Despite rough trip, Judge maintaining approach

McCann away from team after death in family

Despite rough trip, Judge maintaining approach

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge's first road trip as a Major Leaguer didn't inspire the same kind of hype that his first homestand did.

After going 7-for-18 with two home runs and four RBIs in his first five games with the Yankees, Judge fell into a bit of a slump on the road, going 1-for-18 with nine strikeouts over his next five games. But despite the struggles, Judge said he wouldn't change a thing about how his first road trip went. In his mind, the good can't come without the bad.

"It's just part of the game," Judge said, particularly in reference to his high strikeout rate. "I just have to make sure that I keep sticking to my approach and it'll work out."

According to Judge, that approach involves finding pitches to hit higher in the zone and driving them out into the gaps in center field. And he's stuck to that approach, a huge reason why Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he still likes Judge's at-bats.

"I think his at-bats are at-bats that he grinds out," Girardi said. "I think he's patient at the plate. I don't think he's overswinging."

As patient and as level as Judge's swing has been, the real issue for the young outfielder might be when he does choose to swing. In the short time since he's been called up, Judge's swing rate has been comparable within half a percentage point to reigning MVPs Josh Donaldson and Bryce Harper, but his contact rate has been underwhelming. Were he a qualified hitter, Judge's contact rate on pitches he swung at inside the strike zone would be the eighth lowest in the AL and his contact rate on swings outside the zone would be the lowest in baseball. Overall, his contact rate of 67.6 percent is worse than only five qualified hitters.

Of course, this data is not only based off a small sample of at-bats, but the first 36 at-bats of his career, so it's not surprising for him to be encountering a small hiccup. Adjusting to Major League pitching is difficult, but Judge said he hasn't seen anything particularly unexpected with how opponents have approached him. Rather, the main difference has just been how precise pitchers are.

"I've just noticed the pitchers are more around the zone," Judge said. "A lot of the pitchers I faced in Triple-A were a lot of the veteran pitchers who had been in the big leagues. So I kind of got a little taste of this last year. ... It's kind of all sorts of things, I guess. I've just got to stick to my approach and things will work out. [My timing gets] off when I start swinging at things I shouldn't."

Worth noting

• Yankees catcher/designated hitter Brian McCann was not in the lineup Friday due to a death in his family. He was not in the Bronx and was thus not available off the bench, either. Girardi said was unsure whether McCann will be available Saturday.

Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.