March 11, 2019
(Butch Dill/USA Today Sports)
TAMPA — Watch Aaron Judge closely this spring and you will notice in batting practice and in games, he will sometimes take his mighty swing with no stride.
No leg kick from the front leg. No toe tap. No stride.
Just a powerful coiled right-handed snap swing. That is especially the case with two strikes, his new two-strike approach.
Judge is doing this to increase contact but also to get to the basics of his swing. To have a starting point. Judge is constantly evolving as a hitter, and this is a step in the process.
Certainly, Judge has shown himself to be one of the most grounded athletes in New York, an All-Star the last two years who is one of the major faces of the game. Now No. 99 is more grounded than ever with this two-strike approach.
Considering his power and strength, the more contact he makes will be a positive for the Yankees. Over the last two seasons, Judge has fired up a .282/.409/.588 slash line and a .993 OPS with 79 home runs, 181 RBIs and 205 runs scored.
Over 1,176 plate appearances the last two seasons, he has struck out 360 times. Last season in 257 at-bats that reached two strikes, he batted .183, walked 45 times and struck out 152 times. Ahead in the count, he hit .290. .173 with two strikes.
Judge rocks and coils before he swings, anchoring his weight on his back leg, then snaps the swing. He creates massive amounts of power with his 6-foot-7, 282-pound frame.
“It’s just basically the roots of it,’’ Judge told The Post over the weekend at George M. Steinbrenner Field. “That’s where it starts for me. I have to start with the no stride and then from there that’s where I can add a leg kick or some type of toe tap.
“For me I have to start with the basics.’’
Much like Ted Williams espoused, there is a science to hitting, and Judge is a student of the game and his swing.
“I think that is where a lot of guys actually get messed up, with their leg kick,’’ Judge said. “There are so many times I tell myself not to worry about it and still get messed up. My swing is pretty simple the way it is, just with a little leg kick and stuff like that, but there are times in the season I don’t even know what [the front leg] is doing. I feel like I am on time but I keep getting beat so I will have the chance to go back to the no stride, where it is kind of a rock to get into my hip and then swing, it’s simple.
“For me, I can always go back to something simple that will produce results,’’ Judge said. “Just be accurate with the barrel. That’s all I want to do.’’
That is great advice to all hitters.
Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson calls it barrel accuracy.
Ted Williams also said: “The way you bring your hips into the swing is directly proportionate to the power you generate.’’
Judge generates power with the hip coil.
“The one thing I was worried about going to the no stride is that I really don’t want to sacrifice power,’’ Judge said. “But when I started hitting in BP with it, I was hitting the ball the same distance as I do with the leg kick, so it really doesn’t matter.”
All this is part of the process and it remains to be seen exactly what will work best for Judge over the coming months. No stride brings him back to his hitting roots. Judge has had phenomenal success these last two years as a Yankee, so this is another component in his growing as a hitter, another tool in his tool box to get the most out of every at-bat, no matter the count.
Judge has homered 83 times over his first 294 career major league games so all the work he has put in to develop his approach and swing is paying off. This is just another component of becoming a more complete hitter, especially with two strikes.
For Aaron Judge, no stride, no problem.