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June 04, 2017

Yes, Aaron Judge leads the majors in homers and has become such a sensation in the Bronx that the Yankees have taken the very un-Yankee-like step of creating a dedicated, 18-seat section of the ballpark dubbed the Judge's Chambers to handle the #AllRise phenomenon. But Judge is roughly the size of 76 Jose Altuves, and came advertised as a big-time slugger. The real shocker in the Yankees lineup is the 5'11" waterbug who at age 33, in his 10th big league season, suddenly turned Ruthian. What the hell is going on with Brett Gardner?!

Dig these stats:

• In his first nine major league seasons, Gardner had two multi-homer games. He has three this year.

• In his past 32 games, Gardner has walloped 12 home runs. His previous 203 games? Just 11.

So what gives? The biggest change has been a jump in Gardner’s flyball rate. The veteran outfielder has hiked that number to 38% this year, a career high and a big spike from last season’s 27%. His 37.4% hard-hit rate is also a career high. Still, Gardner’s homer binge won’t keep going at this rate: 22.2% of the flyballs he’s hit this year have flown over the fence, an unsustainable pace that’s nearly triple his career rate, even after accounting for Yankee Stadium’s short rightfield porch. 

A late-career breakout could still be in play given all that hard contact, and Gardner could score something like 110 runs hitting atop this loaded lineup. But Barry Bonds’ record is probably safe for another year.

 

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