The 2022 AL MVP Race

AL MVP

The debate has been going on for over a month now. Who should win AL MVP? Would you pick the guy who is on the brink of history? The one who just tied the AL home run record, and has his eyes set on the Triple Crown? Or, do you take the guy who can hit 450-foot home runs, and record 10 strikeouts as a pitcher in the very same game?

 

Judge or Ohtani for AL MVP?

Both of these players are having historic seasons, to say the least. On one hand, Aaron Judge is having one of the best offensive performances of all time. He is on the brink of winning the triple crown (t-1st in AVG with Luis Arráez) and is only one home run away from breaking the AL home run record with seven games to go. On the other hand, you have a generational talent with Shohei Ohtani. He is in the top-ten in ERA and home runs in major league baseball.

 

Judge Deserves This

Does everyone remember when Judge was runner-up AL MVP in 2017? He was absolutely robbed in that season. Jose Altuve ended up winning the award after a completely normal season. At the time that is what everyone thought it was. Judge had put up an amazing performance in 2017 but fell short to Altuve (no pun intended).

He led the AL in WAR (8.0), R (128), HR (52), and BB (127). In addition, he was second in RBI (114) and OPS (1.049) while being in the top 1% of hard-hit rate and xSLG. The only significant stats Altuve had on him were batting average, hits, and strikeout percentage. Somehow, Judge only received two first-place votes for the award.

If that season wasn’t good enough, take a look at what he has done in 2022. All of his numbers are better than they were in 2017. The most significant improvements were that his K% dropped from 30.7 percent (bottom five percent of the league) to 24.9 percent in 2022. That is a major difference. Not only that, but his xBA went up from .287 in 2017 to .310 this season (third in MLB).

Take a look at Judge in 2017 vs. 2022:

Hitters are always tweaking their hitting mechanics, and this definitely had something to do with Judge’s improvements from five years ago when he was still an MVP-caliber player.

 

Ohtani Has a Fair Argument

There is no question that Ohtani deserves to have a dog in this fight, and he will receive some first-place votes, and deservingly so. He is a once-in-a-lifetime player that is easily one of the top-three most valuable players in baseball.

It is almost impossible to argue with someone on why Ohtani shouldn’t win AL MVP. He is third in major league baseball in xSLG (.558) with 34 home runs and pitches like a Cy Young candidate. His offensive numbers have dipped a little compared to last year, but he is by far having the best pitching performance of his career this season.

Based on a minimum of 150 IP, Ohtani is eighth on xERA (2.85) and first in K/9 (11.94). He just reached 200 total strikeouts for the first time in his career in his last start. It is just amazing to evaluate the talent that Ohtani has. One day he cracks a home run that gets out of the park in two seconds, and the other day he can make someone buckle at the knees with a slider for his eighth strikeout of the game. Not to mention he is in the top 25 percent of the league in sprint speed.

It goes to show how badly the upper management has handled building the Los Angeles Angels roster. They aren’t even competitive in the AL playoff race with two of the best players in the league.

 

Final Arguments

MVP voting, especially in baseball, is heavily based on individual performance. However, team success should be a little bit of a factor. It’s not Ohtani’s fault the Angels are bad, but the reason the New York Yankees are first in the AL East is because of Judge.

The Yankees hit a major slump at the beginning of last month. They went 10–18 in August, and in that stretch, Judge hit nine home runs, and had an OPS of 1.091. If it weren’t for him, the Toronto Blue Jays would be much, much closer in reach of the AL East title.

Judge also has a higher WAR (10.4) than Ohtani (9.2). Ohtani’s offensive WAR is only 3.9 this season.

Both of these players are making history, but only one can win AL MVP. It will be close and there are still a lot of butting heads over who should win the award. If Judge wins the Triple Crown, the award should go to him. It is one of the rarest accomplishments in modern-day baseball, and simultaneously he was able to tie the AL home run record that has been held for over 60 years.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

Players Mentioned:

Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani, Jose Altuve