What should Joe Girardi do with Aaron Judge?

Following a very disappointing series in Boston, the Yankees find themselves five games back in the division and re-evaluating their team as a whole. Most noticeable, what to do with Aaron Judge?
Photo Credit: NESN

While Judge’s second half has probably been talked about or written about more than anything in the sporting world, it is time for a decision to be made by Girardi. Judge has shown some better signs of life as of late, but he still looks overmatched at the plate. Pitchers have learned the vulnerabilities that he has at the plate and exposed them again and again. Both the high fastball and sweeping slider are almost guaranteed to get Judge out at this point. He looked to have tried to adjust to the slider by turning his body more, trying to allow himself to reach the outer plate, but in doing so, this seems to have made him late on balls that he was absolutely smoking the first half. He has also been getting himself off his game and not staying patient at the plate. While the walks are still there and to someone who is only checking the box score that seems encouraging, he has let balls go right down the plate and then chased way out of the strike zone on terrible pitches. What made Judge so deadly in the first half was his plate discipline and forcing the pitchers to make a mistake, essentially putting the control in his own hands. Now, he is letting the pitchers have their way with him, and that is not to discredit the pitchers adjusting, but the way he is letting them control the counts is disheartening.
I think another factor in all of this that seems to go overlooked is that Judge was thrust into the spotlight and forced down the throats of MLB fans. For a guy who is a rookie and playing in arguably one of the toughest markets in baseball, this is throwing a guy into the fire times 10. People were proclaiming him “the face of the MLB”, doing specials on him, and in a sense making him the captain of the Yankees already. All of this with a half of a full season under his belt. The Yankees even broke out of their “stuffy” ways and created the Judge’s Chambers, which as a Yankees fan this blew my mind. Players like Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and (somewhat) Jesus Montero were thought to be the next big thing and came with crazy amounts of hype and chatter, but the Yankees never went out of their way to do something like this for them. Even players who have since had their numbers enshrined on the back wall of Yankee Stadium never got their own “section”. I think that the spotlight was put on Judge way too prematurely, and has crept into his psyche a bit. I also think that this has motivated pitchers to study Judge harder to figure out how to get him out (the cats out of the bag now) and show him up. Pitchers especially don’t like to be showed up, so putting a rookie “in his place” is something they thrive on.
Photo Credit: AP
All this being said, I still believe in Aaron Judge. I think that he will be a fine piece for the Yankees for years to come, and I do love how he has handled himself with the media for both his highs and lows. I can see him being a guy who bats around .250, with 30-35 HRs and a high number of strike outs (ideally less than 100, but it will probably be up there), very typical numbers for a power hitter type. I also think his defense has been one of his strongest and most consistent parts of his game and don’t see that going anywhere anytime soon. He still has a 5.2 WAR this year, which considering his slide this second half, is quite impressive. However, for the here and now, I think that Girardi needs to shake it up a bit to help his All-Star get right. 

Putting him in the three spot is currently not doing him any favors. That spot in the lineup lends itself to big moments, and right now Judge is crashing and burning in them, which not only is hurting the team, but more than likely is hurting Judge. While I see the flip side of things and getting him more exposure in high pressure situations will eventually get him out of the funk, putting a struggling rookie into these situations just messes with them more. He knows that he’s letting his team down when he strikes out or pops up to short with runners on base, and is likely just making him press more. Having him press more makes him try to do more, which in baseball means swinging at bad pitches and not sticking to his personal game plan for the at-bat.
My opinion for Girardi is that he should give Aaron a couple days off to rest, or swap him and Gary or Didi in the lineup. Gary or Didi would have no problem in the three spot, both are probably the hottest hitters on the team right now. Giving Judge the day off will probably get blown way out of proportion by the media and open the door to a million questions of “is Judge a bust?” or something along those lines, but it’s something that has helped players in the past. 

Hell, look at the Yankee’s current nemesis Andrew Benintendi. John Farrell sat him down for a couple days to get right at the end of July, and then come August, he came out scorching. Granted, he might not have the same media hype as Judge, which probably causes less of a stir, but it proves that it does help. I think if Judge were to have a couple days to maybe study some tape of his swing and talk with the coaches, he would pick up some things to try and correct, as well as get some rest for that larger than life body. If Girardi were to choose the other option, it would help take some of the load off Judge’s shoulders and positively motivate him to earn back that three spot. Back in 2015, when Alex Rodriguez started to stumble in the month of August after a hot start, Girardi bumped him down in the lineup and it helped him regain the momentum he had in the early parts of the season and finish out strong.  This option would still make some waves, but probably less than benching Judge for a couple days.
Overall, it will be interesting to see what Joe chooses to do with his young star. While there might not be one clear cut route to take here, something clearly needs to be done. Leaving things the way they are have not panned out, so what do we have to lose if we try something else? Shake it up Joe.

Article by: AJ Welch 


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