It really doesn’t get much better than the 2022 season for New York Yankees MVP Aaron Judge. He belted 62 home runs, breaking a long-standing American League record, while leading MLB in on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686) and OPS (1.111).
Yet, Judge is never content.
The Yankee captain just won the first MVP Award of his career and has multiple Silver Sluggers and All-Star appearances to his name, but the postseason is where Judge’s struggles have been illuminated.
Judge’s two-strike approach hasn’t been the best, which is why he’s decided to phone a friend – National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt of the St. Louis Cardinals – to give him some advice this offseason.
The New York Post revealed that Judge spoke with Goldschmidt after taking notice of his approach at the plate with two strikes, where he has a smaller stride than usual and seems to be only focused on contact.
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“I told [Goldschmidt], ‘I saw you up close and I watched your videos, talk to me about your approach,’” Judge told The Post. “He has a smaller, little stride and kind of waits there. That’s something I want to mix in. So I asked, ‘How do you do that? What’s your thought process in this situation or that?’”
But while some like to use this contact-based approach with two strikes, being one of the best sluggers in the game calls for this to only be a situation-based approach.
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Judge can still mash with two strikes, and if the situation would benefit trying to do that, he’s likely to continue going after pitches as he normally would. However, let’s say there’s a runner on second or third base with less than two outs and contact is what’s needed at the moment, Judge may shorten everything up.
While the regular season could reveal this approach, Judge wants to be able to use it in the postseason, where he's struggled throughout his career, including this latest trip in 2022.
Judge struck out 15 times in nine games, while hitting 5-for-36 between the two series with the Cleveland Guardians and Houston Astros. As an offensive centerpiece, that's not what you want to see.
“That is ultimately why we do all the work in spring training to be ready for the postseason and win games in the postseason,” Judge explained to The Post. “So that is what I am going to use spring training for: to hopefully master this [shorter stride in various two-strike situations] and then use the season to pick and choose moments where I need to bust this out — drive a guy in, move a guy over, get myself on base. All the regular season is, is practice for the real scene.”
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What could this approach look like? Hitting coach Dillon Lawson noted Judge taking a bit of a wider stance in the batter's box and relinquishing his leg kick. His foot will instead stay planted in the dirt upon the pitcher's delivery, allowing him to be a bit more defensive.
It's no secret Judge’s success in 2023 will shape what path the Yankees take this upcoming season. He returned on a nine-year, $360 million deal, and was named the 16th captain in franchise history after inking the new pact.
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Judge may get to see some real game reps with that two-strike stride on Saturday when the Yankees kick off their Grapefruit League schedule with a game against the reigning National League-champion Philadelphia Phillies.