It didn’t take Aaron Judge long to turn things around since I last wrote about him, huh? Well, he did go 0-for-9 with 7 strikeouts in the two games following that post, but Judge has been on a tear ever since. Entering last night’s game against Seattle, the right fielder had a 212 wRC+ in his previous 35 plate appearances. Yes, it’s always important to be skeptical of a small sample size, but some mechanical adjustments could be driving his torrid stretch.
Before Judge got hot, a couple of his biggest statistical concerns were his pull and ground ball rates. We’ve grown used to Judge launching majestic homers to left field, and yet, he didn’t pull his first homer of 2019 until a week ago. Nonetheless, not pulling the ball wouldn’t have been such a big deal had he not been hitting so many ground balls.
When I wrote about Judge a couple weeks ago, I hypothesized that a lower called strike zone against him might have unintentionally caused him to alter his approach and result in more grounders. I also wondered if his oblique still hampered him. Whatever the case was, things have changed for the better.
Would you look at that: the 27 year-old is pulling and lifting the ball lately, and in turn his offensive output is on the rise. All of this is very good news.
So, how did Judge turn his season around on a dime? He’s been a notorious tinkerer throughout his career, so it should come as no surprise that he’s made an adjustment. Take a look at this:
On the left is Judge against Orioles’ Tom Eshelman on August 12th. On the right, it’s Judge vs. Mike Clevinger on August 18th. There are a couple of notable changes. One, Judge appears to have opened his stance. Additionally, he altered his hand position.
Now, I’m also going to show you how his stance changed against southpaws, because it caught me off guard:
It looks like Judge made a similar tweak with his hands against lefties. However, and maybe this is just me, but I think he closed his stance a tad against southpaws. If I’m right, that’s the opposite of what he did against righties.
I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on hitting mechanics, so I’m not totally sure why these adjustments would help. My guess, at least in the screenshots against right handers, is that opening his stance is more conducive to pulling the ball. I couldn’t tell you what his hand position means, but perhaps he just feels more comfortable where they are now.
Anyway, the point here is that Judge has had recent success that coincides with a change in the batter’s box. Of course, correlation doesn’t equal causation, but it does make for a plausible theory at the moment. Ultimately, I think we can all stop worrying about Judge. And to think: the Yankees have played incredibly well without him at full bore. The big man is back, and it’s glorious.