BALTIMORE – Aaron Judge has drawn many comparisons to Derek Jeter, some more accurate than others.
But three years into Judge’s big-league career, he is identical to the former Yankees icon in one particular respect. Jeter was never ejected from a game in his 20 seasons in the majors, and Judge would seem to be on the same track.
It was for that reason that Judge found himself being asked about a brief discussion he had with plate umpire Ed Hickox in the seventh inning Thursday after a 3-and-2 pitch that appeared low was called a strike.
The discussion was hardly animated – search Bryce Harper, Ian Kinsler or Matt Kemp on the internet if you want animated confrontations with plate umpires – but for Judge, it stood out because it happens infrequently.
"There’s no need,” Judge said of his philosophy of arguing balls and strikes. “If you think it’s a ball and they call it a strike, to sit up there and argue and make a scene, it’s just going to make it worse on yourself. The game’s not going to stop just because you strike out on a pitch you think’s a ball. You voice your opinion and then you move on.”
Judge has been given plenty to opine about. A graphic on YES during the broadcast of Thursday’s 8-4 victory over the Orioles backed up what the eye test has suggested the last few years. Since 2017, the 6-7 Judge has been the victim of more called strikes “below the zone” (181) than anyone else. Matt Carpenter was second at 171.
Judge, who is hitting .269 with no homers, a .308 slugging percentage and 14 strikeouts in 26 at-bats (he does have a .406 on-base percentage), does not use the borderline strike calls as an excuse.
“Any time you strike out four times, it’s not a great day,” said Judge, who did just that Thursday en route to going 0-for-5. “It’s pretty frustrating. So I just had a couple of things to say and a couple of questions to ask, and that’s it. You can’t really argue too many times if you feel like someone misses a call and the next pitch you swing at and it’s in the dirt. You really don’t have a leg to stand on.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Judge looked “locked in” at the plate when the Yankees left spring training, and the rightfielder certainly was.
Judge hit the ball hard from start to finish during the exhibition season, batting .316 with a 1.394 OPS and a team-best six homers and 15 RBIs. It hasn’t been that way seven games into the season, but then again, it’s only seven games.
“I still feel locked in, I feel like I’m seeing the pitches well,” Judge said. “Fouled off a couple of pitches I should have done damage with. My first at-bat [in the first inning], I lined one right at the second baseman. That’s just baseball. That’s just how it goes. Sometimes those hits fall, sometimes they don’t. I’m feeling good up there and I just have to keep that rolling.”