Aaron Judge turns into MLB’s best hitter after incorporating a small change in technique

Aaron Judge at bat
John Allen
Friday September 30, 2022

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Aaron Judge, 30, has become a cult figure for baseball fans. He found his stardom for his ability to hit. This season the slugger brushed aside everything to hit 61 home runs, which brings him at par with Roger Maris for the Yankees and AL home-run record. According to his ex-teammate Rob Refsnyder, there is a noticeable change in Aaron Judge’s technique compared to his previous years and this helped him get a historic season this year.

The power hitter had only four homers in 2016. But in 2017, he became the second-best for AL MVP with 52 home runs. Aaron Judge remained at 27 home runs each for the next two seasons. It went down to nine in 2020 before bouncing back to 39 in 2021. He scripted history this season.

Rob Refsnyder, who is currently with the Red Sox, played with Aarong Judge for three years, first at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and on the Yankees’ MLB roster. He and Red Sox assistant hitting coach, Pete Fatse closely reviewed videos of Judge’s hitting and concluded that the New York slugger had made a change in his mechanics to become the best hitter in the game.

Compared to his early days, Refsnyder saw that Aaron Judge might have moved his hands in front of his face. It reminded him of how Judge’s hands looked when he was named AL Rookie of the Year in 2017.

In professional hitting, there is no one change that can completely change a person’s game. Aaron Judge’s health, experience, and even mechanical changes are all helping him have one of the best hitting seasons in baseball’s history. On Wednesday, in Toronto, he hit his 61st home run, which was the highlight of the season.

Richard Schenck, Judge’s hitting coach, confirmed Refsnyder’s observation. Aaron Judge has moved his hands from behind his ear to in front of his face beginning in February of last year. Schenck said that the change helped Judge be “early and slow” with his load, so he was ready for any kind of pitch.

According to Schenck:

“In the past, when Aaron would hold his bat up behind his ear and go to load, his front shoulder would come around so far that it was a challenge for him to see the ball. He wanted to get this stretch of his back that he had in ’17 when he was Rookie of the Year. But as he would coil to create that stretch, his lead shoulder would come in so far that it actually added length to his swing.”

When Judge puts his hands in front of his face, according to his former coach, “his torso moves more like a Ferris wheel than a merry-go-round.” His shoulder goes down and he picks up his foot when he coils. This helps him see the ball in a better way.

Aaron Judge spent one offseason with Schenck and the next season, he hit 52 homers to win the Rookie of the Year Award. Analysts observed he was “standing slightly farther off the plate, his leg kick was toned down, and his head wasn’t moving as much” during that break-out season.

After watching Judge’s videos, Red Sox’s Pete Fatse found:

“There were times last year when his hands would be pretty far back in his pre-set, and he’d almost get stuck. His frame creates a lot of loft in his swing naturally, but it seemed a bit excessive. I feel like his hands starting out where they are now gives him just a little more separation which puts him in a really good position to hit. It became pretty obvious the first time I saw it, a noticeable change in how he is getting to his loft position.”

This change gives Judge’s swing more flow and gives him room to move his hands back in time with his leg kick.

His friend Refsnyder lauded Aaron Judge for changes he has incorporated and said:

“I feel like Judge makes so many small changes from series to series and year to year, and I don’t know if we really understand how impressive that is. It’s very impressive that someone with that much success is always pushing the limits and trying to get better.”

Aaron Judge had a memorable rookie year, but he has definitely gotten better at hitting in the seasons since. If his 2017 was thought to be a fluke or a breakout season based on raw power that was hard for opponents to prepare for, his .313 batting average and 61 home runs this season should show that he has improved as a hitter.

Aaron Judge is doing what most batters think is the best way to have a good offensive season: he is hitting for more power without giving up his ability to make contact. Even though his barrel rate in 2022 is only a little bit higher than what he did in 2017, his swing-and-miss rate has gone down from 35% to 29.3%. His contact rate has also gone up, from 67.6% in 2017 to 72.5% this season.

Aaron Judge has said over and over that his success this year is because of how well he is taking care of his health. He says this is because he has learned how to balance his workload with the inevitable physical fatigue that comes with a major league season. He is a hard-working hitter who works hard in batting practice and watches videos of his swing to see how it works. However, he rarely, if ever, talks about specific changes he’s made to his stance, swing, or approach.

