Aaron Judge may have finally made the key adjustment that will lead to monstrous success with the New York Yankees in 2017.

As the New York Yankees split-shifted its path from a roster cluttered with past-their-prime-stars to a team focused on a future inspired by youth, it opened the door for many budding prospects.

Gary Sanchez took the opening and jump-started his career in historic fashion, by becoming the fastest rookie in baseball history to reach the 18 home run mark and tying Wally Berger as the fastest to reach 20.



Before the Sanchize, it was Greg Bird, who became the twelfth player in major league history to hit 10 home runs, drive in 28 runs and score 22 runs in his first 34 games.

Aaron Judge, one of the more recent top prospects to make his debut, also got off to a hot start but unlike the promising history the two that came before him made, the monstrous slugger set the Yankees’ record for the most strikeouts (42) within a player’s first 27 games. It wasn’t pretty.

After homering in his first major league at-bat, Judge went 13-for-80 (.163) with three home runs while striking out in 51.25 percent of his at-bats despite showing insane power by owning the highest average exit velocity (96.8 mph) in the league, according to StatCast.



The promise was obviously there, but translating that power into major league success was his primary hindrance during the offseason and with spring training beyond its halfway point, one simple adjustment has already started to pay off for the 6-foot-7 right fielder.

It started with going back into the film room and looking at exactly why one of New York’s top outfield prospects looked like a little leaguer when thrown into the big leagues. One of the problems was pitch recognition.

He generated roaring power against fastballs (97.3 mph average exit velocity) with a modest whiff percentage of 13.10 but whiffed on 34.69 percent of changeups seen, 24.44 percent of curveballs seen and 21.67 percent of sliders seen. Overall, he posted a 62 percent whiff-to-swing rate on breaking pitches and a 59 percent whiff-to-swing rate on offspeed pitches, all according to Brooks Baseball.

Judge also did a terrible job of managing the strike zone and requiring pitchers to throw strikes, but more importantly, he allowed a ton strikes he should have squared up go by which placed him into off speed/breaking ball friendly counts:

via TexasLeaguers

In his 95 plate appearances last season, Judge saw 4.29 pitches per plate appearance and judging by the graphic above, too many pitches that he easily could have squared up were taken over the heart of the plate and thus making it easier for opposing pitchers to set him up for “strikeout city.”

This spring, he hasn’t changed a whole lot mechanically but has become more aggressive with his approach at the plate.

In 12 games in Grapefruit League play, Judge owns a .310/.394/.586 slash line with two home runs and 17 total bases while seeing just 1.91 pitches per plate appearance — almost three pitches less than his 2016 rate. That ties into not only the higher average, but had a lot to do with the fact that his strikeout rate in camp (24.1 percent) is significantly lower than his career minor league rate of 28.7 percent.

So, perhaps we should change our philosophy on how Judge can bounce back after a dismal start to his major league career. It has nothing to do with his leg kick, which hasn’t disappeared, but evidently along the lines of aggressiveness. As mapped out, he simply took too many good pitches, got into trouble in the count then swung and missed on the pitcher’s go-to pitch during his first stint in the Bronx.

This is obviously tremendous news for the Yankees as they look to illuminate the “power outage” experienced from the right field position. The last time a Yankee right fielder hit 30 or more home runs was when Gary Sheffield hit 34 dingers in 2005 and before him, it was Reggie Jackson back in 1980. In both of those years, the team won 95 and 103 games, respectively.



New York’s 1st round choice of the 2013 draft out of Fresno State can’t and shouldn’t be expected to carry the lineup, but by being more aggressive at the plate Judge will have an enormous bearing on driving the win column in the positive direction.


12 COMMENTS

  1. The only ‘exit velocity” you should be concerned about is how fast Cashman can get this strikeout machine out of the system while he still has value. Lofting his 4% decrease in K rate against questionable spring training pitching is a joke. Re-spinning the spin and suggesting 30 HR 95+ season is in store is blind chest beating.
    You’re polishing a turd Christian.

    • 4 percentage point decrease over his minor league average. Is the spring training pitching more questionable than A ball pitching? His strike out rate has decreased by 27 percentage points from his Major League rate last season.

      The fact that he was letting hittable pitches go without swinging and swinging at pitches out of the zone during his time in the Major Leagues last year was obvious by watching him. It was also apparent that he was probably flummoxed and in a zigging-when-he-should-zag trap brought on by doubt and overthinking. So I, unlike you (HooHaa), have always felt that I had good reason to believe that Judge’s 2016 in the Major Leagues was a small sample size that wasn’t indicative of his abilities. In other words, he was in a terrible slump.

