Amid injuries, slumps, and erratic weather, Aaron Judge has opened his sophomore season on an outstanding pace.
In 14 games this April, the Yankees’ outfielder has slashed .340/.470/.556 with three home runs and nine RBI in 53 at-bats. And entering Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Tigers (scheduled day-night doubleheader), Judge will look to extend his current 11-game hitting streak.
So far, the cliched sophomore slump hasn’t surfaced. When Judge eased his way into spring training action while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, some analysts anticipated the 25-year-old to start slow out of the gate.
But Judge has been hitting the ball hard. He’s finding holes. And most importantly, he’s getting on base — the key to his success.
“There’s going to be ups and downs,” Judge told the New York Daily News. “There’s probably going to be a stretch where I’m back to .315, and people are going to ask, ‘What’s going on?’ The biggest thing with me is always sticking to my approach. And if I stick with that, the numbers are going to be there in the end.”
Although a healthy Judge could be in the running for American League MVP honors by season’s end, Yankees manager Aaron Boone isn’t concerned about Judge’s worthiness for accolades.
“I don’t put a ceiling on Aaron,” Aaron Boone told the Daily News. “I think between the ears he’s really good and understands what teams are trying to do to him. He develops a great plan going into games. He is really in-tune with his swing and all that goes into making himself successful.
“He’s not satisfied. He’s always grinding and looking for advantages. He’s just going to get on-base a boatload and be a problem night in and night out for opposing pitchers.
“Despite only having one full year in the league he’s mature beyond his years. He’s a leader in [our clubhouse]. He’s kind of the perfect competitor.”
Since breaking into the majors last season with an American League-best 52 homers, Judge has received a fair share of criticism for his abundance of strikeouts (208 of them in 2017). However, Judge’s patience at the plate and ability to reach base safely separates him from the typical power hitter, and so far, he’s walked a major-league high 12 times.
“The big thing for me is I walk a lot because I don’t think about strike-zone discipline,” Judge said. “I think about just pitches I can handle. If there’s a pitch that I can’t handle or I can’t drive I’m not going to swing at it, and usually it’s not a strike.”
Hitting is also easier for Judge when the “Four G’s” — Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, and Gary Sanchez — are surrounding him in the lineup.
“In certain situations I can tell that they don’t want to walk me to have ‘G’ come up with a couple runners on,” Judge said of Stanton, who is the reigning National League MVP. “Gardy has been getting on-base a lot ahead of me. And the last thing they want is two guys on when ‘G’ comes up, so I’ve gotten a lot more pitches to hit, which is a good thing.”
Judge is three games shy from tying the longest hitting streak of his young career (14).