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Yankees At-Bat of the Week: Aaron Judge (5/29)

Aaron Judge continued his Bondsian run last week.

New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

It’s about that time of year when I simply cannot resist anointing Aaron Judge with the At-Bat of the Week every single time. It’s not a difficult decision considering the many fantastic at-bats he has each and every game. Last week, I reported that Judge’s quality of contact was somehow improved relative to last year, and nothing has changed. His xwOBACON sits at .680. If he hits the ball in play, it’s almost surprising if it doesn’t go over the wall.

A few days ago, the Yankees matched up against Bryce Miller, a rookie pitcher with one of the best four-seamers in the entire world. It’s a pitch that feels like it’s coming out of a fully revved up pitching machine. You swing, but you just can’t seem to get on top of the ball. In Judge’s first at-bat against Miller, he experienced this first hand when he got what looked like a cookie and popped it up in the infield. He was surprised and knew he had to make an adjustment going into his second at-bat, as great ones do. Let’s get into it.

Pitch 1 (0-0 count)

Judge was sitting and waiting for a fastball. Miller had thrown the pitch 70 percent of the time in his first handful of games! Judge had a game plan to attack it, but Miller threw him off with a well located curveball and got ahead 0-1. Kudos to the rookie for not being too predictable against the best hitter in the league the second time around.

Pitch 2 (0-1 count)

This pitch had some serious bite to it. Miller’s issue isn’t movement on any of his pitches. They all flash plus every now and then but he doesn’t always get keep his offspeed and breakers in the strike zone. But when you’re facing Judge, you have to do your best to execute these pitches. This is a good miss, but now the count was even with one ball and one strike.

Pitch 3 (1-1 count)

For a second when I was rewatching this I thought I kept watching the same pitch over and over. At least Miller knows he can repeat his mechanics! This was a carbon copy of the previous pitch and Judge’s reaction was the same too! I love when you can see hitter’s mentalities when they take pitches. He is cueing his bat snap as if he was going to fire away. Now that he was ahead in the count, he really could just sit and wait for a four-seamer.

Pitch 4 (2-1 count)

This is why he is the best. After two changeups low and away, it could be very easy to recognize this as a pitch in the zone, but Judge laid off of it knowing this isn’t a zone he wants to attack when he is ahead in the count. It’s a hitter with a perfect plan. Because of this take, he has backed Miller into a corner. He either goes to a pitch that isn’t his best or is forced to attack the zone and avoid a situation with multiple runners on.

Pitch 5 (3-1 count)

You may be slightly confused about the swing from Judge here but remember that breaking balls over the plate play nicely into his idea of creating room for error in his swing. He says it all the time, but he has crafted his bat path to not need to be perfect. He makes sure to try and catch the breaker out in front, and if he misses it, then he can bet on himself to go against a likely heater in a 3-2 count.

Pitch 6 (3-2 count)

Boom. Miller finally went to the heater in the zone and Judge made him pay for it. This is an incredible adjustment from the previous at-bat. With a fastball that has nearly 20 inches of induced vertical break (IVB) you have to tell yourself to either swing on top of the ball or be earlier than you would be against an average fastball. That’s why you saw Judge so early for the entire at-bat. He knew he needed that timing to get his barrel out on Miller’s heater. Sometimes, you’ll see Judge focus on hitting fastballs from right to the gaps, but on an 80-grade fastball, you have to sell out for the pull. I’m willing to bet this is the best swing you’ll see on a Bryce Miller fastball all year. 116.9 mph off the bat and straight off the foul pole.