The Yankees managed to erase a 2-0 series deficit and advance to the ALCS, which is great news for Yankees fans and even better news for Aaron Judge, who has a lot less attention on him today than he would if the Yankees had fallen last night.
Even with the win, it’s impossible to ignore just how bad Judge was in that series. The previous record for strikeouts in a single playoff series was 13; Judge went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts last night, bringing his series total to 16. Over those five games, Judge went 1-for-20 with four walks, with an astonishing three four-strikeout games.
Judge’s postseason struggles have mostly tracked with his second-half slump, which is to say that he’s still having trouble dealing with offspeed stuff. According to Brooks Baseball, Judge saw 60 offspeed or breaking pitches in the first four games of the series, as compared to 51 hard pitches (Brooks hasn’t yet posted the pitch data from last night’s game). That approach, if you are just joining us, is working.
So what’s to be done? It’s generally unwise to overreact to a playoff series slump by a player of Judge’s quality, but this is a particularly steep and particularly alarming one. Judge finished the regular season by setting a record for most consecutive games with a strikeout, and he’s wrapped up the first postseason action of his career by setting another similarly dubious record. The Yankees have other options, too, should they decide to give Judge a rest. Matt Holliday is not the slugger he used to be, but he can at least be counted on to not strike out in 80 percent of his at-bats.
The Yankees came back to win against the best regular-season team in the American League while getting virtually nothing from Judge, but it would be foolish to think they can continue to succeed with a hole that big in the middle of their lineup. The Yankees are good, but they aren’t that good, and the Astros won’t give Judge time to regroup and catch his breath.