The struggles of New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge during the postseason have been well documented. After overcoming strikeout issues to set a rookie record for home runs during the regular season, Judge has come up almost entirely empty in October.
That continued in the Yankees series-clinching 5-2 win in Game 5 of the ALDS on Wednesday. With four more strikeouts, Judge ran his ALDS total to 16. That not only set a record for one player during a single postseason series, it actually surpassed Tony Gwynn’s total during the entire 1995 season.
A couple things to process here.
First, Judge’s 16 ALDS strikeouts came in five games. That’s more than any one player in any one series, which includes any seven-game series. That’s only possible when you strikeout more than three times per game on average, which is Judge’s current rate.
Beyond that, there’s this.
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) October 12, 2017
Judge finished with 16 strikeouts in 24 plate appearances after grounding out in the ninth inning.
Any way you look at it, the numbers are mind-boggling.
Obviously, we’re comparing two totally different players with two different approaches at the plate. Gwynn always took pride in his ability to make contact. Not just any contact though, quality contact. In 1995, he finished the season batting .368, which was good for the sixth of his eight batting titles during his Hall of Fame career.
As for Judge, he’s a slugger in every sense of the word. He knows he can change a game with one swing, and he’s more than willing to cut loose when he thinks he can drive a pitch. We can’t say he’s not selective. His 127 walks this season led MLB. But at age 25, there’s clearly still room for him to improve and time for him to adjust to become more efficient.
Judge’s performance in the AL wild-card game highlights what he could be. Judge did not strike out in the Yankees win against the Twins. He was a difference maker though, finishing with two hits, including a homer, a walk and three runs scored.
By comparison, he finished the ALDS with one hit.
The Yankees will live with the strikeouts when Judge is mixing in home runs and walks. When he’s just striking out, it threatens to handcuff the entire offense. Fortunately for the Yankees, they were able to overcome it in the ALDS thanks to some quality pitching and some clutch hitting from the likes of Didi Gregorius, winning Game 5 over Cleveland Indians 5-2. But for the Yankees to be a real threat to the Houston Astros in the ALCS, Judge can’t keep having empty plate appearances.
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