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As we all know Jose Altuve won the AL MVP award, the reasons for that were many, among them there was the huge slump Judge had in the middle of the season, before that he was the clear favorite and after it he had no shot, that was the general consensus and in contrary to Judge`s rollercoaster, Altuve played at a steady nonetheless great pace, and finished the year as the best player on the best team, which bodes well for the old school voters, now I’m here to not only make the case for Judge but to prove why he should`ve won it.
While both players are superstars with tremendous upside it wouldn`t be hard to make an argument that they both just had career years, which is no cause for panic, is just very hard to post 8 WAR seasons as they both did by baseball reference, Fangraphs has Altuve slightly below at 7.5, nevertheless if you look at their projections for next year, Steamer has Altuve at 4.4 and Judge at 4.0 WAR, with significant offensive decline, so this might be their best opportunity to ever win it, especially when there`s a Mike Trout in their league.
But moving on, those who defend Altuve will say that while Judge`s power numbers are ridiculous, they get overshadowed by the fact that Altuve had a batting average .62 percentage points better than Judge all while hitting for a .202 ISO, looking at this, it’s fairly easy to pick Altuve, but here’s why you shouldn’t.
Who never heard the phrase a walk is as good as a hit, it`s a nice concept with its benefits, but ultimately it`s a flawed concept, the more accurate notion is, a walk is as good as a single with no runners in scoring position, think about it those two plays produce roughly the same outcome the only possible difference is a runner going first to third, which is not that big of a difference anyway, but who`s gonna put that on a bumper sticker.
Despite the aforementioned .62 head start on batting average (.346 to .284) the free-swinging Altuve finished with a .410 OBP which falls shorts of Aaron`s .422, but that`s a lot more Judge`s merit then you think, for a guy with Altuve`s skillset a .8.8 Walk Rate is very good but Judge`s .18.7 mark is just plain ridiculous.
Throwing aside the percentages on a matter of pure cumulative stats Altuve had a total of 67 XBH, 12 fewer than Judge`s 79, a fact that helps explain the differences in:
SLG .627 to .547
ISO .343 to .202
wOBA .430 to .405
wRC+ .173 to .160
all in Judge`s favor, but despite all of this, one may say, well you`re discounting the value of the singles, stat that Altuve had a huge lead in
135 to 73
But as I said before a walk is as good as a single with no RISP, and in situations with runners in scoring positions:
Jose had 30 singles to Judge`s 16 and yet had only 1 more hit total, 40 to 39 thanks to Aaron`s 15 HR in that situation.
And in the end Judge drove in 67 runs to Altuve`s 52 with RISP, but then again with such a higher number of overall hits, the Astros second baseman must have had a bigger impact on games, no he didn`t, if you look at WPA/LI which measures Wins Probably Added while factoring in the Leverage Index of the situation, Judge leads
6.23 to 4.59
Account for Run Expectancy then, Judge also led
52.05 to 38.51
With all that in mind and the fact that Judge both scored and drove in more runs, 128 and 114 to 112 and 81 respectively, on a worse offense,
Yankees 108 wRC+ to Astros 121
Which doesn`t really matter, but hey, why not, also that neither truly had any positive nor negative defensive value that could be a factor in this decision, unless you wanna give Altuve the prize for his 32 Stolen Bases to Judge`s 9, i don’t see it.
Considering all of this, Judge should’ve been the MVP, but overall this is only a testament to how great he was, in no way, i’m knocking the best 2B in baseball and I doubt that at this point, any Houston fan would care.