Last night, following an excruciatingly tenuous, almost-five-hour victory in Kansas City, in which the Yankees blew four save opportunities, Aaron Judge took to Twitter, perhaps in an attempt to wind down from the stressful activity of the evening. With his notifications ablaze after a blue checkmark fired off a critique directed at the big fella, Judge decided to jump headfirst into a losing battle at almost 1 a.m. in Missouri.
A few hours earlier, Eduardo Pérez, the 13-year big leaguer and son of a Hall of Famer, called out Judge and the Yankees for their season-long tradition of sloppy baserunning, which ended up costing them in the seventh inning of Monday night’s contest.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Giancarlo Stanton was on first, and Aaron Judge was on third. DJ LeMahieu stepped into the box with a chance to drive in the game’s first run. On a nubber back to the mound, Judge decided to take off for home. After a hotly-contested, bang-bang play at the plate, Judge was called out, a controversial ruling which was upheld after a video review by the umpiring crew.
We need a better secondary lead by Aaron Judge on play at the plate. He was flat footed without taking any kind of secondary. You make the call. The little things play big! Should have made it easy without a close play! Know better, do better. #Yankees #MLB pic.twitter.com/Up7iMoQ0pC— Eduardo Perez (@PerezEd) August 10, 2021
In his tweet, Pérez suggested that Judge’s lack of a secondary lead — the extra steps a baserunner takes to garner momentum toward the next base after the pitcher commits to delivering the pitch — likely cost his team a run.
Any time taken off of Judge’s journey home may have given umpires incontrovertible evidence to either call Judge safe on the field or overturn an incorrect call. If the Yankees had scored twice this inning — including the run scored on the Luke Voit single after the play in question — they may well have won in nine without having to burn two more innings of pitching from an already-understaffed bullpen.
these “experts” been out of the game to long… https://t.co/ReXE7SEmmI— Aaron Judge (@TheJudge44) August 10, 2021
Judge doesn’t explain why Pérez is wrong except in attempting to undermine his credibility as a trusted resource of baseball intellect. This ad hominem attack seems misguided considering Pérez’s lifelong devotion to Major League Baseball, and worse yet, bears no relevancy to the charge levied.
From this angle, it’s impossible to tell exactly why Judge retreated toward third before the pitch was thrown. Perhaps, the third basemen crept closer to the bag to hold Judge, causing Judge to shorten his lead. Otherwise, the reverse move prior to the pitch’s delivery makes little sense.
The moment in question immediately follows: As the pitcher delivers his offering, Judge stands like a statue in anticipation of a batted ball, hops in place to get himself in an athletic position to run, and then races towards the plate. If Judge had taken a couple of hard steps toward the dish as the pitch traveled, he would have been ready to run on contact, and closer to his intended destination upon takeoff.
There is no conceivable reason against taking a secondary lead in this circumstance:
- After retreating toward third, Judge would have easily been able to scamper back to third to avoid being back-picked if LeMahieu hadn’t hit the pitch.
- Contrary to the preposterous claims of a few of Judge’s defenders in the comments under these Tweets, secondary leads are not especially hard on your body, especially in comparison to the slide he makes at the plate, or the swings, throws, and sprints he makes every day.
- Secondary leads should be performed by every baserunner on every pitch, except when the runner is executing a straight steal, in which case his full sprint supersedes the athletically cautious advance.
Maybe, Judge intended to defend a claim adjacent to Pérez’s argument. If Judge, however erroneously, believed that Pérez was arguing against his decision to break for the plate, he would be correct in saying that he should make a break for home on any batted ball on the ground. An out at the plate spares LeMahieu at first and moves Stanton into scoring position.
With two outs, the Yankees would need a hit to score any runner on either second or third (barring the contribution of one of the Yankees’ most valuable assets, the wild pitch with a runner on third). The fact that Stanton scored on Voit’s single demonstrates this exact idea. Judge should absolutely make a break for home with another runner on base behind him, even if his chances of being safe are slight, given the fact that running into an out in that circumstance does little to harm the Yankees' odds of subsequently scoring in that inning. Although this line of reasoning is accurate, it’s besides Pérez’s point, and therefore an irrelevant defense of his critique.
Even after exploring every conceivable logical defense of Aaron Judge’s counterattack, there’s no way to explain his lack of a secondary lead as anything other than bad baserunning. Like numerous other little plays throughout the game, Judge’s miscue had a marginal impact on the outcome. He alone is not to blame for the Yankees’ failure to shut down the Royals in any of their first four save opportunities.
However, all the little plays tend to add up to winning or losing baseball — as this team has demonstrated on the basepaths all season — and, contrary to his own claims, Judge’s gaffe undoubtedly falls in that latter category.