Why Aaron Judge Should NOT Win AL MVP
The rookie has shocked the baseball world with his massive HR’s, but there is a player in the AL West who has been better
As the 2017 MLB season comes to a close, it’s almost time to honor those who have made a significant impact in the league. There is no doubt that Aaron Judge has impressed many this season with his athletic ability, whether it’s hitting monster home runs or being a smooth right fielder. The Yankees seem to have hit a goldmine with the rookie, and his stats show it. He is the clear winner of the American League Rookie of the Year Award. There are those who believe his stats warrant consideration for the AL MVP Award. While they may have a point, there are various factors that say otherwise.
While Judge could garner some votes, I don’t believe the 25-year old should win MVP. Instead, that honor should go to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve. Madness you say? Let’s break it all down, shall we?
Let’s start with the positives regarding Aaron Judge: He has hit over 50 home runs, a rookie record he broke recently. His home run streak pre and post-All-Star Break was fantastic, and his momentum won him the Home Run Derby. That’s all fine and dandy, until you consider other records he has broken. He struck out in 37 consecutive games, and set the rookie record for most strikeouts by a rookie with 200. The latter record continues to increase as the season winds down. He is a swing or miss power hitter, which can be a blessing and a curse. While he does blast singles and doubles on occasion, his inconsistency is a cause for concern.
On the other side of things, Jose Altuve is a hitting machine. From 2012, his first full season in the majors, to 2014, Altuve struck out a total of 212 times. There are many of those who consider him the most consistent player in MLB history. He is on pace to win the batting title with a .348 average, the highest of his career. Last year he hit .338 and was voted 3rd in the MVP race.
And then there is the most important factor in Altuve’s resume: his hits. He became the fourth righ-handed hitter in MLB history with 200+ hits in four straight seasons. The others to do so are Michael Young, Kirby Puckett and Al Simmons. Consider him a mini version of Vladimir Guerrero; wherever the ball lands, he makes contact with it.
Speaking to Sports Illustrated, Astros hitting coach Dave Hudgens praised the work ethic of Altuve and the way his smooth swings connects with the ball on a consistent basis, stating:
“He’s the only player I’ve been around who I think sometimes can will himself to get a hit.”
When you look further, both Altuve and Judge’s averages differ in certain situation. SI dug deep and found that Altuve’s batting average versus relievers is .369, ranked second in MLB. Judge on the other hand has a .215 average, ranked 186th. With runners in scoring position, Altuve ranks 79th with a .310 average while Judge ranks 204th with a .259 average. While a lot of that is due to Judge’s cold streak in the middle of the season, that’s the point. Sometimes, pitchers can adapt to a home run or strikeout hitter, but Altuve doesn’t run that way. While his home run totals have increased significantly (20+ the past two seasons), Altuve finds various other ways to get on base.
If you really want to be impressed, check out Altuve’s godly numbers pre and post-All-Star Break. Richard Justice has kept track of Altuve all season, and he is on the “Altuve for MVP” train.
Jose Altuve's amazing consistency. Before/after All-Star Break: Batting average: .347/.354, OBP .417/.412, Slug .551/.561, OPS .968/.973.
— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) September 29, 2017
To Judge’s credit, he has a higher OPS (1.045) and Slugging % (.623) compared to Altuve (.964 and .551) at this point in the season. The question is can Judge keep it up? Over the past few seasons, both stats for Altuve has increased dramatically (.931 and .528 last year). Will this be the only time we see Aaron Judge maintain that dominance? If given another chance, he could shock the world next year and be better. Altuve has shown however that he can hold onto his consistency and improve on it.
Both players are the reasons why their teams are making the playoffs. Judge sparked a fire that has led a once rebuilding Yankee team closer to outpacing the Red Sox. Deemed, the 2017 World Series Champions on the cover of SI a few years ago, it is Altuve that is proving a platform for his team to succeed. While small in stature, given the opportunity in the playoffs, the 27-year old may just be untouchable at the plate.
As I stated before, Aaron Judge will have some first place votes. This is not his year. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant set the record for most strikeouts by a rookie his first year, and the next year he won MVP. Judge’s time will come soon, but for now, it must step aside for someone who is hitting his way into the history books. No player has had a consistent season like Jose Altuve since Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.
Nowadays, home runs are what’s “in”, it’s what’s sexy. There is something about an old-school hitters approach that Jose Altuve has that just screams “MVP”, and deep down, the inner baseball fan in you knows it.
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