Aaron Judge Should Expect More Intentional Walks as He Pursues Home Run Record
Aaron Judge is used to opponents pitching around him, but the Twins didn’t even pretend to engage the Yankees slugger on multiple occasions Wednesday.
Minnesota intentionally walked Judge three times over the course of a double-header. New York won both games, and the outfielder hit his 55th home run of the season in the first contest. The blast came before the Twins walked Judge a total of five times between the two games.
While Judge did strikeout three times on Wednesday, it became clear that Twins manager Rocco Baldelli wanted nothing to do with the MVP candidate in tight situations.
Judge has been intentionally walked 14 times this season; he’s tied for the major league lead with Mets first baseman Pete Alonso. Judge also leads the American League with 85 bases on balls, and he is fourth in the big leagues with a 14.5 BB%.
Despite high strikeout numbers, Judge has always been good at drawing free passes. However, his previous career-high for intentional walks was 11, set in 2017 when he clubbed 52 homers as a rookie. He received just nine intentional walks from 2018-2021.
Now Judge is chasing Roger Maris’ single-season American League home run record of 61, and perhaps more. But a historic home run pace – and a decimated Yankees lineup – seem like obvious reasons for other teams to mimic the Twins’ strategy as often as possible down the stretch.
Aaron Boone foresees that being the case, but Judge isn’t spending too much time on the subject.
“No, not really,” he said when asked if he expects the intentional walks to continue. “I don’t want to think about it because I still gotta stay mentally ready. If I’m getting intentionally walked, it usually means there’s guys on-base in a big situation, so I gotta stay locked in and really try not to think about it and do my job. If I get walked, then pass the baton to the guy behind me, and I know they’ll get it done.”
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While the Yankees were able to beat Minnesota twice Wednesday, the state of New York’s offense is actually what gave the Twins added incentive to intentionally walk Judge.
Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew Benintendi and Matt Carpenter are all banged up or on the injured list. The rest of the Yankees’ current lineup has either been inconsistent, unproductive, or spent most of the season in the minor leagues. Consider that Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, Estevan Florial, Miguel Andújar and Ronald Guzmán all made at least one start for the Yankees on Wednesday.
Spring training-esque lineups provide little protection for Judge and leave spectators wondering why anyone would pitch to him at all given what he’s achieved this season. Yet Judge is not worrying about that either.
“I’m never too concerned with if we’re missing guys or not,” he said. “I’d love to have Rizzo. I’d love to have DJ in there, Big G. But the guys that are stepping up are doing their job.”
Judge’s support for his teammates is to be expected, but so are intentional walks if the Yankees keep trotting out groups like the ones they did in the double-header. Teams don’t have to get beat by Judge right now, and more walks could impact his home run chase.
But as the Twins demonstrated, Judge will still get pitches to hit from time to time. It’s up to him to make the most of them until reinforcements return to the Yankees’ lineup.
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The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.