Aaron Judge booed at Yankee Stadium after golden sombrero lowers AVG to .179: ‘I’ve heard worse’

The New York Yankees entered 2024 featuring a dynamic duo of Juan Soto and Aaron Judge in their lineup. The latter has been less than dynamic so far.

Judge posted a golden sombrero on Saturday in a 2-0 extra-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, striking out in all four plate appearances to lower his batting average this season to .179. The final strikeout prompted some scattered boos at Yankee Stadium for the former MVP.

Judge is now hitting .179/.323/.359 with three homers on the season. Those struggles haven’t completely derailed the Yankees, though, as their record still sits at 14-7 following the loss.

“I’ve heard worse,” Judge said of the boos after the game. “I’d probably be doing the same thing in their situation.”

Indeed he has.

For their part, the Yankees didn’t sound too concerned that Judge has suddenly fallen off a cliff, as manager Aaron Boone said via MLB.com:

“It’s hitting, man,” Boone said. “We’ll be here next year talking about a great player that’s in a little funk. We’re in April. It happens all the time with greatness every year. We’ll scratch our heads, and then you’ll look up in a few weeks and, wow, Aaron Judge is Aaron Judge.”

Boone acknowledged that he sees Judge’s swings “a little in and out of the zone,” noting that hitting “gets a little hard, even for the best of the best.”

It’s not like bad luck is the only thing that has haunted Judge this season, but a .224 BABIP — more than 100 points lower than his career mark of .337 — suggests that some balls just have dropped for him. Then again, Statcast currently has him with an 11.5% pop-up rate on balls in play, by far the highest mark of his career, and a 21.2% line-drive rate, his lowest since his 27-game rookie season in 2016.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 20: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees reacts after striking out during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on April 20, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 20: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees reacts after striking out during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on April 20, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Aaron Judge has struggled so far this season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Baseball Savant currently pegs Judge’s xBA, which uses batted ball data and strikeout rate to estimate the batting average a player deserves, at .230, with an xSLG (same thing with slugging percentage) of .431.

Judge’s 28.1% strikeout rate would be alarming for most players, but the thing about Judge is that he has always struck out at a high clip. That number was even highest last season at 28.4% and he hit .267/.406/.613. His career mark is 28.6%. The punch-outs mean Judge is unlikely to win a batting title, but he’s still an elite player as long as he’s crushing the ball when he does make contact.

So Judge isn’t striking out too much, but his quality of contact has been a bit lower this season. Maybe that’s a reason to be worried about a $360 million player turning 32 next week, but it’s also very important to remember it is April.

We are talking about three weeks of sub-par performance, which Judge has seen before. He turned out just fine in those cases,