The best hitting season of all time? After breaking the tie with Roger Maris for American League single season home run record, Aaron Judge is more than deserving of being in the conversation with Barry Bonds and others for the most impressive campaign in history. 11.5 fWAR. That’s two perennial all stars combined. Pretty remarkable.
It may have taken Judge a little bit longer to get to 62 than we all expected, but he’s human, and sometimes pressure affects your mind and body. Nonetheless, he did it, and I’m here to take you through the at-bat that got him there. I wasn’t very familiar with Jesús Tinoco before seeing him penciled in to start game one of this split doubleheader. That comforted me. No disrespect at all, but usually if you’re not a familiar name, you’re probably not going to be an Aaron Judge kryptonite.
After looking into Tinoco’s Baseball Savant page to see what his pitch mix was like, I thought there was no way Judge would let this opportunity go by. He primarily throws a sinker and slider both around 40 percent. He has good command of both pitches, but both the zones he throws to and the pitch shape associated with the sinker and slider are well suited to Judge’s bat path. Even if he’s struggling (relative to himself), he wouldn’t have to do anything special to get a barrel on Tinoco. Now, with all that said, let’s jump into the at-bat.
Interesting first pitch. Perhaps Tinoco was feeling a little jittery on the doorstep to history. This four-seam fastball was grooved way up in the zone. With a 1-0 count coming and absolutely nothing to lose, I’d be sitting a fastball up in the zone or inside if I was Judge. You have one mission and it’s to hit a home run. Stay in your zone and don’t compromise your approach. Tinoco is going to challenge you at some point.
Fine take here. As I said, there is no reason to compromise what you’re hunting for. Yes, this slider ended up over the middle of the zone, but in a 1-0 count when all you want to do is go yard, you take this 10 out of 10 times if you’re looking for a fastball. I’ve said it countless times, but that’s what been phenomenal about number 99 this season. He rarely strays from his approach, and it’s led to him taking all the walks to come to him and not pressing too much at any point in the season. The last week has been an anomaly on that front. 62 aside, this last game was an opportunity for Judge to get back to himself. Anyways, let’s get back to the at-bat. We have a 1-1 count and Judge is hunting fastballs, but with the count evened up, he’s now probably just looking for anything to drive in the zone.
Well then. This had been Judge’s M.O. all season. He hunts fastballs but punishes sliders when they’re left over the plate. That’s the benefit of molding his swing path like he has. You can swing as if ready to drive a fastball in between the gaps, and still be able to pull a slider way over the fence. It’s swing depth at it’s finest. We’ve seen it time and time again from Judge this year. and this is another prime example. You don’t get away with back-to-back misses, no matter the pitch type.
There you have it. Number 62 and a record-setting season. Covering Aaron Judge this year has been a privilege and once in a lifetime opportunity. This will be the last at-bat of the week for the regular season. It only makes sense that it belongs to the most historic home run in Yankees history. I tip my cap to Judge, and also send a final message to Yankees ownership:
Pay the man.