New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi defended his struggling slugger Aaron Judge, insisting that several of the MLB All-Star's strikeouts are coming on mistaken calls on low pitches.
The Yankees have lost the opening two games of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros, with the towering Judge just two for 27 with 19 strikeouts since the wildcard game, leading some to call for his benching.
If the Yankees are going to mount another comeback trailing 0-2 in the postseason, they will need Judge to snap out of his slump.
"It's part of what's going to happen to him because he's so tall. And he works on hitting a low pitch," Girardi told reporters before game three on Monday. "And he'll continue to get better as time goes on.
"I think there are some pitches that were called on him during the series that haven't necessarily been strikes. There's a big difference between one and one and two and 0, two and one; there's a big difference in the way it changes an at-bat. Hopefully he'll start getting some that go his way, and they start making some mistakes up."
Judge struck out just under 60 percent of the time over the past seven games in the postseason. Meanwhile, at the other end of the height spectrum, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve has reached base in 17 of 27 plate appearances against the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees, and reached home plate seven times.
Altuve is in form and Judge is cold at the plate, but Girardi said umpires also adjust the strike zone based on the frame of the batter at the plate.
"I think they adjust. But I look at it this way, I think left-handers always have more strikes called on them than right-handers for different reasons," Girardi said. "But if you're an umpire that sees 500 pitches a week or whatever it is, because they -- week after week, year after year, in your mind you're going to have an idea of what's a strike and not a strike.
"And the bodies change. And the rare bodies are the Altuves and the Judges. So a lot of times they might get more or less strikes called on them because it's different. If I was to guess a guy like an Altuve or a [Ronald] Torreyes, they might get more high strikes called on them than other hitters, because in their mind an umpire sees a pitch, and it's a quick reaction. Think about how little time they have to make up their mind.
"I'm not faulting them, but I imagine I would be the same way if I was an umpire. In your mind it's a strike, and the body type might be a little different, and it really isn't."