Aaron Judge

MLB on Sling: Yankees Take a Gut Punch, Judge Keeps Whiffing Toward Immortality

Aaron Judge is in freefall. Last night against the Red Sox, he struck out 3 times in a 10-inning, 3-2 loss that dropped the Yankees to 5 ½ behind Boston in the AL East race. It was the 30th consecutive game in which he struck out, the longest such streak of the season in all of baseball, the fifth-longest such streak since 1968, and the third-longest by a non-pitcher. It was an inauspicious way to mark the one-year anniversary of his big league debut.

During this run of failure, the human giant has struck out 51 times in 132 plate appearances. And it’s not a matter of losing his batting eye, mind you, as his swing rate against pitches outside the zone is just 25.6, good for 34th among qualified batters. But his contact rate has plummeted to 66.7%, the third-worst in baseball among qualified hitters.

Also, he continues to draw walks at a high rate, with 27 during his strikeout streak, which would translate to 146 over a full season, and would shatter Ted Williams’ rookie mark of 107 drawn in 1939. Judge already has 86 walks, the 22nd-best rookie total ever, and should pass Williams by seasons’ end.

Despite these troubles, he still leads the league in runs, home runs and walks. But what should make Yankee fans nervous is this tidbit via ESPN: Judge is on pace to become just the second man in the game’s history to have 40+ homes, 200+ strikeouts, and 100+ walks in a season. The other? Adam “Big Donkey” Dunn, another mountain of a man, who, though he hit 462 home runs in his career, and drew 1,317 walks, was otherwise so useless on a ballfield that he was of just average value.

The Red Sox, themselves a deeply flawed team with only a puncher’s chance at a title, showed this past weekend that the Yankees are not yet ready for prime time, taking 2 of 3 in dramatic fashion, as Judge went 1-for-10 with 6 strikeouts in the biggest series of the year.

Luckily for the Yankees, Judge’s troubles haven’t spelled doom for the team, as they managed to win 16 of those 30 games, and they only fell one game further back of Boston. What they did lose a lot of, however, was time, as they now have just 46 games left during which to make up 5 ½ games. Yankees fans may gleefully point to 1978 as proof that they’re still in the hunt, while Sox fans will snidely point to 2004 as proof that this isn’t 1978.

But this is why the good lord invented the Wild Card, isn’t it? New York sits atop the Wild Card standings, with a game-and-a-half lead on the Angels, and the Twins sitting 2 games behind, meaning the Yankees should get to the playoffs about a year ahead of schedule, making them even more attractive to 2018’s bumper crop of free agents.


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All stats courtesy ESPN and Baseball Reference

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