Baseball

How Aaron Judge has transformed into an All-Star

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Aaron Judge  (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

Aaron Judge (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

Not too long ago, Aaron Judge was still a question mark. After his exciting debut last summer, where he launched a ball off of the restaurant in center field, he struggled mightily. His biggest issue was his plate discipline and strikeout rate. In 95 plate appearances last season, Judge struck out 44% of the time. He was among the league leaders in that category and was striking out almost half of the time he walked to the plate. There was great concern that one of the Yankees top prospects was destined to become a home run or bust type of player.

There aren’t many players of Judge’s stature to draw comparisons to with his monumental frame. His swing was long with a lot of moving parts, including a high leg kick to generate power. The Yankees worked diligently with their future right fielder to correct these problems in the offseason.

Yankee hitting coaches, Allan Cockrell and Marcus Thames, helped Aaron cut down on that long stroke and shortened his leg kick to help Judge limit the moving parts in his swing and increase his contact. He came into camp this spring with a quiet approach with less head movement. The decrease in his head movement gives him a better chance to see the ball and pick up the spin on breaking balls. Judge doesn’t need to swing hard, as he is gifted with seemingly limitless power. He just needed to make better contact with the ball and the power would follow. That power was on display Sunday afternoon in the Bronx. 

https://twitter.com/Yankees/status/873992596074500098

His hard work in the offseason is paying dividends at the plate in 2017. Entering Monday’s game, Aaron Judge is currently leading the majors in home runs with 21, he is also is sporting a .344/.450/.718 slash line. The Yankees saw this potential while Judge was in the minors, but he never put up numbers like this down on the farm. There is a major difference in the player that we are seeing this year and the key to this breakout simply comes down to his plate discipline. 

In 245 plate appearances this season the hulking right fielder has an average exit velocity of 95.7 MPH. If he connects, the result is simple, it’s going to be hit HARD. The velocity and hits usually have a positive correlation. Judge has enhanced his approach and is swinging at less pitches outside of the zone, while swinging at more strikes. 

Season

Team

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Swing%

O-Contact%

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

F-Strike%

SwStr%

2016

Yankees

33.6 %

63.4 %

45.6 %

36.6 %

78.9 %

60.2 %

40.2 %

57.9 %

18.1 %

2017

Yankees

24.8 %

66.3 %

42.0 %

47.7 %

82.9 %

70.7 %

41.4 %

62.6 %

12.2 %

(Graph above via Fangraphs.com)

O-swing% is the percentage of swings at pitches outside the zone versus Z-swing%, which measures the percentage of swings inside the zone. O-contact% measures the contact made with pitches outside the zone and Z-contact% shows the contact made with pitches in the zone. The most important numbers in the table above are swing%, which is down. That means he is less of a free swinger at the plate with an improved approach. Second, His O-swing% is down 9% compared to last year, showing he has improved his ability of recognizing the strike zone and just the ability to take those pitches. Plate discipline statistics usually stabilize the quickest throughout the course of the season because hitters tend to stick with the same approach. 

Aaron Judge’s adaptability has provided the Yankees with an elite young slugger in the middle of the offense for years to come. He has already been named Rookie of the Month twice in the first two months of the young season and more accolades could be on their way. He is primed for his first All-Star appearance after almost not being named the starting right fielder out of spring training.

Spencer Brown

Spencer Brown

Spencer is the New York Yankees Lead Writer for DoubleGSports.com
Spencer Brown

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