Aaron Judge focused on playoffs, unfazed by second-half numbers

BALTIMORE — Aaron Judge still comes to the plate in the Bronx. There just seems to be less pomp and circumstance leading up to his at-bats.

In recent home games, Yankee Stadium public address announcer Paul Olden hasn’t shouted, “Number Ninety-Nine! Aaron Judge!” as loudly as usual. Judge even changed walkup songs, going from “Goosebumps” to “Green and Purple” — both tracks by Travis Scott.

“I like to change it up every year,” Judge said. “I found another song I liked, and thought I’d give it a try. The last thing on my mind is what they’re announcing or saying.”

Nope, it’s still business as usual for the 25-year-old rookie, who has gone through his share of ups and downs in 2017.

Asked about his numbers, Judge replied: “They’re not where I want them to be. There are a lot of missed opportunities throughout the year, if you want me to look back at it right now, but I just have to keep working. I’m not really satisfied because you can always get better. We’ve got a good opportunity as a team to do something special this year, so I have to keep going to work.”

Judge’s splits have been discussed at length. In the first half, he hit .329/.448/.691 with 30 homers and 66 RBIs in 84 games. But in the second half, he’s hit .183/.350/.355 with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 49 games. Many have wondered why. Has the league figured him out? Is his shoulder more of an issue than he and the team are letting on?

Whatever the case may be, Judge’s manager is pleased with the 6-foot-7, 282-pound right fielder’s first full season in the big leagues.

“I think he’s had a really good year,” Joe Girardi said. “When you look at his numbers he’s walked 100 times, he’s scored 100 runs, and there’s a really good chance that he’s going to get to 100 RBIs. You would’ve signed up for that (at the beginning of the year). I think because his numbers were off the charts in the first half that people kind said well … but he continues to get on base and do a lot of good things and he’s starting to swing the bat batter.”

Aaron Judge.

Aaron Judge.

(Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Judge says the three main stats he focuses on are RBIs (85), runs (102) and on-base percentage (.412).

“Batting average doesn’t tell the whole story because you have a guy like Manny Machado that started out the year hitting .210, .220, but if you looked at his swings and where he was hitting the ball, he was lining out a lot and making hard contact. And just recently in the last month his hits started falling and his batting average has started to go up (.273 with 32 homers and 91 RBIs) so that doesn’t really tell the true story.”

On Sunday Night, Judge electrified the Stadium crowd with a 469-foot homer against the Red Sox. On Monday — he walked four times, becoming the first rookie in 64 years to reach the 100-walk mark in the process. Judge is still missing some hittable pitches, but it’s clear opposing hurlers still fear making a mistake to him.

“I feel good. I feel comfortable in the box,” he said. “I’m swinging at the right pitches. So, I’m happy with where I’m at.”

Judge may not be frontrunner for AL MVP honors any longer — with Jose Altuve and Mike Trout making strong cases themselves — but an impactful September could certainly make up for his second-half struggles. Plus, Judge is hoping his rookie year doesn’t end after 162 games.

“That’s what it’s about. That’s what I dreamed about as a kid,” Judge said of reaching the postseason. “And not just making it to the playoffs, but making it to the World Series and winning a World Series. That’s our goal, to win our division and make a run in these playoffs. It means everything. That’s why we play, for those playoff games.”

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