Yesterday, I asked other writers at MMO who they thought would win National League MVP. Most everyone said someone different as there are many outstanding candidates.
The American League race for MVP, however, is a much smaller field. While it is hard to put a hard number on how many NL suitors there are, it is easy to put a number on how many there are in the AL — Three.
Mike Trout is the best all-around position player in baseball and added to his resume this season with a strong albeit curtailed season. Despite the fact he only played 114 games due to injury, he still accounted for a 6.5 WAR. He hit .306/.442/.629 with 33 home runs, 72 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. His .442 on base percentage and .629 slugging percentage both led the American League, while his 1.071 OPS and 187 OPS+ led the Majors.
Aaron Judge will win American League Rookie of the Year, there is no question about that. Despite a long slump after the All Star Game, he still finished the season with a .284/.422/.627 line with 52 home runs, 114 RBIs, and a 7.8 WAR. His 52 home runs led the American League and is also the most home runs in a single season by a rookie. He also led the AL in runs with 128 and walks with 127, but struck out a whopping 208 times which led the Majors. While the spotlight was on his offense, he also played great defense in right field posting a 6.1 UZR and 9 DRS.
Second baseman Jose Altuve‘s MVP candidacy is highlighted by his leading the Major Leagues with a .346 batting average. Overall, he hit .346/.410/.547 with 24 home runs, 81 RBIs, 32 stolen bases and an 8.0 WAR. His 204 hits led the American League and marked the fourth straight season in which he knocked at least 200 hits, as well as topped the American League. While Trout’s Angels didn’t make the playoffs and Judge’s Yankees just snuck into the Wild Card game, Altuve’s Astros topped the American League West division with an impressive 101-61 record.
It is almost a certainty that one of Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, or Jose Altuve will win American League MVP. I asked my fellow writers at MMO who they thought would win, and here’s what they said:
John Jackson: Jose Altuve
Altuve is exactly what a team desires in a leadoff hitter. He is one of the most well-rounded players in the game and he proved that again in 2017. He has won his third batting title in four years and led the league in hits for his fourth year in a row. His entire .346/.410/.547/.957 slash line is a career best. He also brings power (24 homers) and speed (32 stolen bases) to the table for the 101-win Houston Astros.
Laney Ortiz: Jose Altuve
I had a hard time deciding between Trout (maybe even Judge) and Altuve, but at the end of the day, Altuve played more games and kept a higher average. He was also a key piece in the Astros making it into the playoffs which always comes into consideration in MVP voting.
John Sheridan: Jose Altuve
It’s perhaps fitting bWAR and fWAR don’t agree as to who was the best player in a tight AL MVP race between Altuve and Judge. Really, if you look at any advanced stat, there is not much separation between the two. Ultimately, Altuve gets the nod because he was far more consistent, his playing second base, and his being a leader on a 101 win Astros team.
Dilip Sridhar: Jose Altuve
Altuve’s 8.4 bWAR beats Aaron Judge and his 8.1 bWAR. The two are so close on offense that it was very tough to decide and it could go either way. Altuve gets the edge for being the better baserunner and for being at a more premium position than Judge.
Josh Finkelstein: Jose Altuve
I think Jose Altuve will win the award over Mike Trout based largely on the standings. Aaron Judge would have been a more serious contender in this had he not had his abysmal slump after the All-Star break.
Mathew Brownstein: Jose Altuve
Led the AL in hits (204), AVG (.346), 2nd in fWAR (7.5) 3rd in stolen bases (32) and 3rd in OBP (.410), Altuve is the rare combination of speed, power, and consistency. Only two players in the AL had an OPS of at least .850, 20 home runs, and 20 stolen bases (Trout and Altuve).
Logan Barer: Jose Altuve
As much as I’d like to play Yankee’s Advocate — and yes, I just equated the Yankees with the Devil, really was a no-brainer — I tend to agree with my fellow writers that Jose Altuve deserves the MVP nod. While everyone is hitting home runs, that doesn’t mean power hitters are the most valuable players. Leadoff-hitter Altuve literally led his team to a 101-61 record in a tough division with the best batting average in the Majors. He is a model of consistency as this is his fourth straight season with at least 200 hits and certainly deserves an MVP before Trout comes back and plays a full season and wins it every year.
Joe D: Aaron Judge
While I don’t dispute that Jose Altuve had an MVP caliber season, I have to break with the consensus of my fellow writers and go with Yankees rookie Aaron Judge as this year’s MVP. Judge beats Altuve in fWAR 8.2 versus 7.5, and it’s impossible for me to ignore Judge’s 52 home runs compared to 24 for Altuve. My favorite baseball saying these days is IGNORE batting average, and if you look at Judge’s 174 wRC+, 1.049 OPS, and .422 OBP, he easily trumps Altuve’s value across the board and it’s not even close. Judge had an 18.7 walk rate compared to 8.8 for Altuve, and BABIP says Altuve was a little lucky this season. No way the Yankees make the post season without Judge, a true MVP in every sense and my choice for this year’s top honor.