Who Should Win the American League MVP Award?
When you put them next to each other, it doesn't look they should be playing the same sport.
Aaron Judge is 6'7". Jose Altuve is 5'6". There's a one-plus-foot, 117-pound difference between the two stars, yet both are finalists for the American League MVP Award, along with Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians.
Not only do these two men play the same sport, they both played it better than anyone else in 2017.
Don't let this World Series distract oh from the fact that Jose Altuve is small and Aaron Judge is big @BarstoolBigCat pic.twitter.com/HMb3RP7hSG
â€” Riley (@_Riles23) October 30, 2017
It's fascinating that two players of such different physical stature are the top contenders for the American League's top individual prize, but the seasons both of them had were extraordinary, perhaps the best seasons in MLB history for players as tall as Judge and as short as Altuve.
Your 2017 AL BBWAA #MVP Award finalists:@JoseAltuve27@TheJudge44@MrLapara pic.twitter.com/qQiD0hgiUO
â€” MLB (@MLB) November 6, 2017
In 155 games last season, Judge hit .284/.422/.627 with an AL-best 52 home runs, 128 runs scored, and 127 walks. He was second to Mike Trout (more on Trout in a second) in on-base percentage (.422), OPS (1.049), weighted on base average (.430) and weighted runs created (173). He also finished second to Nelson Cruz in RBIs (114).
Altuve posted a slash line of .346/.410/.547 with 24 dingers, 112 runs scored, and 32 stolen bases. He led the AL in batting (.346) and hits (204), and was third in OBP (.410) and OPS (.957). Both players excelled in different areas, with Judge owning the power game and Altuve notching the most singles of anyone in baseball. That said, Altuve also posted a .547 slugging percentage that was seventh-best in the AL.
Below is a look at the WAR totals of both men, along with of Trout's and Ramirez's. (fWAR comes from Fangraphs', rWAR comes Baseball Reference, and tWAR is the combined fWAR and rWAR.)
|Aaron Judge||Yankees||8.2 (1)||8.1 (2)||16.3|
|Jose Altuve||Astros||7.5 (2)||8.3 (1)||15.8|
|Mike Trout||Angels||6.9 (3)||6.7 (5)||13.6|
|Jose Ramirez||Indians||6.6 (4)||6.9 (4)||13.5|
Judge finished with the highest fWAR in baseball (8.2) while Altuve was second (7.5). However, Altuve bested Judge in rWAR (8.3-7.5), with Judge coming out on top in tWAR (16.3-15.8). Trout and Ramirez finished behind both players. The numbers indicate Judge is ever-so-slightly the better MVP candidate.
Of course, this means unseating the great Mike Trout who, after being snubbed for a number of years, was the reigning MVP and had won two out of the last three years. Despite missing 48 games this year, Trout still finished with the 3rd-highest fWAR and the fifth-highest rWAR. He was sixth in batting average (.306), 1st in OBP (.442), first in slugging (.629), first in OPS (1.071), thirt in walks (94), first in OPS+ (187), first in wOBA (.437) and first in wRC+ (181).
This is 1st full season of Mike Trout's career that he won't finish top-2 in MVP
5 straight top-2 finishes tied w/ Barry Bonds for longest
â€” ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 6, 2017
Ramirez had an excellent season for the Cleveland Indians in which he batted .318/.374/.583 with 29 homers, 107 runs, 83 RBIs a wRC+ of 148. His fWAR (6.6) and rWAR (6.9) both ranked fourth in the American League, putting him behind the front-runners. One could argue that Trout deserved to be one of the three finalists over Ramirez, but Ramirez undoubtedly gets credit for help the Indians get back to the postseason, while Trout got dinged for missing nearly 50 games.
When the winner is announced on November 16th, the award should come down to Judge or Altuve. And either answer would be the correct one.