Why does Judge like Yankee Stadium so much?

July 6th, 2018

Maybe you noticed this -- New York's is having a crazy season. Look at his numbers -- .281/.399/.575 with 24 home runs, 57 RBIs, 61 runs -- and it's basically a continuation of the near-MVP season he had last year. Double the counting numbers and it's an almost exact duplicate of a year ago. His on-base and slugging percentages are down somewhat, but certainly not enough to cause alarm. He's having another MVP-type season.
Yet, when you break down his season a certain way, you see something rather shocking.
At Yankee Stadium, Aaron Judge is absolutely incredible.
On the road, Aaron Judge's bat is almost unplayable.
We will get into the numbers in a moment, but the thing that makes it shocking is this: Yankee Stadium is not that good a hitter's park. Oh, sure, it unquestionably favors hitters, particularly left-handed home-run hitters, but people often talk about Yankee Stadium like it's some sort of absurd bandbox. But the facts don't back that up, particularly for righties.
, for instance, has hit slightly better on the road for his career. is an even better example -- much of the offseason talk was about how Stanton would do after moving into a hitter's ballpark. Well, Stanton has been pretty darned good on the road (.314/.384/.595), but he has been slightly overwhelmed at Yankee Stadium (.225/.397/.445). The kids and have hit a touch better at home, perhaps, but nothing that one would notice. Yankee Stadium is just not that good a hitter's park.
Aaron Judge, though, wow, Superman at home, kryptonite on the road, it's shocking.
Here are the numbers, so you don't think I'm exaggerating.
At home, Judge is hitting .355 and slugging .735. He has 12 of his 18 doubles at home, 17 of his 24 homers at home. He's Barry Bonds at home, he's Mickey Mantle at home, he's Babe Ruth at home.

On the road, Judge is hitting .193 with a sub-.300 on-base percentage and a sub.-400 slugging percentage. He has 14 RBIs.
wOBA -- weighted on-base average, which measures a player's overall offensive contribution -- shows that Judge has a 200-point difference between what he does at home (.498 wOBA) and what he does on the road (.298). Two hundred points. Yes, it's only a half-season, a small sample size (and the Yankees have played more games at home) but that is still far and away the biggest difference in baseball.
Second on that list is , who has 160 more wOBA points at home. But here's the thing about Trevor Story's home: it's Coors Field. We all know that Coors Field is a great hitter's park, not just for Trevor Story but for everybody. and , two other Rockies, are in the top 10 in this category.
But Yankee Stadium is not Coors Field; not even close. By the numbers, Cleveland is a much better hitter's park. Texas is a much better hitter's park. Fenway is a much better hitter's park. Even Comerica Park in Detroit rates with Yankee Stadium as a hitter's park these days.
And yet, something about that place brings out the gavel in Judge. And it has been that way ever since he really emerged on the scene. Last year at Yankee Stadium, Judge batted .312, slugged .725 and hit 33 of his 52 home runs. His wasn't as helpless on the road in 2017, but even so, his batting average was 56 points and his slugging percentage was almost 200 points lower on the road.
Add it up and you come to this astounding stat: Judge has played 139 games at Yankee Stadium. He is hitting .322/.445/.705 and has mashed 53 home runs.
Away, he's hitting 100 points lower and has hit half as many home runs. Wild.

One of the fascinating questions to think about when rating and ranking ballplayers is simply this: How much should you consider the ballparks where they play? How much does it take away from Larry Walker's or Todd Helton's statistical greatness that they played their best years at Coors Field? How much should it matter that Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale pitched their best from a mound as tall as Vesuvius in a time when batters were overmatched? When thinking about an underrated player like Gil McDougald or Bob Watson, shouldn't you consider that they were seriously hampered by the ballparks where they played?
But this question doesn't really cover Judge because he seems to have his own special knack for Yankee Stadium, one that eludes other hitters like him. You can't discount a player's performance if he can do things that others cannot.
Maybe Judge's dominance at Yankee Stadium has nothing at all to do with the dimensions of the park or the hitting background and instead has to do with his comfort with the crowd or the excitement of playing in New York. It's worth exploring.
Whatever it is, you have to wonder if Giancarlo Stanton is taking notes.