      However, if anything, the reduction in pitches per plate appearance to 1.91 is concerning to me. Not that it necessarily means there’s a problem, but it means pitchers are probably throwing him strikes and he hasn’t yet had to consistently prove he can lay off breaking pitches out of the zone. Perhaps he is swinging at the hittable pitches in the zone, which is good, but with only 1.91 pitcher per plate appearance can we be sure he’s able to lay off the pitches out of the zone, yet? He does, however, have 5 walks in 31 at bats so far this spring, so that is reassuring. I have only been able to watch him in three at bats or so this spring and during those three at bats he did indeed show the ability to lay off low and away breaking pitches.

        • Striking out 100 times in 350 ABs is alright. Of course he’s going to strike out a lot. I’m not sure why you think he’ll be a bad player because he’s going to strike out a lot. Chris Davis struck out 208 times in 573 at bats in 2015 and hit 47 home runs. When he hit .286 and had 53 home runs in 2013 he still struck out 199 times in 584 at bats.

          It’s stupid to say what he’s done in spring training “doesn’t mean a thing”. Obviously it means something. Especially when he’s already been introduced to the league and they knew how to get him out last year. Clearly he has a lot to prove. But get a grip.

          • 30 ABs is what about a weeks work regular season? It doesn’t mean a thing against minor league and warming up pitchers who have no benefit of advance rostor scouting in spring training.
            So 200 Ks is OK? Well maybe if he hits 47 HRs like Davis but where are all those HRs? Judge is not gonna hit 47 HRs.
            Think your the one who needs a grip.

          • He has 10 strike outs in 42 at bats now. It’s clearly a small sample size. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t mean anything. But let’s get back to that in a minute. First, the number of at bats he had during the regular season last year was only 84. You are making an absolute judgment on his future prospects based on 84 at bats. You aren’t saying “well his prospects don’t look good” or “I have doubts” you are saying “You’re polishing a turd Christian.” You’re the one making the mistake of drawing too much conclusion from a small sample size.

            Now, back to what his 42 at bats in spring training mean. The way to get him out was obviously no secret last year. Those 42 at bats mean that there’s a good chance that he has made an adjustment to close whatever method was being used last year. Only more at bats will tell if pitchers will find other ways to exploit his weaknesses.

            As far as asking where are the HRs, asking a young player to have already hit his peak is silly. In addition, HRs are easier to come by in Yankees Stadium in the AL East than in Trenton in the Eastern League or Scranton in the International League.

          • Huh?

            First you say that the spring training stats mean something because “ His strike out rate has decreased by 27 percentage points from his Major League rate last season.”

            Now you say they are too small a sample size and don’t mean anything except there is a “good chance” that they mean something.

            Oh yeah and his MLB stats last season were too small and don’t mean anything as well.

            And you also say 200 Ks a season don’t mean anything. Think they invented an injury to pull him from the lineup so he doesn’t get his trade value destroyed because of those strikeouts, so they might mean he doesn’t play. But that wouldn’t mean anything to you is my guess.

            “He was in a slump.” Same K rate in the minors, but that doesn’t mean anything because it’s easier to hit HRs in Yankee Stadium which he didn’t do but that doesn’t mean anything.

            HRs might be easier to get up in the Bronx but so are Ks slump or not. The more film they have on him the more Ks. Less trade value.

            So my point was simple: Dump him before he makes it harder to dump him, before you have to dump him. You can make all the excuses you want: All the “don’t mean anythings” add up and come August when he’s taking a stroll back to the dugout with his 210 K in hand see if you can find the space for a “that doesn’t mean anything”

          • “First you say that the spring training stats mean something because “His strike out rate has decreased by 27 percentage points from his Major League rate last season.”

            Now you say they are too small a sample size and don’t mean anything except there is a “good chance” that they mean something.Oh yeah and his MLB stats last season were too small and don’t mean anything as well.”

            I think I explained it reasonably well. It has to do with extracting more information from the events than simple strikeout, hit, or walk.

            “And you also say 200 Ks a season don’t mean anything. Think they invented an injury to pull him from the lineup so he doesn’t get his trade value destroyed because of those strikeouts, so they might mean he doesn’t play. But that wouldn’t mean anything to you is my guess.”

            Yeah, your conspiracy theories don’t mean anything to me. You got that right. If that were true wouldn’t they have gone ahead and traded him before he could be exposed? Otherwise, what’s the sense of holding him out?

            ““He was in a slump.” Same K rate in the minors, but that doesn’t mean anything because it’s easier to hit HRs in Yankee Stadium which he didn’t do but that doesn’t mean anything.”

