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New York Yankees

Aaron Judge on pace for a 200-strikeout season like no other

New York Yankees Aaron Judge hits a single in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics in New York, Sunday, May 28, 2017. Judge also had his first career grand slam in the game. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

There’s just so much to love about Aaron Judge.

The Yankees phenom took Major League Baseball by storm in the first half, positioning himself as the early favorite to win Rookie of the Year and MVP. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also chasing a Triple Crown title at just 25 years of age. His defense isn’t too shabby either, but most folks are focused on Judge’s monstrous offensive numbers: a .329/.448/.691 slash line, 30 home runs, 66 RBI, 194 OPS+, 208 total bases,  5.3 WAR — the list goes on and on — at the All-Star break.

It is no wonder he received more votes than any other player in the Midsummer Classic and was considered appointment viewing in Monday night’s Home Run Derby, a competition he won with ease. The kid has been can’t miss television all season long.

That said, Judge himself can miss.

He’s an offensive juggernaut, yet he is not perfect at the plate. Instead, he has been the ultimate three total outcome hitter. For those unaware, allow me to explain. The three total outcomes are:

  1. A home run
  2. A walk
  3. A strikeout

We’ve seen a lot of this lately. It seems like all three outcomes are at an all-time high, with less focus on contact and more on power and patience these days (there’s also talk about juiced equipment, but that’s a topic for another column). The upside to such philosophy is more longballs and more baserunners. The downside is more punchouts.

Look around the majors and one may feel like this is a sport-wide trend; Judge could easily be its poster child.

To go along with his big league best 30 home runs, Judge is also third in the majors in walks (61) and fifth in strikeouts (109). He’s on pace to strikeout more than 200 times, yet is somehow batting an absurd .329. It’s unprecedented.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the nine other entries in the 200-K Club.

Name (Year) Strikeouts Average
Mark Reynolds (2009) 223 .260
Adam Dunn (2012) 222 .204
Chris Davis (2016) 219 .221
Chris Carter (2013) 212 .223
Mark Reynolds (2010) 211 .198
Chris Davis (2015) 208 .262
Chris Carter (2016) 206 .222
Drew Stubbs (2011) 205 .243
Mark Reynolds (2008) 204 .239

As you can see in the chart above, Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis and Chris Carter love striking out.

On a serious note, you can also see that the 200-K Club was founded in 2008, with every one of its nine members — let’s say enshrined — in the last decade. However, you will also notice that the closest any of those guys came to a respectable average was Davis’ .262 in 2015 — the highest ever for 200-K Club member.

Now seems like a good time to repeat that Judge enters the second half of the season hitting .329 with his own 200-K Club induction looking like a strong possibility.

The closest comparison to what Judge is doing in recent memory is Kris Bryant’s 199-strikeout rookie campaign in 2015. The Cubs third baseman hit a solid .275 that year. Even so, Judge has already toppled or is on track to best Bryant’s totals of 26 home runs, 99 RBI and 77 walks.

There really is not one true comparison to what the Yankees right fielder is in the midst of. Judge has been described as “one of a kind” all year, but in this regard, it is no exaggeration.

Should his season continue to play out the way it has, it will truly be the first of its kind.

*****

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