MLB Pitchers Should Stop Throwing Sliders To Aaron Judge — Here’s Why

MLB: New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels
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MLB pitchers threw more sliders than ever in 2022, and for good reason.

On average, the MLB spin rate on sliders has increased by 14% since the 2015 season.

While slider usage has been on the rise over the past few seasons, some hitters have actually benefited from the trend, including American League MVP Aaron Judge.

Below, we’ll go over how Judge performed versus sliders in 2022 and compare his success against the pitch to some of the top hitters in baseball.

Aaron Judge Crushed MLB Sliders in 2022

Among players with at least 50 plate appearances versus the pitch, Aaron Judge was arguably the best all-around hitter in baseball against the slider.

According to Baseball Savant, Judge produced a run value of 29 versus the slider, 12 higher than the next-best player. Manny Machado and Nico Hoerner were tied for second in the MLB with a run value of 17 versus the pitch.

The Yankees’ slugger hit a staggering .309 with 17 home runs, the most in baseball against the pitch, per FanGraphs.

Only one player, Marcus Semien, faced more sliders from opposing pitchers than Judge did in 2022. Judge was thrown a whopping 748 sliders in 2022, which represented 25.7 percent of the total number of pitches that he saw at the plate.

By comparison, Semien saw 758 sliders (27.3%) and hit just .233 with seven home runs against the pitch, producing a total run value of 1.

On the other hand, the average MLB hitter saw the slide about 21.8 percent of the time.

That amounts to about 387 sliders.

In those plate appearances, the average MLB hitter produced a total run value of -0.39 runs to go along with a .213 batting average and .356 slugging percentage.

To view how Judge’s success against the slider compared to the top-10 home run hitters in baseball, check out the data below.

  • Aaron Judge — .309 BA; 17 HR
  • Kyle Schwarber — .186 BA; 5 HR
  • Mike Trout — .287 BA; 10 HR
  • Pete Alonso — .228 BA; 9 HR
  • Austin Riley — .242 BA; 12 HR
  • Yordan Alvarez — .299 BA; 6 HR
  • Christian Walker — .199 BA; 10 HR
  • Paul Goldschmidt — .268 BA; 5 HR
  • Mookie Betts — .247 BA; 8 HR
  • Rowdy Tellez — .189 BA; 8 HR

Top MLB Hitters vs the Slider

Judge wasn’t the only MLB hitter to have success against the slider.

In fact, three Houston Astros players ranked in the top-7 players in baseball in Run Value against the pitch.

Manny Machado ranked second in the MLB with a +17 Run Value against the slider, however, some of the other names on the list might come as a surprise.

Nico Hoerner (CHC) and Nathaniel Lowe (TEX) also ranked near the top of the list.

Check out how the top seven hitters against the slider fared last season.

  • Aaron Judge — .309 BA; 17 HR; 29 Run Value
  • Manny Machado — .276 BA; 11 HR; 17 Run Value
  • Nico Hoerner — .317 BA; 5 HR; 17 Run Value
  • Alex Bregman — .267 BA; 6 HR; 14 Run Value
  • Nathaniel Lowe — .325 BA; 11 HR; 14 Run Value
  • Kyle Tucker — .250 BA; 11 HR; 13 Run Value
  • Yordan Alvarez — .299 BA; 6 HR; 13 Run Value

Will Pitchers Adjust To Judge In 2023?

Opposing pitchers didn’t seem to have an answer for Judge at the plate last season.

Judge was elite against sliders and fastballs in 2022 and he wasn’t fooled by the curveball either.

He hit .340 with 22 home runs off of fastballs and punished pitchers that dared to throw him sinkers, mashing 12 homers and hitting .370 off of the pitch last season.

The AL MVP also hit .276 with five home runs in limited plate appearances against the curveball.

The Yankees’ slugger wasn’t as dangerous against the cutter, hitting only one home run, but he still managed to hit for a .297 batting average against the pitch.

While pitchers often threw the kitchen sink at Judge, only a few pitches really gave him trouble: the splitter and changeup.

Judge batted just .231 with five home runs in 78 at-bats against the changeup. He was even less effective against the splitter, hitting just .143 with zero home runs, albeit in just 14 at-bats.

Rather than throwing fastballs, sinkers, and sliders to one of the best home run hitters in baseball, pitchers might be better off taking a more analytical approach to facing Judge.

The pitches that seemed to work best against the Yankees slugger involve getting in on his hands. In 92 at-bats against the splitter and cutter, Judge combined to hit just one home run. When looking for an off-speed offering, pitchers were most successful throwing the changeup — not the slider or curveball.

Ironically, the splitter (1.5%), cutter (6.6%), and changeup (11.3%) were among the least thrown pitches in baseball last season.

Despite the limited sample size, it might be worth it for opposing managers to take the data into account when facing Judge next season.

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