Thursday, April 11, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, April 11, 2024 -- "Thinking Inside the Box"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider.

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I wonder if the problem isn’t Judge, but his context. Judge is seeing fewer strikes than he ever has, and fewer first-pitch strikes. Opposing pitchers seem to have decided that they’ll take their chances with Giancarlo Stanton, who has hit .202/.286/.442 the last two seasons. Stanton has been better than that so far this year, .256/.289/.605, albeit with a 36% strikeout rate, but that line isn’t going to change pitchers’ minds.

Protection, as popularly known, is a myth. Hitters do not perform better based on the quality of the batter behind them in the lineup. What is real, though, is weak protection: If the gap between two hitters is wide enough, the first batter will see an uptick in his walk rate. Aaron Judge leads the AL in walks drawn and is top-25 in fewest strikes seen among all qualified hitters. Put all this together, and I wonder if Judge -- whose swing/take decisions are a mess right now -- is struggling to adjust to not seeing enough hittable pitches.