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Yankees At-Bat of the Week: Aaron Judge (5/20)

Judge continues to dominate in his second-straight week leading this feature.

New York Yankees v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

At this point, a home run from Aaron Judge is as expected as an Isiah Kiner-Falefa groundball. Every time he puts the ball in play, it is an absolute rocket. Just when you thought he couldn’t get any better, Judge has somehow improved his quality of contact from last year (yes smaller sample size, I know) by increasing his xwOBACON from .611 to .681. He hasn’t slowed down after the Blue Jays series and just continues to barrel everything. We are witnessing one of best runs from a hitter in baseball history.

For this At-Bat of the Week, I’m not going to pick one of the many home runs swatted by the Captain. Instead, I will show how he improves over the course of the game, even when he has already laced a 115-mph single that was hit too hard to be a double. The first swing below is from the first inning on Saturday in Cincinnati, and the second is from the third:

In the first swing, Judge let the ball travel a bit with two strikes and fought it off for a single into left field. It was a good two-strike swing in a location that Reds right-hander Luke Weaver hit perfectly. In the next at-bat, he made an adjustment on the same pitch but worse location. In an advantage count, Judge was able to more aggressively get his bat head out. It led to an absolute missile off the wall. Now, going into the third at-bat with runners in scoring position, he would have to keep the approach the same and make sure to not get beat on the inner half while also getting his bat head out in front of the plate.

Pitch 1 (0-0 count)

This was a fantastic pitch by Weaver—so fantastic that I almost smiled from pure beauty in execution. After it was clear that Judge was sitting on an inner-half fastball, he pivoted to the outer half with a cutter. Cutters away are the very best pitch to try and get Judge out. Right-handed cutters on the outer third were probably the only pitch he struggled with last year. If I was Weaver, I’d go back to this.

Pitch 2 (0-1 count)

Ahhhh, this isn’t what I would have gone with, but it wasn’t a poorly executed pitch. Although Weaver looked a bit upset about the result, it’s better than leaving it over the plate and letting Judge go deep to dead center. Now we have ourselves a 1-1 count.

Pitch 3 (1-1 count)

Two mistakes in back-to-back pitches after getting ahead 0-1 against Judge is not going to cut it, especially with runners on. This is asking to get hurt. I absolutely agree with Weaver going back to the cutter, but you have to locate this down in the zone if you want to give yourself a realistic chance to compete against Judge after he has gotten the best of you in two consecutive at-bats. Now that you’re in a hole, it’s time to buck up and execute a pitch!

Pitch 4 (1-1 count)

That entire blurb was a little tongue-in-cheek if I’m being honest. It was damn clear that Weaver had no shot in this at-bat after the way this game developed. If he had command of the cutter, he would have used it more throughout the game against Judge. He tried to go back to it knowing the swing he got on the first pitch, but the command was just not there. Judge had his chance to get his barrel out in front of the plate and drive in a couple runs, as he usually does. He is just the best.