It is no secret at this point, what the two giant Yankee outfielders are all about. Both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are most known for their ability to hit the ball harder and farther than anyone. That, of course, is a great skill to have, and one that brings other benefits as well. Among these is a propensity to draw walks, something both outfielders have benefitted from greatly.
This ability to get on base has been an integral part of their success at the plate. This year however, those walks have dropped off quite a bit. Judge and Stanton are generating career-low walk rates, but there could be some benefits to this change. Aaron Judge may already be seeing them during his hot start, and similar changes may work for Stanton, too.
Thus far, Judge has walked in just nine percent of his plate appearances, the lowest such mark of his career outside of his 28-game 2020 season. This is down from the 16.5 percent rate he maintained over the course of his excellent stretch from 2017 to 2019. Stanton, similarly, has a career-low walk rate as well, by an even more significant margin than his fellow Yankee slugger, drawing the required four balls just 4.5 percent of the time.
Most interesting, considering these changes, is that Aaron Judge is seeing as much success at the plate this season as he ever has. Thus far, the outfielder has posted a sparkling 200 wRC+, while slashing .300/.364/.663. This is, of course, through just one month of the season, but the changes that he has made have shown real benefits so far. As detailed, though he isn’t walking as much, but he also seems to be making better swing decisions, while also maintaining his well-known ability to make high quality contact.
This season, Judge is maintaining some of the encouraging progressions he made in 2021. So far, the Yankees’ slugger has a 71.9 percent contact rate and a 30.2 percent whiff rate. Both of these figures are more in line with his 2021 numbers than years prior, when he would typically sit around the mid-60s and mid-30s, respectively. He also is just simply swinging more often, with a rate of 45.4 percent, the highest such mark of his career.
He’s cashing in on this propensity to swing at the right pitches, too, putting up a .506 wOBA against fastballs so far. That increased aggressiveness, partnered with the other details mentioned above, could work quite well, especially when you’re Aaron Judge.
Judge’s greatest and most notable strength is, well, his strength. The outfielder currently ranks in the 96th percentile or better in average exit velocity, hard hit percentage, and barrel percentage. This is nothing out of the ordinary for Judge, but the ability to maintain that high standard while increasing his balls in play would likely only lead to good things.
This same principle applies to Stanton as well, as one of the few players in the same realm as Judge on this front. He has obviously not seen the same early success as his teammate, but an approach leading to more balls in play would seem to help Stanton in the same way it has Judge. Both sluggers have always posted high BABIP marks, usually well above .300, so putting the ball in play is typically a good thing to do in their case.
Now, Stanton is likely going to need to walk more than the 4.5 percent clip he’s currently at, and changes like the ones Judge is seeing are often much easier said than done. But what is very possibly a conscious effort to put more balls in play off the bat of the Yankees’ two biggest sluggers is encouraging.
Walking less is pretty much never a good thing, but when it’s balanced out by additional benefits, especially the ones Judge and Stanton can provide, there is a scenario where it could be beneficial. The two big outfielders are at their best when they’re crushing baseballs, and maximizing the opportunities to do just that seems like an encouraging step to take.