Astros: Let’s rehash, again, the time Nori Aoki got Aaron Judge to fly out
By Cody Poage
It is time to, once again, rehash a certain at-bat from the Astros’ 2017 season. Goodness, this off-season is slow.
There is one at-bat from the Astros‘ 2017 season that is constantly on repeat in my head this winter: the at-bat in which Aaron Judge “faced off” against Nori Aoki.
Yes, Aoki, the outfielder.
And, no, this was not like the actual movie Face/Off that starred John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. By the way, Face/Off was a surprisingly decent movie if memory serves me well. Of course, I haven’t seen it in, like, ten years. Please don’t @ me on Twitter if you disagree.
Anyway, Aoki was the pitcher in this encounter with Judge, which also happened to be his pitching debut in the majors. And here is video proof!
For proper context, this game was well out of hand when Aoki made his pitching debut. The Yankees were leading the Astros 10-4 in the top of the ninth inning. By this point, Astros manager A.J. Hinch made the wise decision to insert Aoki as the pitcher. Not only did it save the arms in the bullpen from a needless appearance, but we were also gifted with an opportunity to see Aoki pitch in an actual game.
Technically, it was a loss for the Astros. They literally had a 0.0% win expectancy once Judge came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth per Fangraphs play log. And Aoki surrendered three runs before this at-bat, so I doubt his self-esteem as a pitcher was particularly high by this point.
Oh, well. At least the fans, like myself, still won in this experience. A position player actually pitches to Judge. It is that kind of situation that makes baseball even more enjoyable. For me, anyway.
Wait a bloody second. I thought I did write about this very at-bat previously last year, and here is the link to prove that I did. I sincerely apologize for wasting your time with my redundant work. On the other hand, this is one those situations that deserves to be written about more than once. Heck, I will probably write about this again come the one-year anniversary. In that case, I take back my apology. You can now finish this post with a clear conscience.
This game took place on June 30th, by which Judge had already cemented himself as a Rookie of the Year contender. The favorite, if I could be ever so blunt. Aoki, on the other hand, was the fifth outfielder on Houston’s depth chart. In fact, Aoki would later be traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in the deadline deal that sent Francisco Liriano to Houston. He was then later released by the Blue Jays and finished the season with New York’s other baseball team, the Mets.
Regardless, Aoki’s major league debut as a pitcher went about as well as one could reasonably expect for a position player. He got three outs in the ninth inning, which means that he did retire Judge. He also surrendered three runs. This outing probably did little to inspire any idea in Aoki to become a pitcher anytime soon. That is what I hope. After all, the ball left Judge’s bat with an exit velocity of 104 MPH. That was the hardest hit ball that Aoki allowed. The pitch itself, per Baseball Savant, was classified as a 78.3 MPH changeup. It was essentially a batting practice pitch that somehow ended up in the glove of George Springer in center field.
Next: Investigating Gerrit Cole's Struggles in 2017
All in all, Aoki’s time as an Astro was not all that memorable. This is probably the defining moment of Aoki’s time as a member of this team in my mind. I just hope he ends up with a World Series ring. The man deserves one just for that at-bat.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Baseball Savant and Fangraphs**