Aaron Judge leads the Yankees in batting average, hits, home runs, walks, runs batted in, and on-base percentage.
And he’s not quite satisfied with his numbers.
“I’m still trying to get hot,” Judge recently told the New York Post. “People keep talking about how well I’m doing, but I look at as I’m still trying to get consistent. I don’t feel like I’ve been consistent all year.”
The 26-year-old outfielder, who won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2017, has yet to encounter the old and cliched “sophomore slump.” In 41 games (150 at-bats), Judge has slashed .307/.441/.593 with 11 home runs, 10 doubles, and 35 RBI. Although his 56 strikeouts rank third-highest in baseball, his 36 walks also rank third-highest in the league.
In his last 10 games, Judge is 12-for-36 (.333) with three doubles, four homers, 11 walks and 16 RBI. So, even if Judge has high standards, this stretch indicates that he is, in fact, hot.
Judge has only benefited from Giancarlo Stanton’s presence in the lineup, too. The reigning National League MVP hasn’t lived up to fans’ expectations so far this season, but Judge told the New York Post that his relationship with Stanton is making him a smarter hitter.
“The knowledge he brings from being around the league for eight years has helped,’’ Judge said. “He’s seen a lot of pitchers — and guys in the NL that I haven’t faced a lot — so I pick his brain, since pitchers kind of approach us the same way.
“It’s been all the same since my first year in pro ball. Hard in, soft away. That’s the book they’ve used since my first couple games in the minor leagues. It hasn’t changed. People do make adjustments, like if you hammer a couple pitches in, then they’ll throw hard stuff away and go backwards, but for the most part it’s usually the same. It’s just getting the right pitches and hitting the mistakes.’’
Not only has Judge become a smarter hitter, but he’s also become more patient and disciplined. According to Fangraphs, Judge has the seventh-lowest zone rate in baseball, which means he’s laying off pitches located low in the zone. Judge’s adjustments have also made him able to use more of the field, as his pull-rate has dropped from 41-percent last season to 36-percent this season. Plus, he has a .400 average against sliders in 2018. Last season, it was .149.
Judge has been turning his weaknesses into strengths, and this could explain why he’s set the bar so high.
“If pitchers execute the right pitches on the corner or low at the knee or the very top of the strike zone, you’re never gonna have success off that,’’ Judge told the Post. “You have to hunt the mistake and don’t miss it. The pitchers we face are pretty careful with the lineup we have. With [Stanton], Gary [Sanchez] and me, you’re only gonna get maybe one pitch a game where we can really do damage on. You can’t miss it or it’s gonna be a long day.
“My main goal is to be a consistent part of this lineup and I feel at times, it could be better,’’ Judge said. “I need to get on a little hot streak.”
Apparently, reaching base safely in 21 of 25 games isn’t hot enough.