New York Yankees star Aaron Judge has evolved into a supernova in 2022, sitting 20 home runs ahead of MLB’s second-place slugger Kyle Schwarber entering the home stretch.
At times, the 2022 Yankees looked unbeatable and on a record pace, back in the first half when Judge was surrounded by Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, and seemingly endless talent. Back then, it was almost impossible to avoid the inevitable: Judge was coming up, and he was getting a pitch to hit, lest Stanton and Co. clean up the mess themselves after you pitched around him.
But since early August, the Yankees have been a decimated mess on offense, barely hanging on during a midsummer collapse before slightly righting the ship in September. For a while there, it was Judge all by his lonesome surrounded by Triple-A talent, just trying to get by.
And yet, somehow, pitchers have given him repeated shots at making history throughout the season’s final month, when they could be bending over backwards to avoid him instead.
According to Codify, Judge faced his lowest percentage of pitches in the zone in the month of August, following his second-lowest total of the season in July. Pitchers were getting it. Get him to chase, or let him take a base.
But in September? Complete reversal. They’re going right after him more than ever, even as he’s emerged as this defeated lineup’s sole threat. WHY?!
Why does everyone keep pitching to Yankees’ Aaron Judge as he tries to break Roger Maris’ home run record?
This doesn’t account for intentional walks, which no longer include any pitches at all, but rather some jazz-hands finger waving. Anecdotally, opposing managers seem to have gotten the hang of that particular strategy recently, taking the bat out of Judge’s hands with open bases repeatedly.
But when skippers do allow Judge to stride to the plate, pitchers are attacking him more than ever in September, which is downright baffling.
Going right after Judge, no matter what pitch you throw, is arguably the hardest thing to do in baseball at this point. Judge against a slider is the most dangerous hitter in baseball, barely edging out … well, Judge again, this time against a fastball.
Usually, the Yankees lineup doesn’t give you the luxury of pitching around Judge to face a bunch of rookies, also-rans, and struggling former All-Stars.
Early September, specifically, was the first time all year long where pitchers could duck Judge while only having to worry about a slumping Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andújar, or Estevan Florial behind him.
Now? Giancarlo Stanton is back and taking extra-inning walks, and Anthony Rizzo and DJ LeMahieu are reportedly on the mend as well. Torres is also waking up, posting a 114 wRC+ in the month of September.
It’s possible the league’s pitchers missed their window to avoid Judge here, bafflingly reversing course on their strategy at the exact wrong moment.