People are talking up the four-man outfield again

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This morning Jake Kaplan of The Athletic has a story about how the Houston Astros have been messing with a four-man outfield in spring training.

The idea: against certain extreme, lefty pull hitters, manager A.J. Hinch will send third baseman Alex Bregman out to left field, the left fielder will move to left center and shortstop Carlos Correa will shift to the right of second base. Heck, it’s arguably a five-man outfield given that Jose Altuve dips back into shallow right, as you usually see during an infield shift.

This is not new. As Bill wrote last year, people talked up the possibility of teams using four-man outfields in similar fashion. It wasn’t new last year either. Joe Maddon had done it against David Ortiz a few times when he was managing the Rays. If I remember correctly, Maddon was the only manager to do it at all in 2017, pulling the trick against Joey Votto. Votto still found a hole and doubled, because he’s Joey Votto. I assume that if you talk to baseball historians they can find examples of Jimmy Dykes or someone pulling that against Ted Williams. There’s very little new in baseball.

Maybe this year will be different and maybe A.J. Hinch will use that alignment more often. If so, this quote from Kaplan’s article probably says more about it all than anything:

“There’s a psychological part of this on the hitter that I’m looking at, too,” Hinch said. “How much does it mess with the psyche of the hitter? And I’ve watched, this spring, guys try to change their swing and try to hit the ball the other way and hit the ball to a gap. That’s largely advantage to us when big hitters like that do that.”

I can totally see guys — at least guys who are less disciplined than Joey Votto — getting a bit shook by that and thinking about employing a seldom-used inside-out swing in that situation. Which, if the dude made it all the way to the majors by pulling the ball, is a win for the defense, right?

Aaron Judge out of Yankees starting lineup for finale after No. 62

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Yankees slugger Aaron Judge wasn’t in the starting lineup for New York’s regular-season finale, a day after his 62nd home run that broke Roger Maris’ 61-year-old American League single-season record.

When Judge homered in the first inning Tuesday night, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers, it was his 55th consecutive game. He has played in 157 games overall for the AL East champions.

With the first-round bye in the playoffs, the Yankees won’t open postseason play until the AL Division Series starts next Tuesday.

Even though Judge had indicated that he hoped to play Wednesday, manager Aaron Boone said after Tuesday night’s game that they would have a conversation and see what made the most sense.

“Short conversation,” Boone said before Wednesday’s game, adding that he was “pretty set on probably giving him the day today.”

Asked if there was a scenario in which Judge would pinch hit, Boone responded, “I hope not.”

Judge went into the final day of the regular season batting .311, trailing American League batting average leader Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315. Judge was a wide leader in the other Triple Crown categories, with his 62 homers and 131 RBIs.

Boone said that “probably the one temptation” to play Judge had been the long shot chance the slugger had to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.