DETROIT — Like just about every other big-leaguer, Aaron Judge often searches for answers on video.
The rookie rightfielder looked at plenty of it during his historically good first half. And yes, he’s been consulting it during this 180-degree turn in the second half.
What does he see?
“I see some good things, I see some bad things,” Judge said. “Just trying to find those positives and build off of that. There’s a couple of things here and there, but like I’ve said, if I get my pitches and I put a good swing on it, I just have to stay there and not miss that. That’s the biggest thing.”
The positives, needless to say, have been few in a second half in which Judge has produced a .169/.329/.355 slash line, seven homers and 14 RBIs in 35 games. He took a .329/.448/.691 slash line, boosted by 30 homers and 66 RBIs in 84 games, into the All-Star break.
He brings an MLB-record 37-game streak with at least one strikeout into Tuesday night’s series opener against the Tigers, a stretch in which he has struck out 63 times in 131 at-bats.
The answers to why Judge is struggling are varied, muddying the waters rather than clearing them.
Joe Girardi has called the 6-7, 282-pound Judge’s issues “mechanical.” Hitting coach Alan Cockrell has suggested that’s not necessarily the case.
A straw poll of opposing team talent evaluators brought no more clarity, though none highlighted a mechanical flaw.
“There’s always a lot of moving parts with a guy that big, so things can get out of whack in a hurry. But the swing doesn’t look all that much different from the first half,” one scout said. “Has expanded the zone, obviously, and seems more pull-happy [in the second half], but nothing jumps out [mechanically].”
Judge also dismissed mechanics.
“The big adjustment is I’m missing my pitch,” he said. “They’re leaving some over the plate. Earlier in the year, I wasn’t missing those. I was putting those in play, I’d put it in the gap, put a good swing on it. The past four weeks, I’m fouling those pitches off. Now it’s 0-1. Then they’re giving me a dirty pitch and it’s 0-2, and before you know it, you’re always in that fighting mode [behind in the count] instead of being on the attack. So I just can’t miss my pitch, that’s the biggest thing.”
Brett Gardner, a friend and mentor of Judge’s, said slumps are “all part of the game.”
“Obviously, he’s not the only guy on our team that’s scuffling a little bit, so I think it’s important to get some guys going,” Gardner said. “He’s a big part of our lineup and a big reason why we got off to such a good start this year, and I think there’s still plenty of time left in the season for him and some other guys to get going and take us where we want to be.”
For now, Judge will attempt to do that from the three-hole, said Girardi, who is expected to get Greg Bird, Starlin Castro and Matt Holliday back from the disabled list in the coming weeks.
As for dropping Judge in the order simply to relieve some pressure, Girardi rejected the idea.
“You need production throughout the order. Everyone has to carry their weight,” he said. “If you’re relying on one guy, it’s going to be a long year . . . And it’s not like we have a lot of people that are swinging the bats extremely well. Could I move him a spot or two [down]? Yeah, but he’s going to come up in big spots [regardless], I can tell you that.”