            You’re just making things up now. His K rate in the minors wasn’t anywhere close to the same as his time in the Majors. Once you admit, if ever, that his strikeout rate in the Majors far exceeded his strikeout rate in the minors then it isn’t too hard to imagine he might have been in a slump during his time in the Majors. Then his lack of home runs is a result of his slump. It’s actually your own argument: That, despite his power, he can’t hit home runs if he can’t put the ball in play.

            “So my point was simple: Dump him before he makes it harder to dump him, before you have to dump him. You can make all the excuses you want: All the “don’t mean anythings” add up and come August when he’s taking a stroll back to the dugout with his 210 K in hand see if you can find thespace for a “that doesn’t mean anything””

            I’m not saying he will be successful. I’m saying he has a chance to be successful and that his ability to cut down on his strike outs thus far in spring training is evidence of it. You are saying there is no way he can be successful. If you sell now you are selling low.

            Let me reiterate for you one more time as you don’t seem to understand what I’m saying. Last year Judge showed a great lack of ability to lay off pitches out of the zone and to swing at pitches in the zone. But he did this in a small sample size, a sample size far too small to rule out the possibility that it was a slump, especially considering it was his first exposure to the Majors and in light of his history of needing an adjustment period when he similarly went up levels in the minors. So nothing was proven there, but a red flag was raised. Pitchers showed they knew how to get him out, whether he was slumping at the time or not. This spring, he has given indication that the known way to get him out is not working to the same effectiveness. That is, it seems most likely, although it isn’t certain, that he is not swinging at pitches out of the zone and letting the balls in the zone pass anywhere near as much as he was during his time in the Majors last year. This is evidence refuting the idea that the 84 Major League at bats at the end of last year were indicative of an insurmountable flaw in his ability. It does not mean that he will be successful in the Majors, but my claim was never that he definitely would be. My point was to refute your claim that he definitely won’t be, i.e., he is a “turd”.

            I think we’ve taken this as far as it can go and we won’t get any further with it.

          • “I think I explained it reasonably well.”
            —No you didn’t you contradicted yourself in every post.

            “ has to do with extracting more information from the events than simple strikeout, hit, or walk”
            —- Oh I get it now: that’s it not what you said it was THEN it’s NOW something unexplainable and probably contradictory.

            “….traded him before he could be exposed? Otherwise, what’s the sense of holding him out?”
            —-What MLB team goes looking to trade for a rookie strikeout machine in late September? You suggesting they could hold him and somehow his value will increase as he loses playing time to Hicks?

            “…his strikeout rate in the Majors far exceeded his strikeout rate in the minors then it isn’t too hard to imagine he might have been in a slump during his time in the Majors.”
            —- Or he can’t hit mlb pitching and is a strikeout machine. Which was my point.

            “You are saying there is no way he can be successful. If you sell now you are selling low.”
            —-No then you are selling high aren’t you? And I never said he wouldn’t be successful. He’s just another sub 250 hitter with occasional pop. Haven’t the Yankees had enough of those recently for you to know those types are virtually untradeable and a dime a dozen?

            “and that his ability to cut down on his strike outs thus far in spring training is evidence of it.”
            —-But didn’t you ALSO say it was too small a sample? So that’s how statistics work for you? They only count if they check the box in your head on any particular thought?

            “Let me reiterate for you one more time as you don’t seem to understand what I’m saying.”
            —- I don’t think you understand what you’re saying. You contradict yourself in every second sentence so it seems.

            “My point was to refute your claim that he definitely won’t be, i.e., he is a “turd”.”

            I note you didn’t put quotations around “He is a turd” Because I didn’t call him a turd did I? I used a common expression which bring us to the root of your misguided contradictory babble fest: You were offended because he’s your boy. Sorry. There happy?

            I know a 200K guy means nothing to you but who else goes about 200Ks over 162 games? Bird? Sanchez? Carter?…yup then a few others who go plus or minus 140-150 over 162.

            What do they need him for? His value is falling everyday.

          • Yeah his value is just about gone. Go polish your turd. Better yet, go back and read why you were wrong. You might actually glean something about proper use of statistics. Then go polish your turd.

        • You see, I’m not going based off spring training statistics and saying “he’ll be better.” I’m going off his APPROACH and using it to say “this is how he’s working to improve and so far, it’s paying off.” Strikeouts will never go away. That’s something that’ll be with him his entire career, but don’t disregard how he pinpointed a problem and is working to fix it.

    • Not a joke. He noticeably changed his approach and has stated all winter he’s working to be aggressive. I’m not pushing for a 30 HR, 95 RBI+ season, but it’s clear that he pinpointed the problem and is working to fix it. And so far, it’s working. He’ll still strikeout, but you can’t debate what I’ve mapped out. We’ll see how it goes come April 2.