put him in a perfect position to sit back and identify different spin and speeds while also giving him a deeper bat path. By that, I mean his bat entered the hitting zone earlier, and stayed in it later because he created perfect torso bend when in the hip cork. If his strength in this position is compromised, then we may not see the world-beating version of Judge. I guess that’s not worst case scenario, but we’re already seeing what this lineup looks like without Giancarlo Stanton, Harrison Bader, and Josh Donaldson. The team desperately needs Judge to be in MVP form to have any chance to catch up to Tampa Bay.
Last year, when Judge was dealing with some weird right leg problems, he played through it. Once he was healthy, he went on his insane run. This year, my hope is that the same exact thing happens, but if it doesn’t the Yankees need to closely monitor their superstar. This shouldn’t be something he plays through. If he needs time to get it to full strength, give it to him. Only time will tell, but let’s keep our fingers crossed for now.