In the same way, Judge’s manager Aaron Boone often says that “experience” is the main reason for Judge’s success. Boone points to Judge’s health and preparation, as well as the fact that he has been at-bats for six years and knows how to plan a game.

Aaron Judge once said:

“I think a lot of this has to do with staying healthy. I don’t think people understand how hard it is to break your wrist and then go back out there and face 97 mph while trying to use the same mechanics and be as productive as you were before you broke your wrist.”

Judge also said that in the last two seasons, the only time he was on the injured list was for 11 days in 2021 because of COVID-19.

Marcus Thames, who was Judge’s hitting coach for his first six years with the Yankees, is now the hitting coach for the Marlins. He remembers that Aaron Judge often put his hands in different positions as he looked for the feel he relies on as a hitter. This season, Judge’s health and ability to stay on the field are helping him get the most out of the changes he’s made to his mechanics. This has led to different results at the plate and in the way he hits the ball, as well as a change in the way he hits the ball.

Aaron Judge says he started changing how his hands were placed in late 2021 because the change felt good. It has made him feel less “tight or bound up” at the plate. He said that when you’re relaxed like that, it’s easier to do the hardest thing in sports, which is to see the ball and hit it.

Schenck thinks that the change in Judge’s load, which came about because he moved his hands, was the most important thing he did over the offseason.

Schenck said, “A batter makes a mistake when he lets himself get rushed because he doesn’t get to his loaded launch position in time.”

On time for what? When it’s on time, it’s a lot earlier than they’re used to. You must be ready to swing the bat as soon as the pitcher throws the ball. The ball isn’t there yet, so you wouldn’t swing it then. But if you could swing it then, and you were in the loaded, launch position when the pitch was thrown, that means you were waiting for every ball he threw.

Fatse of the Red Sox said that when a batter’s hands are “stuck” too far behind him, it can cause an overly strong upper-cut. More loft in Judge’s swing leaves more holes in his plate coverage, giving pitchers more chances to get him to swing and miss in the strike zone. Aaron Judge is giving opposing pitchers fewer chances to get a whiff, as shown by the fact that his rate of in-zone swing-and-misses has been going down since the beginning of his career and has reached a sort of plateau since 2020.

The change to his hands seems to be part of another change to his mechanics. This change keeps him a little more square to the plate as he loads and swings. When Aaron Judge did his leg kick earlier this season, a hitting coach from a rival team noticed that he turned his body less. The coach said that could help Judge get his barrel to the strike zone faster, which would let him swing on a flatter plane and cover the inside part of the plate better.

The rival hitting coach, who asked not to be named, said:

“When he loads and lands, he’s not as counter-rotated or turned in, which was kind of sending his direction too far toward right field. So, maybe that change shortens his swing and makes it easier for him to hit inside pitches and use the whole field.”

This is shown by Judge’s spray chart and data on how batted balls have been moving this year. He has hit 61 home runs in 2022, and 30 of them have been to the pull side. This is a big change from early in 2019, when Aaron Judge hurt his oblique and didn’t hit a home run to the pull side until August 20.

Judge’s pull side power has grown, and so has his skill at using it. In the last few seasons, he’s hit a lot more balls into the air to the pull side than the rest of the league. This is the result of his good health, his years of experience, the changes he has made to his equipment, and his natural ability to hit the ball hard when he has the bat on it.

Early in the season, his new teammate Matt Carpenter noticed that Aaron Judge could use different types of pitches to make the ball he hit go in different directions. Carpenter said that this is one way Judge uses his physical strength to his advantage.

Fatse opined:

“I think that in general, when a guy is in a good position and doesn’t feel like he has to play catch-up to get to a ball, it helps him mentally feel like he can let the ball go through the zone or see pitches longer because he knows he has a little more speed to get to the ball.” ​​

No player, not even Bonds, has ever won the Triple Crown while hitting more than 60 home runs. Everyone in the sports and business world is not only watching Aaron Judge, but they are also amazed by how good a hitter he has become.

Aaron Judge has adopted changes to hit bigger and better. He is fully focused on improving his skills and maintaining his health.

Do you see a change of mechanics or techniques by Aaron Judge over the years?

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