Aaron Judge’s hot streak could be linked to his batting stance

Embed from Getty Images

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:

Left to right: before and after vs. RHP.

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:

Left to right: before and after vs. LHP.

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.

Previous

The Yankees, the Playoffs, and the Myth of “Too Many Home Runs”

Next

Tommy Kahnle’s Changeup is Unhittable

10 Comments

  1. Richard

    By moving his front foot closer to the plate Aaron Judge can better protect the outside corner of the strike zone. He is also protecting the lower outside portion of the strike zone,This also helps him get better looks at pitches.

  2. Sean H

    Front leg placement before stepping into the pitch doesn’t really have anything to do with where he hits the ball. Once the pitcher begins his throw judge steps straight at the pitcher. It’s about comfort and an open stance usually helps players see the ball better out of same handed pitchers. Last year Paul O’Neil talked about stance a lot in regards to Stanton, focusing on how being open/closed affects how you see the ball out of a pitchers hand.
    That being said, if Judge is still open as he begins his swing that would definitely affect which direction he hits the ball.

  3. dasit

    can some knowledgable person explain what the goal is when moving the bat more parallel to the ground?
    to my (untrained) eye it lengthens the swing but increases bat speed

    • Wire Fan

      I’m not an expert but a more level swing allows you to make quality contact for a longer period of the swing. Scouts sometimes refer to this as the bat spending a longer time through the zone.

      If you have an extreme uppercut, there is a smaller window when you can make good contact with the ball. If you are early or late, you will hit under or over the ball. With a level swing you should get quality contact for a longer period of time and it is more a matter of pulling the ball vs hitting it the other way if you are a little late or a little early. But you also tend to hit more GBs and LDs, which tends to lower the power #s

      I’m not sure if the bat speed changes based on swing path.

  4. I wrote about this same topic on my blog Back To The Bronx today. Check it out.

    https://backtothebronx.blog/2019/08/27/aaron-judge-turns-it-around/

  5. dzb

    I am not sure I agree that Judge has opened his stance. Those photos appear to be taken at different angles. You can measure that (at least visually) as the distance from the pitching rubber to homeplate. That distance looks larger on the right in the top image, so Judge appears more open because we are looking for an angle further to the pitcher’s left

    • Derek

      I guess I’m just seeing it differently. I figured that by using the YES camera view at Yankee Stadium it should be pretty comparable.

  6. Judge being right is glorious. On an interesting note, many have wanted to attribute the slump at least partially to a hurting oblique. Here’s the thing, he was really really good for a whole month when he first came back, then slumped. He hit .326/.463/.581 first 25 Gs off the IL… That’s worth a deep dive in itself, maybe he adopted a ‘new’ oppo heavy approach that went easy on the oblique and got away with it for 25 Gs. Pitchers adjusted, and now Judge feels healthy enough to let the oblique fly? Maybe. Maybe he just fell into a bad way with his mechanics and has been healthy all the way through. I’ll take hampered Judge if that’s all that is available, but healthy and going right Judge would be really cool for October.

    • Pat111tony

      Correct. As Mike Axisa pointed out in his early morning Patreon post, Judge’s stance is not more open (camera an!e deception) but his stance is different in that his hands are higher and the bat more parallel to the ground.

      • Derek

        I saw that (of course he beat me to the punch, he’s the GOAT). I’m not sure I agree however. I could always be wrong, but by using the YES viewpoint at Yankee Stadium, I think the screenshots I used are comparable and show a difference in terms of his openness.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén