MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees

Aaron Judge Should Bat Second, Not Leadoff

Aaron Judge is batting leadoff today. The Yankees are calling it “an experiment.” I don’t get it. Aaron Judge should not bat leadoff.

Here’s the case to bat him leadoff:

  1. Aaron Judge draws a ton of walks, creating a high OBP, creating RBI opportunities
  2. Aaron Judge kills baseballs, so lineup protection could force pitchers to throw him strikes
  3. Aaron Judge is the best hitter on the Yankees, so he should receive the most plate appearances

These are all valid arguments. However, #1 and #2 also apply to batting Aaron Judge in the second spot, and #3 is pretty close. #2 hitters receive on average 18 fewer plate appearances over 162 games than #1 hitters. The arguments against batting Aaron Judge leadoff:

  1. Home runs are more valuable when runners are on base. Aaron Judge will never have anyone on base in the first inning and will have the bottom of the lineup in front of him in other innings
  2. It is difficult to construct a lineup where Gary Sanchez or Giancarlo Stanton will see most of Judge’s walks while also balancing the lefty/righty lineup.

The Yankees appear to be trying out the following lineup:

  1. Aaron Judge
  2. Giancarlo Stanton
  3. Greg Bird
  4. Gary Sanchez
  5. Aaron Hicks

And compare it to:

  1. Aaron Hicks
  2. Aaron Judge
  3. Greg Bird
  4. Giancarlo Stanton
  5. Gary Sanchez

The second lineup gives Judge more RBI opportunities, keeps Stanton and Sanchez as lineup protection for Judge, and breaks up the L/R combinations better.

I also don’t want to overplay this point, but there are psychological considerations as well. Aaron Judge is a power hitter. Power hitters don’t hit leadoff. I don’t think we want to mess with the best hitter on the team’s psyche. Hitting second is much less cognitively weird.

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