Aaron Judge Hit a Wild Home Run

How could you know that Aaron Judge is strong? If you have access to Baseball Savant, you could see he’s one of just four players in Statcast’s limited history to hit at least three batted balls in the air at 115+ miles per hour. You could see he ranks tied for fifth in average exit velocity on non-grounders. If you have access to Aaron Judge himself, you could ask him to help you move furniture. The simplest thing is to probably just look at him. Look at him in person. Look at him on TV or on the Internet. He’s strong. Not surprisingly strong, like some world-class little rock climber. Obviously strong, like a man who spends his free time mindlessly juggling crates.

Because of what he is, Judge is capable of extraordinary feats of strength. In that way, he’s similar to Giancarlo Stanton, who once used a home run to destroy part of a scoreboard. When Judge makes perfect contact, with a perfect swing, he can send a baseball farther than almost anyone else. Judge achieved a more subtle feat of strength on Wednesday afternoon. Look at this stupid impossible dinger.

Statcast is great. Sometimes you don’t need it. The launch angle on this home run was “high enough.” The exit velocity was “substantial.” You don’t need numbers to understand that Judge blasted a ball way out to the deepest part of the yard. To whatever extent Yankee Stadium is hitter-friendly, that’s not because of how it plays up the middle. Aaron Judge hit a big home run. What makes it nuts are some of the details.

Watch the video again. Or don’t! This screenshot is fine.

One thing’s for sure: That pitch didn’t go where Erasmo Ramirez wanted it to. Another thing’s for sure: The pitch was up, and actually just off the inner edge of the plate. Judge does make plenty of contact inside. It’s not eye-popping that Judge got the bat on the ball. It’s more about what happened next. Judge hit a homer up the middle. Really, he hit a homer slightly to the opposite-field side of the middle. Consider where the ball went first. Consider where the ball went second. If you’re puzzled, or shocked, you’re no different from Rays color guy Brian Anderson.

I did not think — and I know that Aaron Judge can provide a lot of power. I did not think that ball was going to get out of here. It almost looked like it handcuffed him a little bit; it was going to be a nice deep fly ball to center. But this really speaks to the strength of Judge — up and in, and he’s able to inside-out the ball to dead center field. That’s kind of ridiculous pop.

I thought that ball ran in — up and in enough to keep him in, and it goes way out.

Baseball Savant has an under-utilized feature. You can filter by batted-ball location, as measured in degrees. Zero degrees is right up the middle, splitting the field in half. Something in the negatives means a batted ball toward left. Something in the positives means a batted ball toward right. I looked at all home runs by right-handed hitters since 2008. Here are the pitches hit for homers to the pull half:

There are probably some interesting homers in there. I don’t care, though, because this is about the next plot. Here are righty home runs to the other half, with Judge’s Wednesday home run highlighted in red.

Again, there are some wild homers in here, and maybe Judge’s isn’t the wildest, but it’s at least the wildest of its type. You see it there, up and in, practically by itself. There’s one nearby, to the right, and that was hit some years ago by Salvador Perez, but that pitch was still more inches over the plate. And then there’s the pitch down more. That was hit some years ago by Howie Kendrick, and here’s a screenshot:

Good home run! Tough home run. Walk-off home run! But not only did Kendrick’s homer barely leave the field — he’s made a whole career of going the other way. Look at Kendrick’s body position. He was targeting right-center, because he loves to target right-center. Kendrick did a remarkable thing, but it was at least his intention. He was prepared to let the ball travel. So he could get his arms more extended. Judge didn’t get his arms extended. Judge couldn’t get his arms extended. Judge didn’t have the option of generating his maximum bat speed, because he had to stay so tucked. Aaron Judge took something off of his swing, so to speak, and he might’ve gotten partially jammed, and still, he sent the ball over the center-field fence. Maybe it’s not quite as impressive as a 500-footer, but Judge couldn’t have done what he did if he weren’t freakishly strong.

Therefore, yes, Aaron Judge is freakishly strong. We already knew that, but this is a different way of seeing it, if nothing else.

You could argue that maybe Judge did something wrong — maybe you’d rather he turn on that pitch. Other players turn on that pitch. You could even squint and see this as a reflection of Judge’s hands not quite being fast enough. But one shouldn’t see a home run like this and emerge more critical on the other side. As we say about pitchers with exceptional fastball velocity, Judge’s strength gives him a greater margin of error. And to this point, he has a 212 wRC+, with six strikeouts in eight games. Aaron Judge might not be a big-league superstar. He has, at least, hit like one.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Concerned Reader Johnmember
5 years ago

Great analysis. I must admit, I watched the clip a few times and did not notice anything out of the ordinary (aside from the impressive feat of a person hitting a major league home run). Your ability to spot something remarkable from the seemingly routine is itself rather extraordinary.

5 years ago

It’s not just where the pitch was but look at where the ball is making contact on the bat. It’s nearly at the logo.

Lunch Anglemember
5 years ago

Looks like a pretty typical contact point to me.