July 15, 2024

Yankees’ Aaron Judge is on fire; options to replace injured Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto

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Today: J.T. Realmuto to the IL, Gavin Lux’s ticking clock, home run problems in Tampa and Aaron Judge is on an absolute heater. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal, welcome to The Windup!

Who will replace J.T. Realmuto?

The Phillies have been without their star shortstop Trea Turner since April 29. In that stretch, they’re 27-10 and have increased their division lead from 1 1/2 games to a whopping 10 games. So at least they have some practice for what’s coming next.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto — described by Nick Castellanos as the “backbone” of the team — is undergoing surgery today to repair the meniscus in his right knee. Per Matt Gelb’s reporting, the knee has been an issue for Realmuto for over a month, and the catcher was hitting a mere .135/.200/.189 (.389 OPS) since May 25.

As Gelb expounds here, it made sense to handle it now. If they had let the injury linger, perhaps the recovery would have come at a more inopportune time — say, during the heated final month of a pennant race — or perhaps the knee would have gotten worse, lengthening the recovery time, which is estimated to be between one and two months. That means he could be back before the All-Star break, or after the trade deadline, or somewhere in between. The All-Star break would give the team a few days of recovery time without Realmuto missing games.

The team’s backup options are Garrett Stubbs (157 career games) and Rafael Marchán (23 games). As we begin to head into trade deadline season, it will be interesting to see if Philadelphia chooses to pursue another catcher — one who could start while Realmuto is out and slide into backup duty when he returns.

For now, though, it’s probably worth seeing how Stubbs and Marchán perform. After all, who would have thought that Edmundo Sosa would be hitting .294/.358/.532 (.890 OPS), and be worth 1.9 bWAR (fourth-highest on the team) as Turner’s fill-in?

With the biggest division lead in the sport, they have a little time to wait and see.

Ken’s Notebook: A pep talk for Gavin Lux

Gavin Lux has been struggling at the plate. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

From my latest notes column:

Before Saturday’s game against the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts met behind closed doors with second baseman Gavin Lux. Roberts that night started Miguel Rojas at second against a left-hander, as he normally does. But he wanted to reinforce to Lux that he wasn’t giving up on him.

“It was about, because he’s not getting results, just keep trying to take good at-bats,” Roberts said. “I complimented him on his defense, the focus pitch to pitch. I’m going to keep running him out there. I was just trying to pat him on the butt a little bit.”

Lux’s ability to revive as a hitter, after he missed all of last season following surgery to repair a torn right ACL, is central to the Dodgers’ deadline plans. His defense has been surprisingly good, but his failure to improve offensively might compel the Dodgers to seek another middle infielder. Another option would be to play Rojas at short and slide Mookie Betts to second. Rojas, though, is 35 and might no longer be physically capable of playing short every day.

Lux, 26, told The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya he spoke with Roberts about attacking the outer half of the plate, focusing more on mentality than mechanics. Roberts said earlier this season that Lux could not be judged until he had at least 150 at-bats. Lux is at 175 and produced his first three-hit game of the season Sunday night. His expected .244 batting average and .341 slugging percentage entering Tuesday were better than his actual .216 and .560. But that expected slug was still in the bottom 13 percent of the league.

“I think the last month or so I’ve felt a lot better and obviously the results haven’t shown. Some of that is just baseball being baseball and it is what it is,” Lux said. “But yeah, I just think with more game time, more at-bats, my legs have gotten under me more. I think it’ll continue to be getting better as the season goes on.”

The problem for Lux is that a team hellbent on a World Series title can wait only so long.

Aaron Judge is human capsaicin

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a hot streak quite this spicy.

Aaron Judge went 2-for-4 with a home run in last night’s 10-1 rout of the Royals, and it actually lowered his batting average for June — from .539 to .533.

Remember the end of April? Judge was hitting just .207 with a .754 OPS and six home runs. For a guy who broke the AL single-season home run record with 62 in 2022, it was a downright pedestrian start to the season. But check out his month-by-month splits since then:

Judge Heating Up























If you want to combine everything he’s done since May 1, it’s just stupid good — .398/.522/.976 (1.498 OPS) with 18 home runs, 41 RBIs, 35 strikeouts and 33 walks in 158 plate appearances.

This stretch has vaulted him back into the big-league lead in home runs with 25, putting him on pace for about 59 home runs, or three short of the American League record he hit two seasons ago.

It’s quite a return to form for Judge after injuries limited him to 109 games and “just” 37 home runs last year.

More Yankees: In late April, Michael Tonkin was considering retirement. Now he’s the latest sensation in the Yankees’ bullpen.

Rays have home run problems

The Rays beat the Cubs 5-2 last night on a walk-off home run by Brandon Lowe. Maybe that’s a step in the right direction because it was just the 51st home run hit by the team this year — the fewest in all of baseball.

But more shockingly, the flip side of the equation in Tampa is just as bad: Christopher Morel’s home run last night was the 89th allowed by Rays pitchers. No other team has allowed more.

That’s a shocking development for a team that finished sixth in baseball last year by hitting 230 home runs and tied for fourth-best with only 177 round-trippers allowed. Remember just a few months ago when we were praising their ability to succeed at pitching development?

So, what happened?

Some of it can be chalked up to personnel. Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs are all still on the IL with injuries that scuttled the back half of 2023. Tyler Glasnow is a Dodger.

But some of it is exactly what it looks like — diminished results from the guys who have taken the mound. Aaron Civale gave up home runs on 0.3 percent of his pitches last year, up to 1.7 percent this year. Chris Devenski allowed just one home run in limited action last year (0.1 percent of pitches) and has already given up six this year (1.5 percent). Colin Poche has jumped from 0.4 percent to 1.7 percent.

The list goes on.

On the offensive side, every single hitter who had 10 or more home runs last year is hitting them at a lower rate this year, and (aside from Wander Franco) there really haven’t been any glaring departures.

Actually, I don’t want to gloss over that. Franco’s administrative leave (due to allegations about an inappropriate relationship with a minor) not only left the team without their presumptive superstar of the future but — paired with an injury to Taylor Walls (hip) — likely led to the trade of Luke Raley (19 home runs last year, six so far this year) to Seattle for José Caballero (four home runs last year, three this year).

Still, that doesn’t explain the dropoff from Yandy Díaz, Jose Siri and others.

This mystery sounds like a good excuse to fire up the Eno Sarris signal. We’ll keep you posted if he takes on the challenge.

Handshakes and High Fives

Yesterday, we touched on the upcoming trade deadline. Today, we have deadline primers for you from a slew of teams (Angels, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Guardians, Mets, Padres, Phillies, Reds, Red Sox, Tigers, Twins and Yankees). Check them out here. Meanwhile, Melissa Lockard takes a look at the teams with the prospect capital to make a big deal.

Javier Báez hit the IL with lumbar spine inflammation. What’s the plan for the Tigers?

Scary moment in Cincinnati last night, when Reds pinch-hitter Blake Dunn was hit in the head by a 101 mph fastball. He was, somehow, OK — suffering only a broken helmet.

We’re not going to write a whole section after every Paul Skenes start, but he struck out eight, walked none, and allowed five hits in 6 1/3 shutout innings as the Pirates overcame Miles Mikolas’ perfect five-plus innings to beat the Cardinals 2-1. For more, check out today’s Pulse.

We’ve all seen the 50/50 raffles at our local stadiums, but Toronto is taking the tradition to new levels — they’ve already crowned nine millionaires.

You can buy tickets to every MLB game here.

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(Top photo: Vincent Carchietta / USA Today)