The Yankees' Aaron Judge walks back to the dugout after striking out against the Tigers on June 4, 2018, at Comerica Park in Detroit.

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Palladino: Judge’s Strikeout Numbers Create Little Worry In Today’s Game

Yankees Slugger Had 8 K's In Doubleheader

Ernie Palladino
June 06, 2018 - 9:49 am
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Get on Aaron Judge all you want about his growing strikeout numbers. They’re ugly, that’s for sure.

Just remember that today’s baseball is not your daddy’s game anymore. Strikeouts are just outs these days, little different than a weak grounder or lazy fly ball. Managers these days will gladly trade a handful of K's for a home run anytime, and both are coming in plentiful numbers.

So when Judge completed an absolutely horrible day in Monday’s doubleheader split with the Tigers, it wasn’t hard for him to shake it off. In another era, eight strikeouts in nine at-bats, including and 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in the nightcap, might have sent both player and manager into a desperate search for a solution, be it a few games on the bench or an altered batting stance.

At the very least, it might have prompted a stern word from said manager about better choosing what offering one decides to chop at.

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Of course, we’ll never know exactly how the managers of old would have reacted to Judge’s nightmarish day in Detroit. No player had fanned as manuy times in a doubleheader as Judge since the NL started counting them up in 1910 and the AL began its count in 1913.

But we do know how the old Yankees manager Casey Stengel would have handled it. Thanks to Marty Appel’s extensive biography of the Ole Perfessor entitled “Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character,” we know that the Yankees’ leader of the 1950s had no trouble getting on either Yogi Berra or Mickey Mantle about their strikeout frequency, even as the two Hall of Famers led Stengel’s teams to 10 pennants and seven World Series titles in his 12-year reign.

Keep in mind that Berra, a notorious and dangerous bad-ball hitter, never struck out more than 38 times in a season, and he did that only in 1959, the 14th season of a 19-year career.

Mantle was a free swinger. Five times he led the league in strikeouts, his highs coming in 1959 and '60, with 126 and 125, respectively.

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Stengel always believed that as great as Mantle was in hitting 536 dingers, he could have been even greater had he cut down on the strikeouts.

But imagine the stomach-churning agony Casey would have felt watching Judge and Giancarlo Stanton today. Less than 60 games into the schedule, Judge already has 83 K's. Stanton has 76. And they’re not even No. 1 on the strikeout parade.

That dubious honor goes to the Rangers’ Joey Gallo with 85.

The fact that they’re all power hitters makes sense. Most of today’s big guys are upper-cutting, and when they catch one, it goes far. It’s why Judge and Stanton stand among the top 15 home run guys, Judge with 16 and the up-and-down Stanton with 13.

But wouldn’t it be nice if everybody took the approach of the Angels’ Mike Trout? He’s tied for the home run lead with 19, and he’s only struck out 48 times.

At this point, he’s a manager’s dream. Steals bases, too.

But Aaron Boone didn’t sound like he was losing much sleep over Judge’s latest round of strikeouts.

“That’s just the nature of his at-bats,” Boone said. “He could just as easily put a big swing on one. I don’t think he’s fazed by that at all.”

Don’t underestimate the fact that the Yankees are winning, too. It might be a different story if they were, say, lolling around in fourth place like another team that wears an "NY" on its cap. But the Yankees find themselves a game back of the Red Sox for the AL East lead.

Perception means everything.

And the perception around the Yanks -- and much of baseball, for that matter -- is that a strikeout is just another out as long as enough balls clear the fences.

It’s just not your daddy’s game anymore, that’s for sure.
    
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino